Are you the future of Hip Hop?
September 6, 2007
I’ve been thinking a bit about what the game’s been missing. I’m hoping that next week Kanye not only outsells 50, but moves a sick number of records, signaling to the music industry’s gate keepers that gangsta rap is not the end all, be all of Hip Hop music. In the wake of such a thing occurring, I’ve made me a list of essential things every potential MC who comes my way has to have.
How To Be A Credible Contender: Vol 1
A. Basic talent and ability. Does this cat rhyme good? Every would be rapper can’t be Rakim, but its difficult to be an MC without an understanding of rhyme schemes and the ability to bend words to convey meaning while staying on beat. This property is not hard to find. Learning to rap on beat and get a simple enough point across is not the most difficult thing in the world, although there are lots of jokers trying to be rappers who haven’t even mastered this basic step.
B. Is this rappers technique superior to any? Or even distinct in any way? I think this is where 90% f the rappers handing me CDs outside Virgin and concerts fail first. AFter learning to rhyme, they never realize they’ve actually got to move beyond this and create something distinct about themselves. So if you’re standing out there in the rain passing out CDs full of derivative flows and content that is being done better on radio every day, get back to training and work on your style. Your Kung Fu is not strong enough.
c. Tell me a story, any story, just make it interesting, chock full of detail and interesting enough to keep me listening. You getting money, you on your grin, you put in work in the streets, a detailed description of your closet in the most mundane detail possible? There is nothing entertaining about this shit. Entertain me, make me laugh, touch on something I haven’t heard before, cover a topic no one’s touched since ATCQ, go boho like Arrested Development, or burn the track with some vivid narrative of youth gone wrong like its a New York train circa ’72. Even major label rappers fail at this most of the time these days. If you all don’t get more interesting, I’m going to put my Blues men on the ipod and listen to nothing but Howlin Wolf and Lightin Hopkins for the next year.
D. Present yourself so I actually care what your story is. Look I know what the Hip Hop uniform is. I’ve got fresh sneaks aplenty. Hoodies and baggy jeans ain’t hard to come by, but if you look like everyone and your album cover features nothing but your scowling face or scowling crew, you ain’t Hip Hop, you just boring. Wasn’t there a time when freshness was the thing in Hip Hop? Not just copping the latest trendy tee but actually creating a distinct and interesting look of your own. Give Kanye shit for dressing like the catering staff went on LSD all you want but give him respect for being a distinct presence every time he steps on a magazine cover or red carpet. Let go of your fear young one, you don’t have to be a clone.
5. The abstract – swagger, star potential and most importantly, intelligence and an understanding that what sells on the ball court will not necessarily sell on iTunes. You’ve got to have the swagger to be a star, but be true enough to what you stand for to not lose your way once you have a single that sells. You’ve got to have the intelligence and willingness to learn and study the game. The skills alone don’t pay the bills. There are lots of talented rappers without the heart or intelligence to succeed in the industry. If you ain’t ready, I don’t even want to hear about you.
Anyway, I actually started this whole thing because I wanted to write about Mickey Factz, whose mixtape I’ve been feeling (like it was Nia Long on my lap). Flashback Vol 1. – Back to the Future is focused in its beat selection, ganking beats from the 80’s through the 00’s. How many mixtapes in 2007 you know cover Poison, Round the Way Girl and Mona Lisa (the Slick Rick version, not Wyclef’s)? The follow up to his equally geek friendly, In Search of the Nerd, Flashback just sounds fun. Mickey’s style is pretty distinct, a melding of mid 90’s b-boy cool and hip hop hipster cockiness. Yeah, he’s all about fashion, fresh gear and fly girls but he also does a fierce take on Jay-z’s “Friend or Foe”, putting would be rappers in their place and drops straight straight battle rap alongside some pretty fierce girl identified only as Mallory Knox. The total effect is something like fusing the goofy good fun of early Will Smith with that superfly street style that’s all the rage (gold sneaks and Japanese fashion), and infusing with a decent dose of street cred. And none of this feels forced, from the way he rhymes to the way he dresses and the mixtape art, everything is working together. Somebody sign this cat and launch a real career. I could totally work with this.