Thursday, September 29, 2011

The State of Hip Hop: Part 4, The South...and Drake

Like it or not, the South has risen faster in today's hip hop landscape than any other region. Now, as lot has been a lot of snap music/gimmicky dances/trap music with shabby lyrics that has gotten undue glory; this has been met with due criticism from all over. But there are bright spots - both new and established - who naysayers tend to sweep over in this whole "niggas from the South can't rhyme" bullshit that gets thrown at Southern rappers. They acting like the North never had any whack rappers get buzz (Tony Yayo anyone? Remember Jim Jones "Ballin"? Freeway with the whining voice?). This is my home and I'm gonna promote those brights spots dammit. So before u try to right the south off, read this...
Attention please, J. Cole (pictured on piano above) has arrived folks. I’m a fan. After about 2 years of impressive mixtape material, his album “Cole World: Sideline Story” delivers potent lyricism and storytelling over laid back beats; he produced about 90% of the album too. For all the doubters, listen to "Breakdown" and "Lost Ones" and tell me he can't lay out a story. Rather than tales of fortunes selling dope, he’s telling tales of uncomfortable abortion disputes, drug addiction in his family, everyday relationship issues, a rise in rap after failed hoop dreams, and hoping to motivate more hood cats to get to college. He incorporates just enough flossing to keep the radio fan base happy; which keeps his mentor Jay-Z happy. He’s representing NC real well right now.

2. 2. Although I liked them better together, NC natives and Former Little Brother group mates Phonte and super producer 9th Wonder are oozing with hip hop tailored to the everyday man. Both just released quality albums, and the multi-talented Phonte’s other group The Foreign Exchange delivers relaxing but soulful music. Not to be forgotten, LB’s other former MC Big Pooh should be dropping an album too. If u didn't know, now u know.

3. 3. ATL’s dominance over South Hip Hop seems to be fading a bit. My favorite group ever OutKast (Fucking right, I said it) has broken up and neither seems overly pressed to put out their own music but they're still lighting fires to features on others’ songs. Ludacris had been putting out grown up music with content (once you get past the obligatory radio singles), but his interests seem more in making movies. T.I. has put his hard lessons learned into deeper music, but he can’t seem to stay out of prison long enough to stay in the studio and produce. Luckily, B.O.B. has come into the game addressing messages the average rapper won’t touch – the invention of AIDS, paranoia of a Vietnam soldier about what his lady is doing, etc – in his own unique style. In a few years, he may be holding the city in his hands as far as serious hip hop. There are a million substanceless club rappers thriving – Waka, Roscoe, Gucci, Soulja Boi, etc – but they’re not capturing my attention outside of a party atmosphere where I need a lady in my ‘kitchen’ grinding on me.

4. 3. Now that I think about it, Houston may be in the same predicament as Atlanta as far as losing its influence. Of course the elder statesmen Scarface and Bun B are still holding it down when they want to come out; but they been in the game since the ‘80s. The SwishaHouse team – Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Chamillionaire – has gone largely silent and none of them were ever overly lyrical to begin with. I never liked Lil Flip and was happy to see T.I. dismiss him from rap relevance. Names like Lil Keke still float around, but is a true MC gonna step up and take the torch handoff from ‘Face and Bun? Who knows.

5. 4. I’ve decided that Lil’ Wayne is simply too cocky and too high on a regular basis to link concepts and like he could in his stories ‘Dedication’ mixtape days. He’s still a punchline machine but he leaves each one hanging randomly with no overall context. His verses are like this: “Bullshit, bullshit/ unrelated ill punchline/bullshit, ill punchline/ Weezy [insert word starting with an F] Baby/ catchy hook by Drake/ Young Mula baby.” I’ll give them credit though, Birdman fucked over everyone else on Cash Money and bet the house on Weezy, and now they’re swimming in money and they’ve rebuilt CMB. But rather than just being a hot rapper, Wayne is capable of being much more of a real MC than he is. Next young nigga that tried to put him in the ‘Greatest Ever’ discussion might catch a polite backhand followed by a Marty Jennetty dropkick though.

1. Break from regularly scheduled programming: Neither are from the South but since I just discussed Weezy and the rebuilding of Cash Money (now Young Money Cash Money), I guess this is a good spot to discuss Drake and Nicki Minaj; with their current influence, I can’t leave them out. Drake is more of a tweener rapper-singer sound than an actual MC but he has found a niche in the rap game and is making millions off of it. Although I can’t really assess him on an MC scale at all, he makes good music to ride to in the car and I can’t salt his game. As far as Nicki, she’s also riding a bit of a gimmick and takin the abandoned top female MC spot (vacated by Kim, Foxy, Remy, Digga, etc.). He’s the Barbie character with the funny voices and the plump ass (the scrumptiousness they can create with silicone) who occasionally creates bright moments on the mic. They do what they’re expected to do in their dynamic and make money. I can’t say I’m a huge fan (although I would like a sex tape or some nudity of Nicki to leak), but I won’t hate. Respect.

6. 5. Slack Ass Alert: No will deny Jay Electronica’s is vicious on the mic “eating wack rappers alive, shittin out chains.” That doesn’t change the fact that his lazy ass need to go ahead and put his tremendous skills onto an actual album. The whole ‘next to blow up’ has an expiration date. I had Erykah Badu’s magnificent ass in my bed, I might be prone to keep on stroking too. But his fan base has been waiting too long. Get it done Jay.

7. 6. What A Performance: I'm not even sure what to think of Rick Ross anymore. He should be seen as a study in character personification. He has created a persona and ridden it to the top of the rap game despite constant badgering from people exposing the fraudulence. He represents the lack of authenticity that plagues hip hop now. But I can’t lie, I listen sometimes cuz dude can flow. Maybe the rap game really craves another B.I.G. and his delivery reminds everyone of him; he has even filled that very supersized void as Diddy’s BFF and strip club right hand man.Or maybe White America (who still buys the majority of rap records bought) just don't give a damn about legitimacy. No matter what people say, he’s dropping smooth rhymes and has made that imaginary money he rapped about into tangible bank. BUT, next youngster to tell me he’s as good as Biggy is getting thrown out of a 3rd story window though; not enough to kill ‘em, but enough that they’ll never blaspheme like that around me again

99.Laughingstock: In the landscape of Southern rap today, I could use this word on so many people. A lot of guys are making a mockery of lyricism for club music. Gucci Mane is an easy target with an ice cream cone tattooed on his cheek. But at least these guys are creating some kind of success. In this kind of landscape where u can sell off gimmick or beats and circumvent lyricism, the true laughingstock would be someone who even stands out as whack amongst the whack rapper; I present OJ Da Juiceman. Not only is he irrelevant, I once saw a freestyle where he was so bad that he made Gucci (part of the same cypher) seem like Cannibus comparatively. It was amazing in its God awful-ness (yea, i made it up to express my distaste). I'd rather listen to a chick throw up a night of margaritas. SMH

89. Dark Horse: Years after David Banner’s buzz ended, Mississippi has a better rapper worth bragging about. Big K.R.I.T. has a laid back but soulful and introspective style that will win him over respect in hip hop circles even if he never makes it commercially. Check out his single “The Vent” from the mixtape “The Return of 4Ever” if you haven’t heard about him yet.

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