Today’s rapper isn’t the multifaceted lexiconic technician he once was. Gone are the days when more syllabic words per bar meant more respect per capita. Rappers acquire more admiration for what they do in the street than what they can do in the recording booth. Thus, impressing the customer is no further than a publicity stunt or real-life drama away. The Rapper is now a launch pad used to propel a company or a brand name, & the skill level varies according to the target demographic.
In a perfect world, the lyricist would still reign supreme in rap music. MC’s like J. Cole & Skyzoo would be hailed as commanders, as opposed to being written off as foot soldiers for Hip Hop’s underground movement. Clever punchlines & double-layered quips have been replaced by true stories & criminal confessions, & in the process, desensitized the listener to actual, factual gifts of gab. In fact, J. Cole’s “Cole World: The Sideline Story” dropped earlier this week, & of all the complaints & critiques, not one spoke to his ability to construct rap lyrics. The majority of opinions took shots at his musical inexperience, the lack of concepts &/or hooks throughout, & the fact that his “instant classic album” hype may have been more than he could shoulder. But still, nothing negative about his rhymes. & for those who aren’t aware; J. Cole has bars. Like Skyzoo, slick word play is definitely his strong point, but in an era when Lil B & Soulja Boy are famous for being virtual cartoon caricatures, the integrity surrounding rhyme writing has obviously been dilluted. Conversations about today’s MC’s don’t consist of why they should be allowed to rap, but rather they focus on what makes this MC realer than whatever rap dude has our attention at the moment.
It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint when lyrics became so unimportant, but the ‘Net’s ability to nullify time & space have surely played a part in the process of crafting verses. Pre-all digital everything, any foreseen rap challenges were responded to within a considerable amount of time. (The time it took to record, master, press, & distribute the song/album). Once the Hip Hop community went online, though, that cycle was drasticly shortened. This is most evident in the evolution of the mixtape rapper, who now re-records big name songs within hours of them debuting. Current “king of NY” Papoose had his version of Kanye & Jay’s “Otis” online within what seemed like minutes of it being released. Quality versus quantity is as big a rap music debate as art versus entertainment, but at some point, time has to factor into the equation as well.
Kendrick Lemar, Danny Brown, Hopsin, Tech N9ne, & Wale (pronounced Wah-Lay) are also MC’s who appear to take pride in the art of building stanzas & – like Cole & Zoo – are viewed as underdogs because of the inability to be average rappers. (Editor’s note: I didn’t leave your favorite rapper out purposely, but I refuse to roll call 25% of “the industry.”)
Hip Hop music is like a tree in the jungle, with vine-like subcultures that stretch as far as the sunglasses-covered eyes can see. As long as this holds true, these artists will always have a platform from which to shine. Too bad bill collectors don’t want to hear that noise.