Love Of My Life: An Ode to Hip Hop

ilovehiphop

You know I can’t actually recall the moment that I fell in love with Hip Hop. It seems as though I was randomly introduced to it and at first I wasn’t concerned one way or another. It wasn’t like I didn’t have other types of music to hold my interest. Sure it stood out, but I mean honestly I think at the time I just wasn’t ready. I was struggling in a world of trying to figure out exactly what it is that I even like. I didn’t have time to step out and try anything new.

As I got to know Hip Hop I started to learn and understand how deep and intricate it really was. How it could take me from feeling one way to feeling another in a matter of minutes. One minute I’m deep in intellectualism from the rhymes of Mos Def or Black Thought then I’m being seduced by the smoothness of Common or Slum Village. When I’m feeling goofy and nostalgic about love I hear “Kiss Me Through The Phone” and instantly the little girl that still lives within me blushes. When I need Hip Hop’s encouragement to get up and be Successful, he’s always there to push me beyond the money, the cars, and the clothes. I didn’t realize how much I relied on Hip Hop until things got tough and Hip Hop was there to Brush My Shoulder off.

It’s funny how I missed when it got to the point where everyday I would wake up and anxiously await reconnecting with Hip Hop. We would go over what we shared the day before and I’d start looking to see if Hip Hop had anything new to offer to me. It always does. Something new to uplift me, get me crunk, or calm me down. Sure sometimes Hip Hop gets on my nerves, but I’ve learned to actually accept that and even though I hate to admit it, sometimes I love the “childish” side of Hip Hop.

I think I’m beginning to love the sides of Hip Hop that are different from me. Sometimes I do need a lil Goon motivation I suppose. I don’t always have to be so deep. Sometimes I just need to dance and not worry about what’s being said and I just need to go with the flow. Hip Hop helps me to understand that.

I seriously can’t say when it was that I fell in love with Hip Hop. It’s like I knew it was awesome all along, but I just didn’t take the time to stop and truly listen. Perhaps I was being so cautious about learning and growing with something new I missed out on some of Hip Hop’s greatness. I think I was being a bit “stuck up” and full of myself by glossing over what I considered to be Hip Hop’s less conscious contributions. In truth that’s what makes Hip Hop so eclectic, so unique. There’s always more than meets the eye with Hip Hop and I just need to continue to discover the layers.

Just like Hip Hop is there for me flaws and all, I think that’s how I have grown to be there for Hip Hop. I don’t want to be taken so seriously so maybe there is a time and a place to “party, party, party let’s all get wasted.” Hip Hop is very social, loved by many and hated by even more so I guess sometimes that plays a role too. But I’m way more of a lover than a hater so perhaps that’s why I’m falling….

I still can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. But I truly feel as though it did, and now I can’t see my life without Hip Hop. I’ve actually learned so much about myself because of Hip Hop. The way that Hip Hop speaks directly to me about things I thought no one else understood. Hip Hop helps me be honest with myself. Through the good, the bad, and the ugly I think Hip Hop will continue to grow just like I have. Perhaps we can grow together continuously drawing upon the past as good samples to help build the future.

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Common talks about the "Obama Effect" on Hip Hop

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From CNN.com (click for entire article)

“I think hip-hop artists will have no choice but to talk about different things and more positive things, and try to bring a brighter side to that because, even before Barack, I think people had been tired of hearing the same thing,” he said in December. Read his December conversation with CNN

On Saturday, Common said he is already seeing signs that Obama is making a mark on a musical genre often vilified because of its focus on drugs, violence and the degradation of women.

“I also don’t find as much gangsta talk,” he said. “You see the whole chain-shining-and-rim era is gone. That’s like super-played out. Just to have that, I think, is part of the Obama effect.”

Also improving the industry, making it a more “independent-thinking entity,” he said, is that record labels and corporations hold less sway over the production process than they have in the past. Video Watch Common perform with The Roots ยป

“So you find these artists that are having that independent thinking of being able to go out and create for themselves,” he said.

Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., believes hip-hop patrons want to hear more positive, upbeat messages in songs, and he believes the “conscious rapper” — that is, the more socially aware — is on the rise.

“People always want to feel better and be inspired,” he said. “Sometimes we need it. I think the conscious rapper will always be able to live and exist.”

Obama and the American spirit, he said, are prodding the movement along. Common said he hopes more rappers abandon vacuous materialistic ideals and the glorification of vices plaguing American communities — “and if whatever MC doesn’t, I will,” he warned.

“I think Obama is definitely bringing people to be able to inspire people to create for themselves,” he said. “What America was built on was being able to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to come in and use our resources to build for ourselves and our communities and build around that. We’re not going to depend on others.’

“I think that’s what hip-hop is starting to do to a certain extent. I think it’s a great thing.”

Do you really see this happening in Hip Hop? I think it definitely is in the scene that Common mostly frequents. It’s the backdrop to his own career. I don’t know however, if the radio crowd is ready yet for that CHANGE. Every time I venture to turn on the radio or when I’m working at my bar all I hear are things that I feel will continue to make Hip Hop seem irrelevant and not a genre to take seriously. Common said he’d carry the torch for as long as it takes but Hip Hop is bigger than just him. (And to be honest, UMC was not that hotness. So I need him to re-think the strategy a bit to convince me)

So what do you think? Are you hearing the Obama Effect in music today?

Music Monday: Radio Recognizes It's Role in Hop Hop Today

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I was listening to the Ricky Smiley morning show the other day on my way to work and I was pleased with the conversation for that segment. I don’t listen often so I don’t know who said what or who is who, but they were discussing the recent comments made by Gladys Knight on Hip Hop music today.

โ€œWell, it’s been good as far as giving young artists an opportunity to get out there. But, it’s been bad, in my opinion, as far as the quality of the music and the stories that they tell. It’s one thing to be raw about your history, but they took it to another level and it became vulgar. It has not elevated our industry musically, and it definitely has not elevated us as African-Americans, because we show disrespect for our partners, men and women. I believe we have lowered our self-esteem with these performances and presentations.โ€

Now first of all let me say that I agree to a certain extent! Not all hip hop is like this however. Several of the radio hosts agreed as well but it sparked a conversation on what Hip Hop was doing to the minds of young people today. I believe Ricky made the comment that when his children are in the car and strong-language hip hop is playing their entire demeanor is different. Conversely when gospel or anything smoother and milder is playing, they themselves are calmer and more well behaved. Other people agreed to have experience similar effects with their children and even with themselves. I think we all have those playlists that are designed to get us “crunk” or wake us up in the mornings, motivate us, or help us chill out. I know that back in the day my “Crunk” playlists were filled with Lil’ Jon, 8 Ball & MJG, and a slew of other rap artists, so clearly that point is logical. Likewise my “chill” mixes are composed of lots of Blue Six, 4 Hero, Sade, and the like. However, if music has these types of effects on our mature, more developed minds imagine what it’s doing to our children.

Just something for you to chew on.

The other major point they made was that while a lot of Hip Hop is vulgar and ugly today, that’s not the end all be all of the genre. There are PLENTY of great artists out there but they just don’t get the exposure. I was really taken aback that the RADIO station was talking about this when they are the ones that have a lot to with who and what gets played. This began the political conversation of the cycle of music. The radio plays what the people want to hear, but the people want to hear what’s hot on the radio. Which came first?

While I understand that party tracks were always hot, that doesn’t necessarily account for the high amount of ignorance going on today. Even back in the 80’s and early 90’s when Gangsta Rap was really making waves, there was still a story to it. A real one. Now we have Young Joc rapping about a life that he really doesn’t know. Or Plies making the most silliest songs when we KNOW he knows better. I believe that today’s society is used to being fed. Consider it lazy. We eat what you place in front of us. If more meaningful or at least musically intricate artists got more airplay you would see a stronger demand for that. Bump the people that say “no one wants to hear good lyrics anymore” they have their own agenda. It’s cheaper and easier to put out a track that took 10 minutes to engineer than to put out one that had actual hard work go into it. Those are the same people that took the news off of BET because “Black people don’t care about the news.”

Listening to the radio personalities pretty much say these things was refreshing yet disgusting at the same time. They pretty much admitted to being the perpetrators of bad music today and the reason the face of Hip Hop is looking more and more twisted, yet they were also unwilling to do a darn thing to change it. Again, I realize this is all a game of politics. The heads of these businesses only see the bottom line, not the social responsibility involved, but that to me takes us back to greed. Instead of setting up our own shops and doing our own thing including what’s best for our people, we need the money of the “big men on top” and we play by their rules. Now I know many people feel like it is not their job to babysit and raise other people’s children. I agree, but I personally have a heart of service and responsibility to my community. The same community that keeps our media outlets running to begin with.

Funny thing though, this morning I was listening to the radio again just to see what was going on and a Gucci Man song came on. I thought “Oh this beat is catchy” and I almost thought that I could like the song simply because there was no way I could actually make out what he was saying. LOL Like seriously, he could have been talking about chopping up babies and sending them to China for all I know, but in my mind he was discussing Health Care Reform and the national debt.

All I’m saying is we need to start holding each other accountable. Let our media outlets know that we don’t want the BS anymore, and maybe we can get the message across to them and the artists. I’m all for fun tracks, but you don’t have to reduce every woman down to a hoe you can do drugs off of. Let’s do better.

Everything's Lame

I am so excited and so extremely happy to do a blog on this dude. I’m so excited that I don’t even know if I’m able to get started.

*deep breath*

Okay I’m ready. This will probably be a jumble of thoughts, because I am that excited.

I graduated from one of the best institutions ever know to the educated man ohh… about 3 years ago. Yes. I am old and it sucks. After I graduated and left my legacy on said institution I began to hear a buzz about this dude with a funny name that rapped. Now once again I will assert that I am sort of a music snob. I will not cosign or purchase or allow to be on my itunes anything that I deem to be pitiful, f**kery, or just plain wack. Most of my artists are still in the underground circuit and sometimes I feel a little sad when they make it big because then everyone fights for the right to say they are the coolest for listening to “So and So”. I love all genres of music which is why what I am about to share with you is so awesome. I went off on a tangent there, but I’m going to bring it back.

So this guy, I’m told his name is Rufat. Again, I am skeptical because what does some guy named Rufat, who is a college freshman at the time, know about hip hop? I ask, “Where is he from?” People respond, “Man I don’t know” or “some country overseas” I only had one friend who was able to say “Azerbaijan” and I believe it had a lot to do with his own familiarity with the area. ๐Ÿ™‚ However, since my Asian geography was a little off I was like “a what who? Like Borat?” LOL I knew it was a joke.

I am deeply saddened to say because I didn’t take him seriously, I am pretty late on his awesomeness. Recently we became Facebok friends because it’s always a good idea to continuously expand your network especially when you have a good product. Through stalkerbook’s news feed option I noticed that he had a mixtape coming out and all of our mutal friends were promoting it hard, titled Everything’s Lame. Clearly I AM lame because I still paid no close attention to it. One day I jumped online to see that Mr. Rufat had posted his mixtape on my wall, and I was almost offended. How dare he push this on me? I had vowed that when it sucked, I was going to leave a scathing review of it right on his wall. But, alas, I gave it a good hard listen and I loved it!

Before I give my full review, let me give you some personal words right off the man’s Facebook Page out the man’s mouth:

I follow no man except Jesus. Im diverse and Light Hearted. I love Art, God, Music, Fashion, Shoes, and Rebelling againist the mind control. Hop on my spaceship, where we don’t view the stars, we are the stars. Take the journey called “Rufat”, cuz I am a Trip (literally). I joke around 97% of the time because life is harsh and stupid people are those who actually think I’m serious. Jesus is who I strive to be like. The bible never talks about Jesus laughing, Why? because he prolly did it so much they felt there was no need to write about it. By the time life is over, all I want to hear is WELL DONE.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now on to the music.

Everything’s Lame (click the title to go to the mixtape’s download site) is any music lover’s breath of fresh air. It is like traveling through a spectrum of all great musical tastes and captures the essence of a lot of great artists through Rufat’s eyes. He takes beats and styles that we all know and love but makes them his own with his particular unique flavor.

The Intro to Lame is pure genius with the voice of Stewie coming through your speakers to introduce the concept, the sarcasm is priceless. His equation to explain how everything really is “Lame” is pure lyrical wordsmith geniusness and is very remniscent of the interlude on the Love Below with Fonzworth Bently, Good Day Good Sir. I think I’m on the right track with that being that the next song, the title track, is sampling Fonzworth’s debut song “Everybody”.

It goes from hard hitting to the perfect club banger with the song “Can’t Deny”. Even though he uses the banned word swag, it’s still a bumping song. LOL. I’d dance hard to it in the club. It’s got that Europop electric feel (more on that later) to it and I love it.

Can’t Deny [audio:Can't Deny.mp3]

Everything’s Lame is a melting pot of genres and flavors and probably speaks to Rufat’s background. Native to another country, here in America, and a lover of Hip Hop. By default he himself is a melting pot of different flavors and I’m sure that’s influenced him greatly. From “Wait for It” that samples Erykah Badu’s Soldier, to Electric Feel that samples the original of the same name by MGMT. I can’t even lie, when I heard the beat drop to Electric Feel I did the typical Hip Hop exclamaition “ohhhhhh snap!” (That’s not typical? No? I thought it was.) At this point, I was beyond impressed.

Electric Feel [audio:Electric Feel.mp3]

I can’t say enough. It’s an amazing mixtape. I love the hype songs, the straight up “hard” anthems, and the chill and laid back vibes. From politically charged rhymes to songs about computer lovin’, lyrically I love his flow. At first I was having a hard time feeling out his cadence, but I realized that he adapted it to whichever sound he was going for and I appreciate that. He’s creative and able to actually talk about something. He’s not a conscious rapper, but he’s definitely real Hip Hop. It’s great to see someone of our generation and age taking it back to good real music. Like Drake I truly believe he is right on time. I’m not trying to be a bandwagoner, but I just want to do what I can to try and get the home team some more love.

Please please go check out the mixtape and show him some love. Go to his myspace page, leave him comments here on the blog, SHOW HIM LOVE.

When it comes to this mixtape, I barely broke the surface on it, but I just hope that I wet your pallete a bit. Below are two more songs, one that just gives a deeper look into the man behind the music, and the other I just love. ๐Ÿ™‚ Check it out, spread love!

Closer Look Ft. DJ AcroJam [audio:Closer Look Ft. DJ AcroJam.mp3]

PC Love [audio:PC Love.mp3]

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