It’s about goddamn time. I just wish we could enjoy it more.
The floodgates of anecdotal speculation have come off the hinges after multiple men have claimed that Afrika Bambaataa molested them as boys, and the stories making the rounds are not good. By and large, the rap community has generally responded with an impressive display of compassion and understanding on behalf of the victims.
And then there’s KRS-One.
Somehow still being considered as somebody worth listening to despite constantly talking out his ass for over a decade, KRS decided he had finally had enough of credibility, and essentially said he doesn’t care about whatever Bambaataa was engaging in, because his contributions to hip hop outweigh it.
I know I don’t need to tell you this, but that’s pretty fucking awful. I probably don’t need to tell you this either, but when faced with the kind of backlash those comments warranted, dude just kept running his mouth, culminating in directing his followers to read a handful of paragraphs from his dumbass hip hop bible (you may think I took some liberties in that description, but no, that’s sadly objective) and urging everybody to buy his new record.
Motherfucker is crazypants. It’s been painfully obvious since 2006 (it seems so much longer ago), when he lost his shit during a conference at Stanford. Set off by a personal issue against a journalist in attendance, KRS went off on this that and the other, telling us all what’s hip hop and what’s not. College and Too $hort were decidedly on his “not” list.
Lol. “Too $hort isn’t hip hop...” I just roll my eyes and walk away from scrub kids who say that kinda shit. Not gonna treat it any differently coming from somebody who thinks they’re important. And college isn’t hip hop... don’t even care to hear the reasoning. College radio was instrumental in cutting into the Bad Boy/Death Row stranglehold on the game and getting the best of the mid-90s rap out there. College is what you make of it, and a pretty good way to improve your prospects in life. Shitting on college because it’s not hip hop enough for you is fucking dumb.
That’s been his trip for far too long though, this contrived gatekeeping bullshit. And it’s even less convincing when you take into account what a shithead he is to do business with. He’s long been considered one of the shadiest people in the whole rap game. He will fuck anybody over for money in a heartbeat.
Not a single line in the history of rap has been as damaging as “rap is something you do/hip hop is something you love.” I can’t help but feel that line right there is what’s behind the hip hop vs. rap nonsense that, now that I think about it, has actually died down a fair amount, but has been an absolute plague on rap this century. I’ve had somebody break it down to me in a way that made some sense- Blondie is hip hop, but not rap. OK. On the inter-genre tip, I can work with that. But INTRA-genre, this fixation that something is either rap or hip hop, is the worst. I’ve asked people to explain it to me in a concise fashion without using KRS-One and Lil Wayne as reference points. What did that get me? A wall of text trying to illustrate the differences between KRS-One and Lil Wayne.
Ten years ago Ludacris did a private show across the street from the day-job. My wonderful older Salvadoran coworker had no idea who Ludacris was, which kinda took some effort back then. But she DID know enough to ask me if he was rap or hip hop. Nobody who does not know who Ludacris is should be asking that question, and obviously it wasn’t her fault.
Rap vs. hip hop is dumb, dumb, dumb. There’s a reason bins say “rap/hip hop.” It’s not two different styles of music, it’s the exact same shit. But thanks to KRS’ wholly unnecessary self-serving blather, kids draw a distinction between the two essentially to shame music and artists they don’t like as merely “rap,” not their lofty idea of “hip hop.” You don’t have to lump all the rap you personally don’t approve of into a whole different category and label it some kind of “other.” There is good and bad rap. Just say that. The music and culture is bigger than all of us individually. You ain’t gotta cosign on the whole shebang. You get to pick and choose what you like, you don’t get to pick and choose what is and isn’t “rap,” and if that’s a problem for you, please find a new hobby.
So why did we have to swim in this Olympic-sized pool of ignorance for so long before it got drained? My best guess is... the internet.
As somebody who lived and died for rap gossip both before and after it went online, let me tell you, the internet fucked it all up. I went to school with some people who went on to become notable artists. Hanging out with those dudes in ‘92 and ‘93, it was smoke weed, rap, and talk shit about rap and all the rappers they wanted to battle. A few years later when it was just us rando prototype backpacker heads swapping CDs and insults on the train, it was still nothing but shit-talk. Pre-internet, you talked about rap with the squad, it was all about trying to have the most provocative on-point opinion. You wanted to be funny, you wanted to be critical, you wanted to stake your own ground. You wanted to be you.
Now that it’s all moved to the internet, fools are pretty much all dick-riders or worthless opinion generators. You may have noticed that I don’t review music I do not like here. I find it pointless. Also, as a grown man with a bit of a life, I would prefer to spend the time I have available listening to music I enjoy instead of flying through new releases just so I can hurl my opinions about them at everybody. That’s a big reason I stopped messing with rap forums years ago. It’s like heads are having a contest to see who can pass judgment on new releases the quickest. No thanks.
And then once you get past the people who want to establish themselves as authorities by presenting you with the correct binary code of thumbs up and down, we’re left with fanboys. This is what happens when what used to be shit-talk with the fam in the backyard takes the form of the printed word, among who knows how many strangers with who knows how many more laying in wait, with your name right next to it. Heads go soft. I don’t know if they want approval, or if they don’t want scorn for rocking the boat. But once the hive gets agitated, good luck espousing an unpopular opinion. One of my pieces on the De La Soul Kickstarter got shared by a buddy and reached a wider audience, and I got a lot of criticism that it was “click-bait” and I was trying to make a name for myself. Criticism I responded to personally, and had to explain to people several times that yes, I wrote that, that’s me, let’s chop it up then. Yep, the guy who’s been staying in the same town as you minding his own business playing records for over a decade that you’re not aware of, writing a blog under a screen name for a year that you’re not aware of, with no Twitter, telling you right to your face he wrote this and you still can’t grasp it, is trying to make a power move here. Because being opposed to paying twice the going rate for new records, 18 months in advance, is not an acceptable opinion, I guess.
The internet has done some very good things for rap. Had it not been there for me when I moved from the Bay to Monterey in ‘97, I would have lost my mind. But opening up the discourse to the entire peanut gallery has only served to sanitize and homogenize it. Between playing them out and word of mouth, I’ve sold hella records for motherfuckers over the years. It’s not like I got anything out of it. So I really ain’t trying to hear anybody cry about shit like I owe them anything in terms of what I think and say. Rap culture to me is like pointillism- we all need to be individuals. I can be a little gray dot standing right next to green and purple. You look close, we’re different. Take a step back, and we all make a beautiful picture.
That’s the ideal. But unfortunately, as long as heads stay gutless, worshipping their sacred cows like they can do no wrong even when they clearly have, collectively we’re gonna resemble a soiled diaper more than a Van Gogh. But hey, at least we’ve managed to come together to flush one of our ugliest turds.
AUTHOR’S NOTE- yes, KRS has been working my nerves in a big way for years. And yes, I still find a lot of his music phenomenal, and I got over any personal qualms about playing it a long time ago. Some day, some bleeding heart cornball is going to give me shit for playing BDP out, and at that moment, it is quite possible the universe collapses upon itself.