That's it. I am officially done sitting back and watching wannabe-ass scrubs who couldn't hold a five minute conversation about 90's rap without checking Google and YouTube set the narratives for rap music and culture, past and present.
Deadspin/The Concourse in particular has been killing me with their bullshit lately, illustrating much of what I hate about contemporary rap journalism in the process. Namely, that it's being done by kids who don't know shit about the Golden Age, and want us to get nostalgic about the shitty early 2000's records their older brothers with shitty taste put them onto. Kids who have gotten a bit too cavalier in crossing the line from speaking for themselves to speaking for everybody. Kids who came up spineless after the late 90s backpacker backlash, when the worst thing in the world was to be called a "hater." Kids who are passive aggressive, if not aggressively ignorant, about the acts who built this shit and made records we still love today, back before one's hip-hop fandom took the shape of a binary code of online yay or nays to increasingly numerous and disposable new releases. Kids who will tell you with a straight face that It Was Written... is better than Illmatic, Public Enemy is "corny," and Too $hort belongs on a list of worst MCs.
Most people with the ability and wherewithal to push back on these herbs are old and have much more productive things to do. Thankfully for the universe, I do not.
All that being said, whatever it is that this becomes, it will be overwhelmingly positive. Because there is just so much fucking incredible rap music in the world. As scalding as my #hottakes are, I'm pretty sure I have a finite amount of them. But for all intents and purposes, there is a limitless amount of dope rap to shine a light on.
So this will be weekly, at least. Any burning topics in the world of rap that I actually give a shit about, we'll chop it up. Any new music that comes my way I can recommend to a classy crowd such as yourselves is priority number one. And any weeks where nothing new is poppin, I'll pull something out of the crates and reminisce.
ABOUT YOUR AUTHOR
It matters in shit like this.
I am 40 years old. I am half-mutt-whiteboy, half-Armenian. I was born and raised in the East Bay and currently reside in San Francisco. I have been DJing going on 17 years, 100% vinyl. I lovingly collect rap records, and sell them online. Even at the house, I am almost entirely all wax- I got a tape deck a year or two back to ensure that I had the proper amount of JT The Bigga Figga in my life. But that's it, no CDs, no downloading nothing. I am not an audiophile, I am not out to prove any sort of point via format. I am just doing me. And if you don't like it, nobody's got you chained to the bar stool there, buddy...
I have a BA in Creative Writing from a crap school who I thank God got accredited before I graduated. I first wrote about rap while working on the student newspaper my freshman year of high school- the features editor was coming up short and asked me to do a couple album reviews. I turned them into him, he took a look and asked me why they were so long. I showed him the word count he had asked me for, in his writing, and he said oops- he had accidentally doubled it. That was the end of my high school rap journalism experience.
Seeing as how I was a fourteen year old bespectacled cracker-ish dude writing about rap for a high school located at the top of 98th Ave. in 88 or 89, and I was not pointed and laughed at over it (unlike how I was for so many, many other things) for the duration of high school, I think that was a rousing success!
I also wrote a twenty page paper on the history of social consciousness in hip hop for a final project in college. It was a labor of love... and it was also a labor of "hey, not a single person who's going to read this paper is going to know half as much about this shit as I do."
But if I may bundle all my credentials into a nice tidy ball, I will say that I went to Bayfair Mall to cop Life Is... Too $hort the first weekend it was out, and I'm still somehow getting paid to be a militantly anti-Top 40, all wax rap DJ in 2015. I don't pretend to know everything about rap. But I do have an informed opinion, and skin in the game.
Also, I'm not from the East Coast, and therefore was never in the habit of writing off every record that wasn't made within a two hour train ride as "not real rap." BOOM!
So... let's talk about rap music.
BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah- Sour Soul
This is a good record.
The Adrian Younge-y, soulful sound that has taken off the past couple years has been interesting, if for no other reason than it's quite possibly the first instance of a "new steez for old heads" kinda rap. El Michels Affair deserves credit for jumping it off with their instrumental reinterpretations of Wu-Tang joints eight or ten years back. From there RZA embraced it and the Wu started rolling with live bands and incorporating that sound a little bit, but it was just kinda simmering until Younge blew it up. His straight up soul records built a big enough buzz for Twelve Reasons To Die, as if Ghostface dropping an ill concept record needed any help.
But it didn't turn out to be the infallible sound many people were lauding it as. Twelve Reasons To Die isn't bad at all, but it didn't stay in rotation too long for me. Younge's follow-up was a similar project with Souls Of Mischeif, There Is Only Now. Again, not bad. But definitely more "meh" than the Ghost record. And it wasn't on Souls. They came correct. But the limits of that production style were exposed. It's not for everybody. A whole album of that shit is like throwing a wet blanket on those dudes. Casual would probably fucking murder heavy production like that- Souls need to come up for air every once in awhile. That record got a lot of hype on the way in as well, but my sources have told me the sales were very disappointing. And it definitely wasn't done any favors by the remix EP with Ali Shaheed Muhammad on the beats- THAT shit is incredible... rendering the LP even more "meh."
Fortunately the last couple records that have come out in this vein have been better. 36 Chambers is slammin. If both myself and Rich Juzwiak are in agreement that a Ghostface record is slammin, it's slammin. The Revelations were the backing band as opposed to Younge, but I recall reading they were using his samples or something, he was up in the mix there one way or another. His tracks on the new Wu album are solid. Younge had no involvement that I'm aware of in Sour Soul, but it nestles in there nicely with the last two Ghost records he did have a lot of input on.
While There Is Only Now showed the weaknesses of this style, Sour Soul shows the strengths. Slow grimy minimalism plays right into the hands of MCs whose voices are getting deeper and flows are getting gruffer. It's right in every way that a nasally Opio flow is wrong for it. I don't think it would have quite been able to extend poor DMC's career, but post-car wreck D.O.C. probably could have made use of production like this.
Sour Soul is basically a jazz record with Ghostface talking shit over it. No standout tracks for me after three passes through, which is actually a good thing. It's remarkably consistent all the way through. No tracks I'm skipping yet, either. It's got an obvious but far from exclusively late night vibe. It is not a party record, but it strikes me as an ideal background record for social interaction, particularly smoke sessions and attempts to get into somebody's pants, and it gets the official YMM recommendation.
Next week, I have the feeling I won't be able to restrain myself from further shitting on the East Coast snobs who talked all that yang throughout the 90s, only to unquestionably lose the war they were so insistent on starting. Losers don't write our history in these parts...