Coming of Age with Hip Hop (Part 1)

I am a Hip Hop lifer and have been subscribing to the cultural praxis of Hip Hop since the early days of my youth. I have witnessed the dynamic culture evolve, mature, stand still and contradict itself. Despite the various paradigm shifts within the culture and the myriad artistic aesthetics affected consequently, one thing that has remained constant (what Amiri Baraka refers to as the “changing same”) is the idea that the “game just ain’t what it used to be.” Since my preteen years, numerous rap artists (e.g. KRS ONE, Ice Cube), along with cultural practitioners like my older brother (and every other nigga I know), have been lamenting the deterioration of creativity, skill and progression in rap music. While I generally agree with these persisting diatribes, one thing that I find interesting is how so many people (who boast different ages, different geographical and cultural locales, and divergent ideas of what our cultural standards should be) can all agree that the game is “fucked up.” If we are prepared to allege that Hip Hop is dead (or struggling on life-support), then we must first wrestle with when she was last found alive, thriving and vibrant. By looking back and critically engaging our past, we may be able to reclaim and assert the most progressive, resistant and innovative expressions of ourselves as we reaffirm and actualize healthier, holistic articulations of who we are and can be.

 
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That said, my personal benchmark for excellence germane to rap music would be my high school years: August, 1993- June 1997. Now this time period resonates with me for several reasons, but none more importantly than the simple fact that it was high school. This was the period of time when my neighborhood cohorts and I were beginning to negotiate notions of blackness and masculinity for ourselves and how we would perform these identities of bourgeoning black men on the southern, small city landscape of Greensboro, NC.

 

Over the next few weeks in June (every Tuesday to be exact) I will announce and critically engage what I deem to be the best albums of my respective high school years. I will discuss their personal significance as well as their larger cultural implications. By the time we arrive at the last Tuesday in June (6/30), I will have revealed my top 20 albums as well as 20 honorable mentions. On June 30, I will publish that top 20 list and the honorable mentions in their entirety. Concerning context, one key thing to remember is that the albums I have selected parallel my actual high school experience from entering freshman to graduating senior. Said another way, no albums released prior to August 1993 or after the first week in June 1997 will be considered. Let’s get started…

 

1993
The first two things that come to my mind when I consider rap music circa 1993 are diversity and range. A brief survey of the rap albums released in 1993 quickly dispel the aspersion that hip hop has always been a degenerative, monolithic culture with the limited musings of sex, drugs, violence and misogyny. There was a plethora of legitimate and authentic spaces carved out for a culture with disparate voices on a seemingly infinite extent as varying (and sometimes contradictory) sensibilities responded to a shared social, economic and political marginalization. Contingent upon regional geography and the more peculiar nuances of a specific neighborhood or community, a wide breadth of cultural perspectives pronounced themselves with a singular voice.

 

This concept of singular voice is critical. In her essay, “takin a solo/ a poetic possibility/ a poetic imperative,” Ntozake Shange advances that “we, as a people, or as a literary cult, or a literary culture/ have not demanded singularity from our writers. we could all sound the same. come from the same region. be the same gender. born the same year.”
 

While this artistic/literary critique does not hold true for rap music in 1993, it certainly resonates as a timely and appropriate critique for the rap music being mass-produced today. One of the biggest points of departure from the rap music created then as opposed to the rap music created now is this idea of singular voice. Nowadays, a common complaint is “everyone sounds the same.” And true enough, its hard to distinguish one artist from another, let alone one region or community from another. This is the reason why the feature or guest appearance has become so prevalent in rap. Virtually any artist can appear on any other artist’s record and not disturb or agitate the groove/flow/chemistry/feel/vibe of that record because everyone and everything has become homogenized. Generally speaking (with few exceptions), there is no real distinction from an Atlanta rapper, to a Miami rapper to a Texas rapper, to a Louisiana rapper, etc. It is all southern. The distinct nuances emcees used to account for per their respective neighborhood and communal differences are now ignored or suppressed. The same can be said of East Coast hip hop. One used to not only be able to distinguish the differences between the 5 boroughs, but one could also distinguish the neighborhood differences within the boroughs themselves vis-à-vis the music. Even I, a southern teen who had never even visited New York City, would know the difference between a Brooklyn emcee and a Long Island emcee, and even more specifically, a Jamaica Queens flow from Queensbridge slang. But what happens to the cultural mobilizing and resistance vehicle of rap when that singularity of voice is lost? When the East Coast mimics the South as the West Coast chases the East? When everyone rocks the same kind of production, employs the same slang and vernacular, and articulates the same fashion sensibility with no regard for their immediate setting and surroundings… with no regard for their own individual identities?
 

When this singular voice is lost, Shange warns:
 

 there is absolutely no acceptance of black reality. if you are 14, female {or male} & black in the u.s.a./ you have one solitary voice/ though you number 3 million/ no nuance exists for you/ you have been sequestered in the monolith/ the common denominator as persona. what i am getting to is the notion that as a people we have claimed “the word”/ we don’t even pay attention to who is speaking.
 

Could this be the same thing that DJ Quik was thinking when he created “Jus Lyke Compton?” Back when Hip Hop placed a premium on the singular voice, Quik too had to be considering the notions of a people not accepting their own realities and being “sequestered in the monolith” as he tragically comments on how the black folk in the unassuming cities of St. Louis, San Antonio and Denver ape the violence of gangbanging culture that had been specific to the south-central Los Angeles community of Compton. Throughout the song chronicling Quik’s experiences on tour, the listener is left with the impression that Quik is longing to hear, see and feel the peculiar truths and nuances of the places that he has visited; but instead, he is left observing how those places enact their homicidal renditions of his home, Compton. After woeful stops in Oakland, St. Louis and San Antonio, an exasperated Quik exclaims, “I don’t think they know, they too crazy for they own good/ They need to stop watching that “Colors” and “Boyz in the Hood”/ Too busy claiming sixties, trying to be raw/ And never even seen the Shaw.”
 

If we take a quick (no pun intended) moment to explicate these lyrics, then what we find is DJ Quik mournfully reflecting on how a limited and nefarious aspect of black life (i.e. gang culture in Compton) has been filtered through the overwhelming and consuming mass media outlet of the Hollywood silver screen and is now swallowing up the independent realities and distinct singular voices that used to exist in other places. Quik poignantly understands that once facilitated by the toxic, pervasive reach of white media, limited narratives on the black experience can now serve as an identity calling card that can conjure up those narrow notions of blackness anywhere, even if (and maybe even especially if) that particular rendering of blackness proves to be tragically problematic.
 

This consideration of DJ Quik and south-central Los Angeles circa 1992 provides an easy turn into the first seminal album of 1993 that I would like to discuss: Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style.  What I find particularly interesting is the same concerns that Quik expresses about black folk in other cities adopting the catastrophic behaviors of Compton becomes the rallying cry that mainstream America (and the black middle class) employs to “protest” the ribald and base lyricism of Doggy Style.
 

Powered by the undeniable production of Dr. Dre, Doggy Style was an instant classic. It could boast critical acclaim, commercial success and street authenticity. Classic records like “Gin and Juice,” “The Shiznit,” “Doggy Dogg World” and the cultural reversioning of Slick Rick’s “Lodi Dodi” also helped to stamp Snoop Dogg and Doggy Style into the mainstream consciousness of American pop culture, and this phenomenon had interesting implications for rap music and Hip Hop culture…
 

Prior to Doggy Style, and its artistic predecessor, The Chronic, one could not easily dismiss gangsta rap as gratuitous violence and wanton misogyny that lacked serious political and social commentary. Early gangsta rap albums like Ice Cube’s: Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate, The Predator; NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, along with early DJ Quik and Ice T recordings provided scathing social commentary and political resistance about their desperate, oppressed environments. In fact, this political utility was a cornerstone of the gangsta rap aesthetic until Doggy Style (following the blueprint of The Chronic) managed to choke the social and political awareness out of the music with hedonistic attitudes and a pseudo-agency that did not account for the perilous conditions of south central LA.
 

As Snoop Dogg’s celebrity grew parallel to the manufactured outrage over Doggy Style, gangsta rap now assumed a new face and a new artistic aesthetic devoid of political utility. Mainstream media couldn’t wait to co-opt and caricature gangsta rap as morally decadent and licentious while cashing in on rehashed tropes of black masculinity. With Doggy Style’s commercial release being less than a week old, Newsweek opportunistically placed Snoop Dogg on their 11/29/93 magazine cover. Ignoring the fact that white suburban kids historically purchase around 85% of all rap albums, the corresponding Newsweek article asked “if gangsta rap was corrupting black youth?” Of course, the magazine found a couple of mindless, self-righteous Bible-toting negroes like Rev. Calvin Butts and Jesse Jackson to answer “yes” accordingly.
 

While the artistic genius and craftsmanship of the album is undeniable, gangsta rap post Doggy Style never quite “functioned” the same for the people again. The tell tale sign of this may be Ice Cube’s Lethal Injection which was released just two weeks after Doggy Style. Lethal Injection was dwarfed by Doggy Style in every conceivable way and consequently  became the last album Ice Cube released after dropping socially/politically charged gangsta rap for four consecutive years from 1990-93. Thanks to Dr. Dre’s production and Snoop’s charismatic lyrical prowess, Doggy Style became the new benchmark for gangsta rap and Ice Cube disappeared from the game taking a five year hiatus. After all, who cares about the lethal injections and state sanctioned murders of black men when we could be rolling down the street smoking indo, sipping on gin and juice and discussing how these hoes love doggy style. 
 

In retrospect, one realizes that the incessant discussions over the negative effects of Snoop Dogg and gangsta rap waged in public forums then had nothing to do with protesting the content of Doggy Style. The media’s intention (at which they succeeded) was to continue to label Doggy Style as gangsta rap until we believed it. With considerations of political and social resistance successfully removed from our understanding of gangsta, we (re)move to a space where Dr. Dre appears (again) selling us gangsta rap in the form of 50 Cent.
 

On that note, let’s take it to the East Coast and discuss my last 2 picks for the top rap albums of 1993. Joining Doggy Style in this elite group, is Wu-Tang’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders.
 

Before I provide my thoughts on Enter the Wu-Tang and Midnight Marauders respectively, let’s just examine the top three albums of 1993 collectively as a reflection of the year itself. These three albums clearly exemplify Hip Hop’s diversity and attention to singular voice. These albums provide starkly contrasting worldviews about what it means to be a young black man in urban America in 1993. The sensibilities and the musical expressions of those sensibilities are so divergent, that one couldn’t even begin to fathom these artists collaborating on each other’s respective projects. Where would Snoop Dogg’s laid back and sedated flow register on the hostile, belligerent Enter the Wu-Tang? Could the same political awareness that created Tribe’s “Steve Biko” or “Sucka Nigga” find a place on Doggy Style? I think not… and this is the beauty of it! Via these three magnum opuses, we observed different manifestations of blackness, different manifestations of masculinity, different manifestations of creativity, different responses to marginalization and American cultural hegemony. Different is beautiful… and missing in today’s rap music scene. 
 

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
I’ll never forget my introduction to Wu-Tang. I was riding on the school van in route to a JV basketball game when my homeboy, Kyle, tapped me on the shoulder and passed me a tape to place in my walkman. The tape was a dub and Wu Tang had been written at the top with a black sharpie. I removed my headphones and took the tape.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Some shit Sean left. It’s too hard for me but I know you like that kind of stuff,” Kyle answered.
“Is it rap?”
“Yeah, man! Just check it out”
 

I removed the tape I was listening to (Onyx’s Bacdafucup), placed in the dub and pressed play. I heard a gritty static and then a clip from what sounded like a Chinese movie. I turned to Kyle and said, “What the Hell?” Then a loud voice commanded through the headphones, “Bring the mothafuckin ruckus! Bring the mothafuckin ruckus!” As Ghostface tore into his first verse, I knew I had stumbled upon a gem. I killed that tape! I forfeited sleep many nights just to lay under my covers and bang that tape in my walkman. I memorized that album from front to back in less than a week. Anytime someone wanted to talk rap, Wu-Tang quickly entered the conversation. I was overwhelmed by the voracious aggression and rage of Enter the Wu-Tang. Each song pounded my ears as if it was avenging a personal vendetta against me. The hard, grimy minimalist production of the Rza coupled with the colorful slang and wordplay of 9 different emcees created a Hip Hop experience I could have never dreamed of.
 

Besides the verbal showmanship and creativity of classics like “Shame on a Nigga,” “Da Mystery of Chessboxing” and “Protect Ya Neck” just to name a few, Wu-Tang also scored their pain with a nuanced acumen of negotiating the violent perils of urban life with timeless recordings like “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Can It Be All So Simple,” and “Tearz.”
 

“C.R.E.A.M.”, in particular was riveting to my psyche. I was exposed to the firsthand accounts of starvation and despair that would compel someone to seek crime as a legitimate industry and drugs as an escape to a horrific reality. In “C.R.E.A.M.”, selling drugs wasn’t denounced, glorified or justified, just objectively commented on. It was the most unbiased commentary I had observed that focused on the nexus of poverty, desperation, and black masculinity and what those implications were for the black family and larger black community. A new sensitivity concerning pushers and junkies was awakened within me. Wu-Tang and “C.R.E.A.M.” successfully accomplished what Curtis Mayfield attempted to do for my parents with the Supa Fly soundtrack: lend an understanding to the nefarious urban and drug underworld that black folks daily grind through.
 

I was already impressed by and impressionable to Wu-Tang by the first time I visually encountered them via music video. Videos like “Method Man”, “Da Mystery of Chessboxing” “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Can It Be All So Simple,” definitely informed my thoughts on how to perform my masculinity. Not that I was “soft” before Enter the Wu-Tang, but post this seminal work, I definitely felt the need to make sure that my bravado and machismo were more pronounced. I smiled a lot less and discounted certain childhood gestures and games I used to be invested in as silly and trivial. I threw away my boyish speech and began to use a more “manly” dialect and vernacular full of curse words and Wu-Tang slang. Sneakers got replaced with boots and my infatuation with hoodies and army fatigues began. A barbed wire wedge grew between my father and I as he insisted on castigating rap music, Hip Hop culture and by extension, me, as deviant and meaningless. I was reinterpreting myself, my brothers and my peers through this new understanding of a stoic, rugged black masculinity. And unfortunately I knew, no matter how I hard I may have tried, my father’s puritanical politics would never allow him to appreciate an artist named Ol’ Dirty Bastard who would frantically yell, “Shame on a nigga who tried to run game on a nigga!”
 

Midnight Marauders
Last and far from least is the classic A Tribe Called Quest album, Midnight Marauders. Aesthetically, this album was the antithesis of Enter the Wu-Tang. The jazz sensibility in Ali Shaheed’s masterful production capitalized on sonic possibilities that Rza’s minimalist beats dared not to consider; and the light hearted lyricism of Q-Tip and Phife Dawg provided a glaring contrast to the coarse, hardcore diction of Wu-Tang. Midnight Marauders is definitely in a league of its own.
 

If I could describe the album in one word, it would be “complex.” Somehow, Midnight Marauders manages to balance an upper middle class station and agency with an afrocentric political consciousness. While Doggy Style negated to provide any social or political commentary, and Enter the Wu-Tang focused on the imminent dangers of their immediate environment, the opening track on Midnight Marauders, “Steve Biko,” suggests Tribe’s willingness to consider themselves in relation to their South African brothers and sisters fighting for equality in a pre and post apartheid South Africa. The following record, “Award Tour,” enables Tribe, per the chorus, to “go each and every place with a mic in my hand.” The significance of these first two tracks is how it situates Tribe in a global, political context and empowers them with the agency of movement. This is a critical component of the album and is indicative of Tribe’s middle class privilege. This is a huge point of departure from Doggy Style and Enter the Wu-Tang where the oppressed station of both Snoop and the Wu thwart their ability to consider themselves outside of Long Beach and the slums of Staten Island respectively.  
 

The best indicator of Tribe’s middle class status would be Phife Dawg’s solo, “8 Million Stories.” While Snoop is distraught about his life and freedom on “Murder Was the Case” and Wu-Tang is reduced to pushing dope to eat on “C.R.E.A.M.,” Phife Dawg is lamenting over the problems of not having something new to wear on a date, struggling to find a Barney toy for his little brother and being stood up by his date to see the Knicks. 
This may seem like a petty and trivial song, but this is a significant hallmark of A Tribe Called Quest and the whole Natives Tongues movement. While a majority of rap focuses on the daily struggles and ambitions of the black and poor, Tribe solidified an authentic space for black middle class youth to muse about their everyday hassles and goals. Once again, this points to Hip Hop’s past dedication to singular voice and diversified representation. While older generations of black folks were (and are) still invested in a bitter class stratification, Tribe (and Native Tongues) proved that the black poor and the black middle class could share a cultural space and be respectful of each other’s views and voice.
 

The very next song after “8 Million Stories” is Q-Tip’s infamous solo, “Sucka Nigga.” “Sucka Nigga” is a brilliant examination of the historical context of “nigger” and the new liberating vernacular possibilities of “nigga” that exists within Hip Hop culture. Interestingly enough, “Sucka Nigga” also reinforces Tribe’s ability to move. This time, instead of traveling globally, Q-Tip is able to maneuver in and out of various black communities and contexts. He signifies the mobility and shifting frameworks of nigger/nigga as he leaps from his middle class community to an impoverished black community, from an older black community to a young black community, from the north to the south, from the past to the present. But at the end of each verse, Q-Tip pledges his allegiance to Hip Hop and new cultural possibilities by repeating the lines, “Yo I start to flinch, as I try not to say it/ But my lips is like a oowop as I start to spray it.” In these lines, the “it” of course is the word, “nigga” and Q-Tip states that he begins to flinch as he tries not to say nigga which would be tantamount to cultural treason. In the ending line, Q-Tip metaphorically becomes a gun when he rhymes, “my lips is like a oowop as I start to spray it.” Oowop is slang for an Uzi, which is a high powered machine-gun. By becoming an Uzi as opposed to another gun like a .38, Q-Tip is articulating the vehemence in which he will defend Hip Hop and its new cultural possibilities as well as attack the neo-conservative and elitist views of the black bourgeoisie.
 

In closing, as one listens to Midnight Marauders all the way through, then he/she will find that this album was crafted with amazing complexity as it balances the tensions of afrocentricity and black middle class privilege. No Hip Hop collection is complete without this beautiful cultural offering.
 

I hope you all enjoyed this first installment of Coming of Age with Hip Hop. Be sure to catch me next week as I break down my top picks of 1994. Allow me to leave you with my Honorable Mention picks for 1993:
 

Black Moon: Enter Da Stage
KRS ONE: Return of Da Boom Bap
Digable Planets: Reachin (A New Refutation of Time & Space)

Hip Hop, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.More...

25 Comments to ‘Coming of Age with Hip Hop (Part 1)’:

  1. Elijah on 2 Jun 2009 at 3:08 am: 1

    One Word to describe this article, nah fuck it 2 words. DOPE and NOSTALGIC! That was brilliantly brought together..and it offered insights i have never considered..Dope Piece man, dope piece..

  2. Rashad on 2 Jun 2009 at 7:46 am: 2

    Thank you for your excellent commentary. You took me down memory lane and reminded me when “I Used to Love Her”. I look forward to your coming articles.

  3. Z on 2 Jun 2009 at 8:12 am: 3

    Great read. You are one hell of a writer. Thanks for posting!

  4. Twan on 2 Jun 2009 at 8:57 am: 4

    Incredible! Your piece brings together the many “faces” of hip-hop. It’s refreshing to read an intellectual analysis of the culture from an obviously true hip hop “head”. Cheers to Black Music Month!

  5. Anjan on 2 Jun 2009 at 10:30 am: 5

    I think that as hip-hop has become more commodified, the voice and meanings of hip-hop have been forced through a funnel. Pouring out of the funnel is a hegemonic product that makes sense to white people. Hip-hoppers can pick out the nuances between rappers and music, but to the “masses,” it is one homogenious substance, that lacks substance, outside of the fact that white people can make money off it.

    I better be reading about some Outkast soon.

  6. HS classmate on 2 Jun 2009 at 11:25 am: 6

    Great introspection in the analytics of how music coincides with life. I hate to hear that peope always claim that hip hop has changed, which it has in the fact that hip hop used to be a reflection of life (art imitates life notion), and now life imitates hip hop. Hip hop (I call it Rap) hasn’t changed to being more commercial, it just minimized the value of morals and human value; thus creating an apathetic youth.
    Great article, and I appreciate the personal touch on an essay that is truly academic. You should really go on a speaking circuit and educate this lost generation as to how Rap came to be, and how it went from rebellion culture of minority youth to the prominent musical genre of today.
    Blackademics is truly lucky to have you on board and can’t wait to read your subsequent articles.

  7. Anonymous on 2 Jun 2009 at 2:40 pm: 7

    Hip hop has become simplisitic. The soul of hip hop has almost disintegrated. I love the article, it speaks the truth about the state of the culture. Keep the articles coming.

  8. Sistah Girl on 2 Jun 2009 at 2:42 pm: 8

    Hip Hop has become simplisitic. The soul of hip hop has almost disintegrated. I love the article, it speaks the truth about the state of the culture. Keep the articles coming.

  9. Toya on 2 Jun 2009 at 3:16 pm: 9

    Great Article! I would love to read more about the consequences of having the art form of hip-hop so greatly influenced by economics. It would be interesting to read more of your opinion as to what that does to the autonomy of the artist and to what extent? … In short, should we be worried? lol I am definitely not anti hip-hop but I wonder having so much financial influence in the hip hop world, does it aid more now in upholding cultural hegemony in the African American Development? If so how do artist (outside the mainstream pop rappers) regain control without having to recreate an entirely new musical art form… again?

    Toya

  10. Vann Dee on 2 Jun 2009 at 5:43 pm: 10

    As usual, on point and insightful keep doing what you do brother. If Hip Hop was a league like the NBA, You my brother would need to be commissioner. It would be the thing to have rappers held accountable a little bit. In fact a few would need to be thrown out of the league…

  11. Benz on 2 Jun 2009 at 8:13 pm: 11

    Yo that article is beyond dope…As I read the article I could vividly remember the first time I heard each and everyone of those albums and the corresponding videos!

  12. Slim on 2 Jun 2009 at 8:56 pm: 12

    Another great article! I’m already looking forward to your article next week (1994 top albums) and reading your analysis of two of the greatest hip-hop albums EVER:

    Nas: Illmatic

    Notorious B.I.G: Ready to Die

    Is this a safe assumption???????

    I’m tuned in…

  13. b on 2 Jun 2009 at 10:17 pm: 13

    QUALITY.

    (Mind your tone…mind it well…)

  14. Pierce on 2 Jun 2009 at 11:14 pm: 14

    Very dope.

    I like how you break down the past and present of so-called Gangsta rap. You’re absolutely correct – Dr. Dre completely transformed the style with The Chronic. Cube threw in the towel and started acting, post Doggy. NWA, Ice-T, Public Enemy were old news by ’93.

    “Mainstream media couldn’t wait to co-opt and caricature gangsta rap as morally decadent and licentious while cashing in on rehashed tropes of black masculinity.”

    That’s real. Somebody tell Newsweek that Snoop Dogg is not corrupting Black youth, Lethal Injections are. But they don’t want to put that, or Cube’s album, on the cover of their magazine.

    One interesting element about Wu that really impacted me was the slang, which I later found out was linked with the NY culture and philosophy of 5 percenters. Deep stuff. Scathing, intellectual, brilliant, spiritual.. everything you want in an album. Second best rap group of all time

  15. Khayr Love El on 3 Jun 2009 at 1:18 am: 15

    Well “Doctor” Olokun, you done said it all. Gemini’s do work.

    See ya next Tuesday. Don’t come whack. (sophomore jinx)

    Love Is Love

  16. DJ St@tik on 3 Jun 2009 at 3:53 pm: 16

    I thoroughly enjoyed you in-depth analysis of 1993 relating to hip hop’s present lack of diverse sounds. Being 5 years old in 93′ its dope to observe that year in hip hop through your scope.

  17. Sydnie on 3 Jun 2009 at 10:42 pm: 17

    My parents were the types who fell for the propaganda that hip hop is corrupting our youth. I was actually banned from listening to hip hop radio stations and watching music videos (mtv, bet and the box were all off limits until 8th grade – ’99 for me). As a result, I have always felt on the fringe of hip hop culture, and when I got old enough to make my own music choices they were heavily influenced by what was in the mainstream, and not necessarily what I knew was good, real, or worth listening to.

    I say all that to say, that I appreciate your close reading and analysis of hip hop music. Through both critical explication and relating it to your personal experiences (which really serves as a case study for the actual effects of hip hop on black youth, as opposed to those perceived) you illuminate the depth and significance of the music in a very REAL way.

    I encourage you to publish and present your written work on this topic (if you have not already) in as many public venues as possible. Academia needs to document this. The media needs to recognize this. Our parents need to read this.

  18. Karla on 7 Jun 2009 at 5:30 pm: 18

    This is awesome! I will definitely tune in next Tuesday for more hip-hop education as well as vocabulary 501!

  19. BGC on 12 Jun 2009 at 4:02 pm: 19

    My man, my man, absolutely beautiful…I thoroughly enjoyed that piece…What makes it relevant for me was that I had just got out of high school and was entering my freshman year of college so you know how much of an impact these joints had on my psyche, I was now out of the District (D.C) and interacting with a lot of the cats from the very same cities this music was originating from, NY,ATL,Cali,TEXAS, Man, come to think of it you cannot forget UGK’s Ridin Dirty or G-MO-B’s Soul Food.

  20. BT on 17 Jun 2009 at 2:27 am: 20

    D! You always make great points and give a nigga a different perspective. Doggystyle is in hip hop history books. I remember Enter the Wu-Tang as having EVERYTHING you could want in a rap album. I was a 12yr old smart nigga thinking man this is FOR ME!. I must say for me 1993 is when I chose my favorite rapper. Release date Feb 16th, 1993 Strictly 4 My Niggaz, by 2pac. This album took me on a rollercoaster. From eloquently painting the pictures of black struggle in Keep Ya Head Up…to just trying to have fun in I Get Around. Add Holla If Ya Hear me and 5 Deadly Venoms with Treach and Apache and this album fills the appetite of the most hungry hip hop fans…thats what 1993 was about for me. I love the commentary man keep bringing it.

  21. MMcCarter5 on 24 Jun 2009 at 7:29 pm: 21

    This article is the epitome of nostalgia! Reading this article sent me through a time warp straight to 8th grade. I truly appreciated this article as it describes the interesting dichotomy of the music I love. I would be remis not to mention ’93 till Infinity! Growing up on the east coast I was blown sideways by the production, lyricism, creativity, and depth of that album as well. 1993 was clearly a time of innovation, creativity, and a focus of delivering good music! Thanks for taking me back to the golden age!

  22. Sarah Rose on 12 Jul 2009 at 11:45 am: 22

    I really like the point you made about modern mainstream rap smothering the “singular voice.” This is yet another way that corporations are blatantly and purposefully failing to acknowledge the multiplicities of black life. Instead of being forward-thinking, political, inspirational, and emancipatory like it was in the 80s and early 90s, mass-produced rap music today does nothing more than perpetuate the same stereotypes of blacks that America has been force fed since “Birth of a Nation” and before.

  23. M Woods on 13 Jul 2009 at 8:33 am: 23

    Enjoyed the article and definitely agree with almost every point made. The breadth and depth of the music put forward during the Golden Age (approx. 1986-1998) is unrivaled and, sadly, will never be duplicated. (When KRS-One and Too $hort are equally relevant, you know you’re in a special time!) That said, I feel there’s a glaring omission from your list of 1993 classics: Souls of Mischief. While they haven’t stood the test of time creatively, “’93 ’til Infinity” was both a classic single and classic album. Prior to the Hiero crew, there was almost no one representing the West Coast who was bringing much to the table from a conscious/progressive viewpoint. (Pharcyde is all that comes to mind…) The lyrics, the flow, the production, the storytelling – every aspect of that album holds up. Plus, that crew was far ahead of its time in both promoting all four aspects of hip hop and in terms of embracing new/alternative means of selling and promoting their music. Every cherry-root-chewin-Polo-rugby-rockin’ cat from around my way was bumping that. And given that I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, that’s saying something about the impact of that criminally underrated classic.

  24. Brian B on 13 Jul 2009 at 9:53 am: 24

    I agree with what you said about how now it seems like all rap artist today sound the same. Its like when one person does the auto-tune thing everyone does it. Another example is the whole snap music period. It seems like no one is being true to themselves, they are just conforming. Also something to go off of what you said when you were talking about is rap music harming black youth, and calvin butts and jesse jackson said yes. I think it is, even though most of the white kids buy it, they are not trying to live it. Black kids may think they have to be hood and that is the way they are suppose to act. But then again the media isnt helping with portraying us in a more positive light.

  25. S.Woods on 13 Jul 2009 at 10:20 am: 25

    I completely agree with the point you made about the homogeneous nature of current Rap/Hip-Hop music and how it is almost impossible to tell the difference between rappers from different areas of the map.Reading this article made me think of a friend of mine who is from New york City and is currently working on trying to break into the music industry;however, his sound is very similar to what someone would classify as “southern”. From the way he pronounces some of his words to some of the stuff he rhymes about. This dude has barely every left the Tri-state area and although he reps New York and promotes himself as a Queens Rapper his music definitely fits into the general mold of what is out right now. And even when I think of other NY rappers they all pretty much have branched out to include a southern link to fit what is now( i.e. Bad Boy South) and the diverse nature of the game is definitely missing from mainstream Hip-Hop today.

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Published on June 1, 2009 at 11:39 pm. 25 Comments.
Filed under art,black culture,music,popular culture.