Friday, March 04, 2005

Musical gutters

I like rock music. It's likely that there are still people out there (squares, old fogies, etc.) who equate rock music with the retched rut that the genre was in during the '80s. MTV was new and hip and brought those atrocious "hair bands" to peoples' living rooms across the nation. To many, rock music, like any other genre, consists of what their conception of it is, and that conception is colored almost exclusively by one's exposure to the music. Even though there actually was some good rock music made during the '80s, the lasting impression people have with rock music from the '80s consists of bands like Quiet Riot, Poison, and Warrant. What is interesting about this is that rock music isn't alone in terms of having a dark age, or period of time largely spent in the gutter.

Hip-hop is a genre that many people easily dismiss or at least misunderstand, and the idea that it is going through a similar phase as rock music did in the '80s makes a lot of sense to me. Upon discovering a new music blog called All Thangs Funky..., I noticed a post featuring a rant (which starts later in the post) about hip-hop that made me think "yes, that's it!" To quote it's author, Brother B. Deenie:
A few years ago I was riding in a car with Wise D and Mooch from DepthCharge Records and Wise voiced his theory on how Hip Hop was in its "Hair Band" stage much like the mid to late 80's in rock music. Then all of a sudden (sort of) Grunge took control and brought some freshness back into the artform. True, Grunge was just good rock music given a new "label" buy record companies, but it was refreshing for the times. I think we are in that same kind of blackhole that rock was in and my question is if not now, then when?

This idea makes perfect sense to me. Rappers like 50 Cent, Ludacris, etc. are the Poison and Slaughter of the hip-hop world. Not all hip-hop music is dumbed down, lacking in creativity, and full of loathsome lyrics full of sexism, "bling bling" nonsense, and glorification of "thug life", just like not all rock music resembles the loud and cheesy crud put out by male rockers who dressed like slutty women. That doesn't mean that all of these people were talentless hacks though, since I'm sure that some of the '80s "hair band" rockers were talented musicians making lousy music, just like Enimem is a talented rapper making lousy music.

Despite the absolute rubbish that dominates the mainstream, and thus many peoples' perception of hip-hop music, there have been, currently are, and will be many hip-hop artists that produce worthwhile or even flat out wonderful music. Brother B. Deenie mentioned a few, such as De La Soul, Hieroglyphics, and MF Doom, and I'll add to it artists like Digable Planets, Jurassic 5, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Blackalicious, and so many others.

Since I'm a big jazz freak, I comment on it for a moment too. Although some may point to the swing era as being the jazz equivalent to this whole idea, it seems as if jazz is too subjective and too different to think of in similar terms. Many may point to the revolting and zombified horror that is "smooth jazz" as being the prime example. Skerik, a saxophonist I greatly admire, recently stated that "Smooth jazz is the equivalent of someone trying to sell children in a Mosque in Saudi Arabia." While I agree wholeheartedly with that befitting remark, I won't give people like Kenny G the respect of referring to them as jazz artists. To me, it's a form of muzak that, at least for a moment, makes me wish that I didn't have ears. Additionally, I don't think it'll be going away anytime soon, which is unfortunate.

To counter the fact that Kenny G and his blasphemous contributions to humanity are now occupying my brain, I think I'll listen to some Dead Kenny Gs, followed by some good hip-hop.


Anonymous Sunni said...

Heh. There are a coupla QR and Warrant songs I like (though that religion thing Warrant did was pretty weird), but I get what you're saying. And it's been a long time since I've heard anything I'd call hip-hop ... well, that was the case until I saw you'd listed Digable Planets here. Just discovered 'em, really like 'em, and happy to add more music to my "must try" list. Tusen takk, Freeman!

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you there Freeman I'm listening to the Wolfman's brother right now on my i pod. Late DAN

4:11 PM  

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