“Real Hip-Hop” Fans Are Hurting Hip-Hop And @kendricklamar “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” Is Proving It Via DJ Blizzon
I’m guessing some of you were wondering why we haven’t posted a review for Kendrick Lamar’s new album “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” yet. Well, I was interested in hearing the response from some people in the general hip-hop community. And from a large portion of it, I was disappointed, but knew I would be.
Before the album came out, the expectations were extremely high. His breakout mixtape from 2011, “Section 80” received high praise and every song he’s been on since has gotten better. Combine that with the fact that every album this year critics predicted to be a classic (Lupe, Nas, Big KRIT, etc) wasn’t, skepticism was extremely high.
And I understand that the “Is this album a classic?” debate wears everyone down. It’s like when someone calls everything racist, when something finally is, no one believes them. So, could this new MC who’s already dropped a near-perfect mixtape rise to the occasion and make something better for his first major release?
In my opinion? Yes, and then some.
Let’s start with the question of what people want from a rap album: Dope production, lyricism, story telling, cohesiveness, though-provoking subject matter and overall real substance. That’s all here. And for the “I Hate Mainstream Radio” fans like myself, most of the songs are longer than five minutes, making them non-radio friendly. The entire album clocks in just over an hour with no fillers whatsoever.
GKMC is a day-in-the-life story set in Kendrick’s hometown of Compton where he rides around with his friends. They deal with a murder, relationship and family issues, alcoholism, the legacy he will leave behind and just the pressures of having friends who get into crazy situations that he then has to deal with. He makes the listener understand how easy it is to get trapped in circumstances that onlookers may think you should just be able to walk away from.
Each song, down to the verse, tells part of that story and is specifically placed throughout. If even one track was in a different order, the album wouldn’t make sense. Kind of like, you know, a book. A full story is told from beginning to end that is so engaging and descriptive, you can turn the TV off, pop on the album and watch, in your mind this story of Kendrick’s life unfold.
The album even has synergy, a word I haven’t siad since I left the corporate world, meaning that the songs individually aren’t as good as when you listen to them in the context of the entire project. I feel like I know Kendrick Lamar more as a man, along with his family and friends. There hasn’t been an album of this depth and quality with this concept released in hip hop in a long time. I’m purposefully not describing any of the songs themselves because it needs to be digested as an entire project. Go. Buy. Listen.
Going outside of just the album itself for a moment, it sold 250k copies in the first week, more than any other rap album this year. The lead single “Swimming Pools” gets airplay on rap and pop radio stations, as well as both types of clubs. Also, he didn’t compromise his style or substance on this, his first official album, to gain fans or notoriety. All things people claim they want from music, especially rap.
But DJ Bizzon, that’s your opinion, others may not like it that much or view it that way. So, how are “real hip-hop” fans hurting hip hop then? What does that mean?
To clarify, when I say “real hip-hop” fans, I’m talking about the person who you hear always saying things like: “Rap music ain’t what it used to be.” “When I was growing up, we had the real stuff.” “I’m old school.” Or, “Today’s artists don’t compare to the ones back in the day.” Pretty much anyone who thinks the quality of rap music was better 20 years ago than it is now and still uses Soulja Boy as the example of a wack rapper, instead of the 2012 example, Chief Keef.
You are right. Opinions are like you know what… But there is a difference between liking/disliking something and judging the quality of it. For example, I don’t like the movies Casablanca and Titanic, but I understand and respect the fact they are great films. And, currently, there is an epidemic in hip hop that if you dislike an album just a little, then it’s complete garbage. Or even worse, that if it’s not perfection, then it’s garbage.
These extremes are what so many “real hip-hop” fans use to determine if a new album can compare to old ones. Everyone compares the newest rap album to Biggie’s “Ready To Die” or Nas’ “Illmatic,” even though every “classic” album in rap music may not even be as good as those. One of them has to be number one right? And we don’t have to get into Shyne’s grasp at attention, but it’s very similar to message boards, barbershop conversations and overall how so many people feel. “If the album is not a classic, then it’s wack”. Those are some high standards just to get people to let an album sink in and listen to without bias.
I don’t know what else people can ask for, but here are some complaints of GKMC I’ve heard: There are not enough bangers, even though we all love Digable Planets and nothing they ever made is considered a “banger.” It’s not as good as his mixtape “Section 80,” so therefore it’s automatically is a weak album, even though to some Outkast’s Aquemini is better than ATLiens, but everyone considers both classics. And my favorite: It was too hyped up (which is obviously the fault of the album itself, therefore making it garbage??). But I’m realizing that the quality of the album doesn’t even matter and we’ll get to that later.
Alright, you feel this album just ain’t up to par, but think about this: What is the last classic/great rap album to come out? Or, just what’s the last classic rap song? If nothing within the last five years comes to mind, you might be the “real hip hop” fan I’m referring to. Did all good rap music stop with the “Black Star” album? It’s been shown in multiple studies that whatever music we listened to as teenagers will be the music we love for the rest of our lives (1, 2, 3, just to name a few). So is it really the music’s fault for a sudden lack of interest or praise?
If that was the case, all the people who hated hip-hop when it began would have been right and only James Brown would be considered real music. Oh excuse me, the Beatles. Oh wait, I mean Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It’s hard to accept when a casual listener says everything that comes out now is garbage because they don’t have the time to search and listen to all this music that comes out and form an intelligent opinion on it. It’s okay to have a real life and have stuff to do as an adult instead of listen to records all day in your bedroom, but that doesn’t mean music quality is declining.
But back in the day we had Tribe, De La, Nas, Rakim, Biggie and Tupac. Yup. And we also had Das Efx, Blahzay Blahzay, Ed OG and other artists who maybe have one or two songs worth remembering, yet we view them as classic artists. How come there was space in own minds back in the 90’s to remember the smaller, less popular rap artists, but none now. And when A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” came out, do you remember the other 10 actual garbage rap albums that came out that day too?
No, because we only remember the good stuff. Can you list off the losers of the Superbowl over the last five years or the three worst movies of 1993? No one can. Why would we use brain power to remember lame stuff? This is why everything made when we were kids/teenagers or 20 years ago (for some of the older readers) we look back on as being ALL awesome.
Does not liking anything make you cool these days? Maybe. Saying, “I love old school hip hop, that was the real stuff” is extremely easy to do because it requires no work. You never have to listen to/weed through any new music.
There is a vibrant, sustained underground hip hop scene where substantive artists are touring, making money, living their dreams and delivering real messages to young and old fans alike. I went to see Brother Ali in Madison last month and he closed his show out by having the audience of mostly young college kids say the word “peace” over and over. His album, along with Killer Mike’s “RAP Music” and I Self Divine’s “The Origin of Urban Crisis” are solid albums full of defiant political messages and real life stories.
Last year, underground artist Mac Miller debuted at number #1 on the Billboard charts and even a gospel rapper,Lecrae, hit number #3. Look at who’s performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon lately — Wu-Tang Clan, Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$ (a 19 year-old MC from NY with the wisdom and story-telling abilities of a man twice his age). These are just a few of the hundreds of examples of “real hip-hop” in this newfangled world of completely horrible music.
The hip hop scene itself isn’t stuck in the 90’s…it’s thriving. These “real hip-hop” fans are like horrible husbands in bad romance novels, “I love you, but I haven’t listened to anything you’ve had to say in the last 20 years and I still want YOU to try harder.”
Okay Bizzon, get to the point.
Alright fine. Yes, I think this album is a classic but what does that mean? I personally think this is an important release in hip-hop and we will be talking about this in 5-10 years as the album that made Kendrick Lamar a permanent fixture on music’s main stage. I think it will also be looked on as a good example of not compromising your art to make it as a big artist like Adele has been doing her entire career, but especially in 2011 with her album “21.” Dr. Dre’s co-sign and assistance helped him dramatically, but he still came out with the music he wanted to — all without trying to make you dance, sing or buy some disgusting alcohol.
Do I think this album is perfect? For the sake of argument, no it’s not. But I don’t think a classic album has to be (just look up the definitions of those words before you comment please). Is the Ford Mustang a perfect car down every single feature? No, but it’s still considered a classic.
There are plenty of albums in rap music considered to be classics that only have a couple memorable songs and some complete throwaways. Camp Lo anyone? Can any of you “real hip hop” fans remember six songs from “93 Til Infinity”, “Let’s Get Free” or “Blowout Comb?” And for the record, I haven’t called any albums a classic this year so I’m not the dude calling everything a classic.
Maybe we’ve reached that point where the rap community just doesn’t have enough fans or interest to determine if something is classic anymore. I’m sure there have been amazing works in Jazz music since Miles and Coltrane, but does anyone care like in the past to really sit down to listen? Is that happening to hip hop?
I say all this because I don’t think everyone has to love or even like this album. Still, whether you are a casual or hardcore fan of music in general, it’s impossible to go away from listening to this album and say it’s not a high quality piece of work and that it doesn’t deserve to be remembered. Yes, there is a lot of garbage music out today, but there always has been. The percentage of good vs bad is the same but we are lucky since we have the internet and don’t have to rely on radio stations and TV to make the choices for us. We can listen to great music from all over the world at anytime — all the time.
I know, my view of hip-hop is different because I blog about it daily and part of my job is to search for new music. But maybe you can learn, the same way I did as a reformed “real hip-hop” fan, to open your ears a little more next time you hear some new music of any genre.
But please don’t say music ain’t what it used to be because, in reality Mr. or Ms. Real Hip Hop fan, it is, but you aren’t.
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