Thursday, March 5, 2015

Respecting the Mic and the Old Hip-Hop Heads Who Rocked It

As of late the hip-hop Hurricane known as Kanye West has been taking these mean information highways of the interwebs by storm. First there was his Beyonce stanning Beck rant at the Grammy's, the launch of his sweat pants clothing line, his rambling, sometimes poignant, sometimes confusing speech at the BET Honors, and of course the release of his latest single "All Day" that may or may not be leading up to his new album. I mention all of Mr. West's accomplishments/shenanigans because as far as the community and culture of hip-hop is concerned he is what accounts for a living legend. (Save the side-eye) At least by the standard of today's fickle music gobbling youth.

I was born in the 80s and am a child of the 90s. While I wasn't old enough to thoroughly enjoy the nascent beginnings of hip-hop in the Boogie Down Bronx, my childhood is rife with memories of singing lyrics I probably shouldn't have by artists of which some are no longer with us (may they rest in peace) or as one author claims, no longer matter because they don't get the respect they deserve by younger emcees who are hot today.

The argument reminds me of the 2007-2008 feud between Ice-T and Souljah Boy. Ice-T "the old head" couldn't get behind the southern "Crank Dat" star who taught us all how to "superman that hoe." Now 7- 8 years later neither man is actually relevant on the hip-hop scene. Souljah Boy is collecting has been checks thanks to Mona Scott Young and her ratchet Love & Hip-Hop series (all shade intended), while Ice-T continues to come into homes every Wednesday night on NBC's Law & Order: SVU. The major difference between the two emcees is that while Souljah Boy is a one-hit wonder, Ice-T is the grand-daddy of gangsta rap who probably helped inspire a young shawty we now know as Kendrick "K-Dot" Lamar.

Hip-Hop was started on the principals of beats, rhymes, and life. The DJ with the hottest beats keeps the party going and the emcee with the freshest rhymes owns the night, his opponent, and the right to talk trash until the next rap battle where life experience is turned into a lyrical masterpiece that might make you laugh and cry at the same damn time. With that said it's understandable why old hip-hop heads gets no respect. In an art form where the artist is only as good as their last diss line or punch line in the latest rap battle beef (in real life or on wax), who's really checking for that time KRS-One annihilated MC Shan, Marley Marl, and The Juice Crew on "The Bridge is Over." Who's checking for that time Biggie Smalls AKA Notorious B.I.G's "Who Shot Ya" and Tupac's "Hit 'Em Up" sparked a hate so hard between East Coast and West Coast rappers that both emcees ended up murdered and their killers have yet to be found. Who's checking for Jay-Z's "Super Ugly" or Nas's "Ether." Who's checking for 50 Cents whole first album dissing Ja Rule. Hell, at this point no one's even checking for Nicki Minaj's "Roman's Revenge" and Lil' Kim's "Black Friday."

Hip-Hop is a blood sport and only the strong survive. Two emcees spit on wax but only one is remembered. Today's hot hip-hop emcees don't honor the old heads the way new rock or pop artists live for The Rolling Stones or Madonna. The honor for an older hip-hop artist starts and stops with Jay-Z and he's rapping about Andy Warhol. And while I understand why hip-hop acts don't have a long musical life-span that doesn't mean that they shouldn't.

Ice Cube might be making family movies, Dr. Dre becoming the next Steve Jobs, and Kool Herc may still be basking in the 40th anniversary of how hip-hop began, but that doesn't mean that they can't do more, that they can't contribute more to the music and culture they are responsible for creating. In a time where white police officers can kill unarmed black men and get away with it, we need every bit of NWA and their "Fuck the Police" attitude. (And that includes Flava Flav even if he did show up to a Ferguson protest in a white rabbit.)

Instead of just a movie about NWA where we can wax nostalgic on the violent roots of hip-hop and be grateful for how far it's progressed since it's now accepted by the teeny-boppers, white suburban parents and the President of theses sometimes United States, why not a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Who really has time to wait for Outkast to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hip-Hop is not Rock & Roll. The mediums are different. The audiences are different. The disposable income of said audiences are different. Therefore I don't expect Run DMC to sell out The Garden or The Barclay's Center like they once did. But just because hip-hop old heads aren't the young scrappy, music hungry, ego tripping, totally braggadocios men they used to be doesn't mean that they can't and shouldn't be honored beyond a spot on the festival circuit. Hip-Hop may be American culture but that doesn't mean we ignore its roots and its founding fathers. What would this country be without classic lines like "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal," or " "I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip hip hop, and you don't stop," or "It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up Magazine," or "Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Hov."

Discussion (Let's Fight):
1.   List your top 5 emcees of all time and explain why. (No ties, no honorable mentions)
2. Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums of all time. (No ties, no honorable mentions) 

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