(Note: I wrote this while wild drunk last night and I decided twitter was not enough to clown this beat boxer. What follows is a long, rambling, rap-reference-filled post that doesn't have a much of a point, but is a return to the halcyon days of JS2000 where we swore a lot and wrote like we talked. Enjoy. Throwback!)
I just left a club where one of the featured performers was a beatboxer from France. He was awful, not at beatboxing, but at entertaining. That's how most of the Elements of Hip-Hop (TM KRS-One's nose) are these days ... you can be really good at them and still be a total fucking clown. And lot of the people leading the way in the art form are, technically, terrible at said artform. Let's have a look.
If you still think rapping good is a prerequisite to making good rap music I hope you get stomped by a third-tier member of Brick Squad. I know Lil B wasn't for everyone but if you can't understand the appeal of Waka Flocka Flame you probably shouldn't ever talk to me about rap music. Or every time Mannie Fresh blesses the mic. You don't need to flip intrinsic linguistics and have ill rhyme schemes, you need to sound cool. If you sound cool, you can rap.
Case in point: Guru. Dude was not a nuanced lyricist. He sounded cool though! He even had a song about this fact! And I'm not one to speak ill of the dead but heads are still talkin bad about southern rappers they barely know, then talkin about Gangstarr as that real shit. Come on son.
Also freestyling is a party trick. Some dudes are really fucking good at it, but it doesn't make you a good rapper or good at writing songs. Pretty much every dude my age that owns a copy of Soundbombing II could do what that dumbfuck from Chiddy Bang did.
Battle rapping is still cool though! And a slightly better way to make a career because you can get dudes to bet on you and shit.
Turntablism is still awesome. It's self-absorbed and puritanical, but for the most part it's still fun to watch. Especially battles. DJ battles are still awesome. Scratching is still awesome! I kinda lost interest with the nine-click flares that you could only learn by spending a week in Q-Bert's bunny suit, but still, scratching is cool. Even when you hear scratching in a shitty pop song, it's the best part of the shitty pop song.
I have a lot of thoughts about DJing but let's just say it's the sad clown of the music industry: exploited by many, understood by few (word to J-Live!).
And turntablism and DJing don't really mix. It's 1000 times more important to play the right songs for the crowd in a way that they will enjoy that builds a vibe, than it is to do body tricks while dudes are trying to get laid. That's really your job as a DJ: get people laid. Turntablism is cool but it doesn't get people laid. (I mean, it gets battle DJs laid, but they're on so much acid it hardly matters).
And then there is celebrity DJing, which is the worst fucking thing ever invented. If you like a band or an artist, don't go see them DJ. They are getting money to play songs off iTunes while you sit there like a sucker drinking $10 drinks asking yourself when the band is going on. You are making them lazy! When someone realizes they're famous enough to get hella loot to play their favorite Interpol songs and ironic rap and make money, why the fuck would they keep making real music? JUST SAY NO TO CELEBRITY/BAND DJ SETS.
For the most part breakdancing is cool because when it's done right it looks awesome and it's really fucking hard to do when you're a weakling like me. But you don't really see breakers in a hip-hop context much anymore, they're mostly coming out of their uprocks to dry hump Rihanna and then backflip off the stage. Breaking is like that friend from high school who you were pretty tight with but then they went to college and got really into some hobby you don't really fuck with. It's still cool when you see them, but you guys don't really have much to talk about now that he's way deep in the glass blowing game or whatever.
Breakdancers still fuck up a dance party though. I will straight up stop the music if someone starts breaking at my party. Nobody wants to see you do a headspin, they're trying to get drunk and feel a girl's butt. Take that shit to America's Got Talent.
Graf is still awesome and mysterious and dangerous. There's still grown-ass men out there climbing five story warehouses to write their names on them big as fuck. There's really not much to add there.
But the graffiti aesthetic is played out. Paint drips and shitty handstyle is the Will Smith of graffiti. It's some shit McDonalds uses to convince you they're hip. If you think that shit's cool you're a sucker. Besides, 99% of graff writers are or will be illustrators or graphic designers, where they would never in a thousand years use that shit. If you have that on your website or your ad campaign, the ex-writer you hired will be the first dude to call you out. You should listen to him. He's got a great aesthetic sense.
Graffiti is also the only element where I'm not the least bit jingoistic. I was in Norway and someone broke into the apartment I was staying at to try to tag the back wall of the building. In Norway!
(Actually I'm not jingoistic with DJ's either. Rappers that aren't from America get the side-eye though.)
Beat boxing is dumb as hell. Rahzel and Scratch from The Roots and Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh and everyone who was beat-boxing before 1996 gets a pass. But you don't see those fools on stage like YALL WANNA HEAR A SONG YOU KNOW, EXCEPT IMA PLAY IT WITH MY MOUTH (AYO)?
Beatboxing is some Bonnaroo shit, where it's a dude playing guitar and a dude beat-boxing and the dude playing guitar might be freestyling or there's another dude freestyling. And they're gonna do that until Pretty Lights goes on. And if you try to talk to them about rap they'll probably say something about "the golden age" and Dilla and tell you how dope it was to see Souls of Mischief do all of "93 Til Infinity" at Rock the Bells. And you'll put up with it because they have good weed, but it's barely worth it.
(Really though: this French dude tonite did "Simon Says," which Rahzel bodied live when people still knew what Rahzel was doing, so seeing someone else do it was wack. And dude said "GET ZEE FOOK UP" and I laughed at him.)
OK the lack of beef in the rap world right now is a serious problem. This Drake/Common shit was a fucking joke, that Lil Wayne/Jay-Z shit was boring. Lil Kim is too washed up to keep up with NIcki. Nobody gets pissed off when Tyler disses them because dude is like ten years old. Even Jeezy and Gucci patched things up in about two days, probably because Gucci couldn't reasonably say shit when Jizzle accused OJ the Juiceman of being mentally retarded. I mean, he might be.
The David Banner/Lil B beef is slow-burning and intriguing, but both those dudes are way too smart to do any goon shit. It's not beef, it's reasonable discourse. It will probably end with Lil B rapping on brand new David Banner beats before Banner even knows what happened, on some Chris-Traeger-taking-Ron-Swanson-out-to-lunch shit. All you'll see is Based God smilin real big in a grocery store parking lot in a new video with David Banner in the background like "wait what?"
I nominate Danny Brown. I want some old guard rappers with clout to come after dude for wearing tiny pants. Somebody relevant please diss this dude in a freestyle on Drama King's radio show.
All the best rap writers graduated from blogging a few years ago and now make a modest living writing. This is true pretty much across the board, which is something to be happy about. I feel like magazines, newspapers and at-least-sort-of-funded web sites have gotten more pro-active about talent now, because there aren't a lot of really good writers doing for self in the rap world.
The remaining rap blogosphere is a curious mix of music posted without commentary and tumblrs. So Dirty Glove Bastard and 2 Dope Boys and Steady Leanin aren't "good at blogging" in the classical sense, but they do reliably post up music. And they've carved a niche for themselves in the distribution chain.
So I don't have a lot to complain about here, except that I often miss what my favorite writers say about an album or an artist because I'm too broke/apathetic to track it down. It was a lot easier when everyone was in my RSS feed, just sayin.
The rap world still pretty much has this on lock. Shouts to Thirstin Howl III's Polo'd-the-fuck-down Facebook feed.