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Missing From Rap: Goofball MCs

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The other day in an article about DJ Broke’s 90s hip-hop mix, Sasha Frere-Jones tossed-in as a kind of aside, that the “goofball” M.C, one of the definitive “types” in 90s hip-hop, is now “a category that’s almost defunct”.

Maybe I’m projecting, but I sense a deep sadness in that statement–more so than the mention of Redman and the lack of punchline rappers a few sentences later–and it’s something that saddens me too. It feels like a further stamping out of original voices and ideas, the removal of vulnerability or personal expression in an increasingly corporatized blah blah blah, and while that’s not all it is, it’s certainly a big part.

The biggest reason the rap goofball’s fallen by the wayside it seems, is because everybody’s trying to be funny or weird. When one of the biggest R & B songs on the radio’s called “Birthday Sex” and two of the biggest rappers are Kanye West (who got his start as conscious rap goofball) and Lil Wayne (who’s slowly developed into the weirdest pop star maybe kinda ever), and the elastic-flowed Gucci Mane is the street rapper, there’s not a lack of humor or personality out there, but there’s still something missing about today’s rap weirdos (versus yesterday’s rap goofballs).

What’s missing is risk. The current wave of less serious rap and R & B’s too in on the joke, too ironic in a VH1 “Best Week Ever” way and there’s really nothing at-stake or implicative about the music. There’s just no place in popular rap for actual jokes and self-effacing humor or unquantifiable weirdness and that’s a big problem. Everyone’s with-it, everyone’s told the rapper’s being kind of wacky or “really killing it crazy-lyrically right now” and while I’m less apt to think rap music overall is suffering, rap that lots and lots of people get to hear really needs some goofballs right now.

See, Count Bass D or J-Zone are cool and all, but some left-field rap jokers operating in an indie or underground scene just sorta make sense and don’t have the resonance or importance of say, a Biz Markie or ODB because they were (are?) fairly mainstream. Same reason say, Iron Man is more important than the next Kiarostami film, you dig? One has a real-world effect on stuff, one just doesn’t.

But the bigger problem at this point is that a rap goofball just can’t achieve mainstream success. Young Dro’s pretty weird, Fonzworth Bentley’s hilarious, Lil B’s batshit crazy, 88 Keys made a really fucking funny concept-album, but none of these dudes will be superstars or even want to be superstars and if you’re not a superstar in rap right now or you don’t have this week’s co-sign from The New Music Cartel, you’re dead in the water. And that’s a shame.

Written by Brandon

May 30th, 2009 at 8:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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