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Final Notes on Post-Lyricism

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A bunch of stuff that couldn’t find its way into the three “essays” but seems interesting and/or worth discussing and a few times, makes more sense than the “Post-Lyrical” entries…

“Post-lyricism” like all obnoxious terms, comes more out of a pragmatic want/need to discuss something than actually trying to be accurate. Like the apparently on-going fear and concern of “post-Modernism” in culture, within the rap world, what’s currently going on in mainstream or even semi-mainstream hip-hop freaks a lot of old fans out and kinda reminds me of reading old or new diatribes against “post-Modernism”. Also, like “post-Modernism”, “post-lyricism” is sort of a non-sense term that’s both all-encompassing and doesn’t really refer to anything.

Rap is and basically has to be “post-positive”. Here’s a wikipedia link to Positivism. Rap, as a “black art” primarily is post-positive because the argument made by most intellectual types that study and discuss black arts is that for so long, the concept of black people even making art was considered absurd and even offensive, that all black arts must oppose and conflict with conventional concepts of art, “beauty”, etc. This is fun to bring up because so many of the people that find themselves stuck on “lyrics” or “intelligence” or whatever in terms of determining what kind of rap is “good” and “bad” are kinda playing themselves by applying positivist terms to an art form that’s totally beyond such terms.

If we’re going to take rap seriously–which all bloggers do, even when they pretend not to–then we are taking popular culture seriously and if we’re taking popular culture seriously, then it’s sort of dumb to apply one’s subjective opinion of what makes something “good” onto it. That’s to say, if you’re gonna be some fucking aesthete about rap and hip-hop then you’re retarded. If something resembling conventional definitions of “quality” or some Platonic ideal of good’s what’s on your mind, go listen to like, Shostakovich or some shit.

As jay eff kay said in the comments section, the current era of rap–which I’ve selfishly dubbed “post-lyrical”–is still working itself out and gestating. To compare it to past ages which had more time to build and are in effect over, is sort of pointless. In that case, “post-lyricism” is figuring itself out and throwing shit out there and seeing what sticks. This is both exciting and endlessly frustrating. In time, the artist and musicians will figure it all out and keep going with the stuff that isn’t totally terrible or silly or has no shelf live and drop the stuff that does. In just the past few years, you can see how auto-tune went from being the thing that wannabe pop-stars did to stream-line their albums, to a goofball production trick, to an R & B staple, to maybe even something that can be meaninful or affecting (certain T-Pain songs, Kanye’s “Put On” verse and “Love Lockdown”). Auto-tune is now being used like “reverb” or something. Personally, I’d like to see it go away all together, but its use hasn’t been stagnant, even if it has devolved into another musical cliche.

On bad lyrics. There’s a difference between whatever-ish similies and some of the lyrical turds that Kanye or Lil Wayne drop. One’s a kind of place-holder between more poignant and successful lines–and in that case, connects my “rap minimalism” rant in Pt. 3 to an older tradition–and one is an active seeking-out of groan-inducing joke one-liners. There’s a sense of fun to these bad one-liners and it can be traced back to the earliest rap and stuff like “and the chicken taste like wood”. The bad lyric-dropping too, seems to be something of an extension of what was once called the “bling bling” era and before that, the beginning of rap when wearing crazy chain and looking outrageously fly and all that was a part of the culture. The implicit message of dressing out-there and handling over-sized chains was in part, something about looking absurd and being powerful enough to pull it off or just plain not giving a fuck. Making even your music this absurd and out-there is again, not something I’m too into or excited by, but I think that’s what’s going on when Kanye jokes “whipped it out I said/Bet you’ve never seen snakes on a plane”.

Blame the critics. The internet, file-sharing, and all this other good stuff has made the borders between genre significantly more porous. This has led to musicians, especially rap musicians, to be as exposed to numerous genres and musical ideas as the sophisticated or pseudo-sophisticated critics writing on the music. For many years, rock critics reviewed rock music and rap writers wrote about rap and only the smartest like say Ego-Trip really got how to bridge the two and not come-off as a jerkoff. Not anymore. Now, pretty much every critic listens to everything. So, the same guy who listens to bullshit like Of Montreal or something, is also Google Blog-Searching the new T.I album. In one way, it’s wonderful and democratic and all that. In another way, it’s horrible because in my opinion, you can’t really make any sense or have any kind of refined taste and like both of those things.

The most hilarious way that this has manifested itself is in rap writers and rap bloggers who often dip their toes into the indie rock pool and so, you have guys who complain about how rap’s not like Mobb Deep anymore and then are going to tell me Wolf Parade are the shit. Guys who make fun of Pharrell or Kanye for dressing like homos and then go watch the guy from Of Montreal rip-off David Bowie. Besides the kind of unfortunate racism inherent in these expectations, it’s also not a surprise when rappers would respond to taste-making critics and follow through. So, quirk and tween-ness and overall sense of juvenile fun is celebrated and embraced in indie rock–basically a mainstream genre now mind you–it shouldn’t be a surprise that rappers would start to employ a similar sense of all-out fun and goofiness in their music. This again, explains jokes and one-liners as being really pervasive in rap.

Another point that’s been brought up a great deal is how rap is, in some ways, moving back to its original “roots” of facilitating dancing and partying and first and foremost, entertaining. I’m not totally comfortable with the comparison but there’s some truth there. The biggest difference of course, is that simply by MC-ing and breaking and all that stuff, even when it wasn’t explicitly political or “meaningful”, the simple act of doing those things made it political. The same can’t be said for Kanye West.

Still, this sense of a return or homage to earlier and the earliest era of rap is kind of palpable. The same way early rap moved between different areas and art circles, rappers like Kanye or Wayne are collaborating or sampling other genres, working with those artists, and coming up with something newer and different than what’s come before. For better and worse, post-lyrical rappers are really open-minded, reaching and grabbing from all different places to forge something new.

Now, let’s never speak of this again.

Written by Brandon

October 7th, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Rap’s Post-Lyrical Phase Pt. III: What’s the Point of Post-Lyricism?


First, before reading this or uh, in addition to reading this, go back and read the comments in the other two parts which totally take this discussion in places I hadn’t thought of or connected. My apologies for not being able to more actively engage the comments like usual, I was too busy buying comic books this weekend.

As suggested in the first part of this, the point of “post-lyricism”–whether it knows it or not–is a sort of total breaking away of “the Nas formula”. There are plenty of flaws in calling it “the Nas formula” (the formula certainly existed before Nas) but it’s also an easy way to communicate the kind of lyricism that’s both undeniably great and simply not happening as much anymore (certainly not on the radio) and not really working anymore either.

The word “formula” too, is used advisedly, not as any kind of slam against Nas, but to note the way the signs and signifiers of Nas and company’s type of rapping has devolved into a bunch of things you can do to get a lot of dumb people (which is most people and therefore, most raps fans, including “serious” hip-hop heads) to think you’re good or celebrate because it opposes say, Soulja Boy.

Certainly, it isn’t this simple and the assertion I’m about to make’s a little too cynical, but following or not following “the Nas formula” is in part, an economic choice. And not in the sense of rapping like Nas makes you “serious” and not rapping like Nas makes you a sell-out. In the current rap climate of declining record sales and all that crap, choosing to rap in one way or the other determines your rarified audience. Take someone like Immortal Technique, who no doubt, thinks he’s in the vein of Nas or something. His choice to be in some ways “throwback”, along with his contact, has given him a very specific and dependable audience of nostalgics and left-leaning rap fans (these categories of course, overlap a great deal).

When there’s some college open mic or when your favorite college radio rap show opens the phones for listeners to kick a free style, following “the Nas formula”, if you’re not completely wack, will get you a lot of love right off the bat. By following “the Nas formula” you court a small, but powerful and devoted groups of listeners that will like you. In many ways, “the Nas formula” is easier and safer too. Who knows where the hell say, T-Pain came from, but if you stuck him on any stage as an unknown, he’d get laughed the fuck off the stage! Now, that could be used as evidence that it’s absurd this rappa ternt sanga’s so big right now, but it also points toward the way very popular music is often weird and uncool before it’s popular.

Even the Soulja Boy-style fan of rap music, when confronted with “the Nas formula” in person or without the context of it being hot or not on MTV or the radio, will respond positively to this tried and true formula, because it’s still what kids do in middle-school when they’re “freestyling” with their friends. Of course, stick that freestyler in the studio with access to some real equipment, maybe some background singer girls, and corporate pressure to make a hit and he won’t make the next “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”.

The economic choice in rejecting “the Nas formula” isn’t really worth going over, is it? Slower, simpler, makes it easier on the ears, more crossover appeal, etc. etc.

While many would be quick to defend “Nas formula” rappers as not making so much of an economic choice, but as keeping it real or true, that argument or that simple argument rather, can’t be made for the post-lyricists. And no doubt, a lot of rappers (or “rappers” if you want to be a dick about it) adopt the post-lyrical style out of a lack of talent or creativity of patience, and while the tone of this makes Kanye and Wayne into hyper-innovators that they are not–as I said, they’re kinda hopping onto a trend, they just happen to be more famous–there is a sense that a whole bunch of rappers are simply not interested in doing “the Nas formula”. Whether they lyrically have the talent to do it or not is not the issue, at least for me. It’s probably true that Picasso couldn’t paint like Titian or some shit, but who cares and we save the discussion for ‘Post-Modernism in Art 101′ or some shit.

In many ways, “post-lyricism” can be stuck on Andre 3000. Certainly one of the brightest and more lyric-oriented rappers from any region, Andre’s also been pretty weird and out-there since the first Outkast album. Over time, he increasingly played with meter and rhymes and adopted a purposefully rambling, off-topic style, all while remaining, for the most part, conventionally “lyrical” or lyrical enough to not be labelled wack by anybody.

Take a listen to ATLiens, the album before Outkast got rock-critic “weird” and were just weird and an inarguable rap classic no matter where you’re from. Sure, it contains plenty of brilliant lyrical moments resembling “the Nas formula”, but it’s also got plenty of purposefully bad similes (“tight like nuts and bolts” from “Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)”), or tangential near-non rhymes (“Elevators”). His recent “return” to rap, which some people perceive as “overrated”, dives further into these post-lyrical tropes and comes out at times awkward or weird, but always affecting.

The moments of conventional, “Nas formula” brilliance are punctuated by stranger rhymes, jokes, nonsense, and round-about ways of expression. From the conventional “lyrical” definition, Andre’s inconsistent, but all those inconsistencies and idiosyncracies are being used towards a greater point/message/feeling whatever and wouldn’t resonate half as much if he stayed within the bounds of “the Nas formula”. Take Ghostface’s work outside of the Wu since Supreme Clientele and you’ll find a greater breadth and depth of emotion than is found on even really real shit like “Tearz”. What those two greats did was take parts of “the Nas formula” and build upon it and occasionally, fall back on it.

Of course, you’ll get barely anybody complaining about Andre 3000 or Ghostface they way so many complain about Kanye or Lil Wayne, but their post-lyricism comes out of Andre and Ghost’s post-lyricism. It’s got even less to do with “the Nas formula” and therefore rhymes less and takes the lyrical carnival games and joke punchlines to even goofier places. And still, despite what their detractors say, Kanye and Wayne can still drop a brilliant line or verse and are quite good at moving from the obnoxiously dumb to the really poignant.

Worshippers of “the Nas formula” might call this inconsistent but that’s sort of the point. Additionally, there’s some added level of emotion to these lines because they’re dropped in between a lot of shit talk and cutesy douche-baggery. You’re caught in a loop of the latter two things for a bunch of lines or even a few songs, and then Wayne drops something like his domestic abuse reminisce in “Playing With Fire”–”Remember when your pussy second husband tried to beat ya?/Remember when I went into the kitchen, got the cleaver?”–or another obnoxious Kanye song about why fame and money sucks stumbles into a lyrical, almost like conventionally poetic line like, “You’re on the other side of the glass/Of my memory’s museum”. Because it’s not hot line after hot line, or even poignant emotional detail after poignant emotional detail, the ones they focus on have added weight.

In the past, I’ve called this “rap minimalism” and it works a lot like Minimalism as a music genre in general. Basically (and I’m super simplifying here), through repetition, the slightest variation takes on greater meaning or importance. Clipse are certainly rap minimalists–and sorta post-lyricists too–because they fall back on almost nonsense punchlines and repetitive material, but every once in a while, the guilt and world-weariness fumbling around in the background gets really clear for a verse or line. We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 is pretty much a whole album of post-lyrical tropes (although delivered in “the Nas formula”) until we get to Malice’s “All the money in the world…” verse on the last track, “Ultimate Flow”.

Young Jeezy, a more clear-cut example of post-lyricism, is pretty much not even rapping most of the time, so that when he does enter something resembling flow or reveals something, it means a lot more. For whatever reason, Jeezy’s “They lock us in cages/The same nigga that’s a star when you put em’ on stages” is something that more than one teenager has brought up to me as a line that made them think.

So, the point of “post-lyricism” outside of some general want to move away from “the Nas formula” is to in some way or another, take bits and pieces of “the Nas formula” and meld it with less tried and true lyrical formulas and create something new, which has the emotional resonance and effect that “the Nas formula” once had. There’s no denying that rappers of the “Nas” mold are simply not engaging new and younger listeners to rap, while Kanye and Wayne certainly are. And for all that’s annoying or terrible about them to dudes like me and most of my readers that grew up on “the Nas formula”, they are in their own way, as bizarre and rarified as any of those inexplicable Golden Era personalities that also had some pop appeal.

Written by Brandon

October 2nd, 2008 at 4:01 am

Rap’s Post-Lyrical Phase Pt. II: How We Got Here.

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The focus on Kanye West and Lil Wayne as “post-lyrical” rappers and for the sake of simplification, the post-lyrical rappers, is due to both their popularity and favorable critical reception. They also transcend or just don’t fuck around with a lot of the cliches of rap (although they’re slowly building a whole new group of cliches for future rappers) and so, the moral quandaries about crime glorification and all that mostly doesn’t apply to either of these guys, while say, a discussion about Young Jeezy (certainly post-lyrical) would be hard to go into without sort of discussing that stuff.

Yes, Wayne might fall into the “crack rap” category but his work, especially as of the past few years, seems less interested in it and drug dealing’s only invoked as some fucked-up foggy memory from his teens or a violent/drug-dealing threat/boast is now used to exemplify his strength and power as a rapper. Like Chuck D. saying his “uzi weighs a ton” or something, it’s a boast about skills transferred onto well-worn rap cliches.

Kanye of course, has never dealt with raps about drugs and violence and has wisely balanced a persona based on his lack of experience/familiarity with “the life” with a persona that doesn’t remind listeners every few minutes that he indeed, does not rap about those things. This doesn’t make these guys “better” than rappers following the “Nas formula”–indeed, Wayne falls back on gun talk when he feels like it and Kanye’s got plenty of clothes and shoe references to keep him afloat–it just makes them different.

Their basic eschewing of violence and/or relative refusal to fall back on well-worn rap cliches is something of a return to the “Native Tongues” stuff. The main focus for Kanye and Wayne is fun and an all-encompassing need to stand-out. Sure, it doesn’t have the hyper-explicit politics of the Tongues who indeed, wanted to stand out in part, to oppose (what we now call) “gangsta rap” but part of critical and popular embrace of my post-lyrical posterboys is that they bring a rarified and individual voice back to hyper-corporatized hip-hop. Whether you like them or not, Kanye and Wayne are very strange and very unpredictable pop stars.

In the first part of this, Noz asked me how De La Soul didn’t engage in the same kind of “weirdo wordplay” that I connected to the post-lyricists or to my super-obvious examples of Kool Keith and Grand Puba. The short answer is, De La Soul do engage in that kind of wordplay (and do it better). The slightly longer answer is, De La Soul are total fucking geniuses and completely transcend whatever era or trend or whatever me or any other dopey rap pseudo-scholar sticks them in. The long answer is, De La Soul do the weirdo wordplay game, but they do it within the frame of conventional, metered, rhyming raps. They are technically proficient, lyrically smart, and purposefully sloppy as well. De La Soul’s wordplay still fits within the expected understanding of “rap” and “rapping” while Kanye and Wayne don’t always do that and it seems, their fans and detractors sometimes have a hard time defining what exactly these guys do on the mic.

This is interesting because when both of them started out, Kanye and Wayne were fairly conventional rappers. Like most trends or slowly-gestating almost-trends, the guys that best exemplify or represent the trend are to some extent, bandwagon jumpers. While snobs and nostalgics will completely dismiss the rapping on The College Dropout and Late Registration as not very good–arguing about technical ability is a waste of time and a task that will never result in full agreement– there’s undoubtedly a significant shift in Kanye’s rapping on the first two albums when compared to Graduation. His flow is significantly slowed-down (something I think, he swiped from post-retirement Jay-Z, which makes this whole thing way more complicated) and his focus went from funny punchlines and rap references to near-nonsense word-association. Example: “They got the CD, then got to see me/Drops gems [pronounced like "Gym"] like/I dropped out of P.E”.

Lil Wayne has always been a very good rapper, even when he was like, fourteen. The critic-created story arc of his rapping career was developed by a bunch of dudes that never heard anything he did before Tha Carter and made jokes about CASH-MONEY, but retroactively bought all those CDs for 6 bucks used and pretend like they’ve been bumping Tha G-Code since 1999. Wayne has always been something of a throwback–or was before his mixtape blitz which radically changed his style–and even in the Hot Boys, he was doing the Nas formula by way of his more immediate Southern influences, while Juvenile (a very good rapper too) is strictly or mostly “Southern”. Wayne’s “mixtape” flow on the other hand, grew increasingly odd and experimental and strayed ever further from the “Nas formula”.

The medium of the mixtape allowed Wayne a place to do whatever he wanted and the availability of these mixtapes, coupled with the hyper-immediacy of the internet allowed direct, non-corporate/non-audience-tested feedback about these “songs”. Listening to the Wayne of “Georgia Bush” now sounds quantifiable when compared to the Wayne of the stuff on Drought 3 or Carter 3 (or at least, the weirder parts of Carter 3). Example: “They cannot see [Nazi] me/Like Hitler”.

There’s also a lot more conventional melody in Kanye’s songs and more than enough singing and crooning in much of Wayne’s work. This too, has always been a part of their work, Dropout in particular, succeeded beyond being a weird, “conscious” rap album (which is what it is) because Kanye’s melodies were all sung and performed by him and we, the listeners could carry a tune just as well. The sing-song feel of the album made it relate-able and memorable. Wayne’s flow has always been more melodic and bouncy. Undoubtedly, this is the result of being a Southern rapper and in Southern rap, conventional musicality is much more pervasive. In that sense, Wayne and Kanye are just bringing to the forefront a key part of their success because they now are famous enough that we’ll even eat up their auto-tune experiments and also because, popular music is way more ready for auto-tune experiments.

Which brings us to the next reason for post-lyricism: the changed pop music climate. The example that’s often referenced–and again, the one that every dumb Popular Music Prof will be using in thirty years–is Timbaland, particularly the baby sample in Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody”. In Timbaland and that beat in particular, so many of the trends that now pervade pop, R & B, and rap can be traced: weird merging of experimentalism with straight-forward dance music, electronics over instrumentation and/or sampling, the Southern rap takeover, a weird Futuristic aesthetic, etc. The “Nas formula” just doesn’t work as well over top of skittering synths and rave-ready drums (look no further than “Hero” by Nas as proof) and so, as the sound of the music-makers changed, so did the raps put over that music. That’s not to say auto-tune warbling or half-rhyming raps sound all that good over electronic beats either, but it makes a lot more sense.

Additionally, there’s more music in the beats of Timbaland, the Neptunes, etc. Once again, this has a lot to do with the South’s musical influence on rap. The open spaces in the beats fit the open space of the South’s landscape, the South’s rich musical history coupled with a more laid-back, relative lack of New York hustle and bustle, encourages the playing and mastering of musical instruments, and the importance of the church and church music in Southern communities makes so much of the black Southern population keenly aware of musicality. Singing and melody made their way into the raps and rhymes and slowly, through guys like Timbaland (and many, many, many others that will get lost in the shuffle that simplifies music history for textbooks), this all wormed its way into the pop landscape. Rapping tightly constructed rhymes (with or without nonsense style wordplay) and then getting a crew of dudes to shout a hook just doesn’t work over the sounds constructed by the new guard of rap producers.

Written by Brandon

September 22nd, 2008 at 4:01 am

Rap’s Post-Lyrical Phase


Rappers aren’t rapping anymore. That’s not the grumble of an old-school fan or knee-jerk disappointment upon hearing say the Kanye/Lil Wayne/Jay-Z/T.I track “Swagger Like Us” or the rap-less “Love Lockdown”, it’s just a fact. Most of radio’s rappers are doing as much singing or club-ready chanting as rapping, and the few guys still rapping are layover from the late 90s/early 2000s or are named Lil Wayne and Kanye West-and the “talents” of those two are for some reason, still up to debate.

Sure, there’s plenty of rapping in the “underground”–which at this point, just means, not one of the like 12 artists that can still get rap radio support–and the so-called “hipster rap” trend/sub-genre offers some genuine rapping, but really, rappers just aren’t rapping anymore and it’s a bummer, but it also just makes sense.

The height of rap “lyricism” (a term that means nothing but everyone reading this knows its meaning) was during the early-to-mid-90s when hyper-poetic rappers like Wu-Tang and Nas and Biggie ruled the radio. Since then, every rapper’s tried to occupy that same space and failed, not for a lack of talent, but because it’s a pretty much perfect era that was able to function at a pretty high-level of visibility with a relative lack of corporate interruption…and then it ended. The death of Biggie and Tupac, Wu-Tang’s dissolution, enter the era of Puffy–all the stuff you’ll one day read about in a music textbook on the history of rap– but most importantly (and word to Dart Adams) The Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Nas’ story of never being able to truly top his classic Illmatic is also the story of every rapper to pick up a mic and get influenced by Nas or any of those 92-96 classics, constantly looking back to the shadow of that 90s era and never being able to top it. In the world of smart people books and stuff, it’s considered “the anxiety of influence”; basically, the weird tension of wanting to respect and also transcend your influences takes on a kinda fucked-up father/son relationship.

Many of the trends of recent rap, stuff like, rhyming words with the same words, non-sequitur similes, contempt for metaphors, increasingly out-there pop culture references, a bounds-less sense of free association, and a tendency to mix and merge musical influences outside of hip-hop, are often cited for the “decline” of “lyricism” and that may be true, but it’s also a bunch of artists finally, formally rejecting what I’ll call, “the Nas formula”.

And the word “formula” is used advisedly because at this point, it’s nothing more than that. This is not about Nas’ lyrical brilliance or lack thereof–many songs on the recent Untitled maintain Nas’ energy and verbal brilliance–but about the way that like most things, it got reduced to a messy series of verbal signs, signifiers, and cliches that connote “lyrical” to an audience of both ignorant and well-informed rap fans. Wander into any college rap show or arrive really early for the first act of say, a GZA show and you’ll see the “Nas formula” at-hand: Rap with lots of feigned passion, use some big words, eschew a lot of broads talk, vaguely invoke politics and you’re there.

Kanye West and Lil Wayne are both post-lyrical, understanding and well-informed by 90s rap but increasingly disinterested in overtly having much to do with it. This is hard for older rap fans whose ears have been accustomed to the “Nas formula” to accept. The artistic choices, some of them strange and ill-advised, sound more like a lack of talent than an attempt to forge some new, interesting way to rap. Joke punchlines and wordplay puns stretched so far that the joke is just how far it was taken, hold as much clout as solid metaphors and to-the-point storytelling.

One of the roots of the post-lyrical phase is Dipset’s “No Homo”. The “No homo” line is as much about hyper-making sure you didn’t say some gay stuff as it was about bending the meanings of phrases into every conceivable direction and finding something gay in even the most innocuous phrases. “No Homo” was a word game created by a bunch of rappers obsessed with word-games. There’s a clear connection between “no homo” and something like Wayne saying “they cannot see me/Like Hitler”. Kanye’s a rapper that on College Dropout was pretty much rapping like it was 1992–the “De La Soul” formula if you will, something oddly enough, Pharrell pretty much lives by every time he raps–but has made a decision to fall into the weirdo word games and purposefully groan-inducing punchline goofiness of post-lyrical rap. These guys are painfully aware that the “Nas formula” cannot be improved upon and instead, take a little from it here and there but try to do something else. This is the same thing that has happened in the history of every art-form.

While the argument could be made that generally art does not “devolve”, there’s a sense in which an end-run is made around complexity or maxmalism because it’s sort of come to a head. The history of 20th century art is a series of artists trying really weird and different stuff–”make it new” being the motto of Modernism–with less and less interest in tradition. How painting got from beautiful well-rendered landscapes, to weirdo scribbles and splatter on canvas has been well-documented, and it’s sort of the same thing as rap’s 90s era, a sort of peak of verbal complexity that inevitably had to be cut-down and fucked around with or completely drown.

The logical extension of the “Nas formula” is the Grad school wordplay jerk-off party of Anticon or El-P at his most verbose and didactic, which you know, worked fine as an alternative but simply couldn’t and shouldn’t function at anything resembling “popular” music, which Wu-Tang, Nas, etc really were for a few years ago (the falling-out in popularity of lyrical rap must also be in part, the fault of the artists who seemingly forgot how to make catchy hooks to accompany their lyric-driven verses).

Southern rap’s infiltration has a lot to do with this too. As the Golden era gets a little further away, reconsideration and re-canonization has come along and part of that has been a fairly radical re-focusing of who and what influenced whom. The latest generation of rappers are younger than me and so, Jay-Z–who is a kind of of a different generation than Nas, Wu, etc.–is one of the benchmarks of lyricism. Wu Tang’s post-Forever fall-out coincides with Ghostface’s reinvention and there’s kinda a generation more influenced by the weirdo, almost post-lyrical insanity of Ghost than Wu’s hard-edged rhymes as a whole. Wayne and Kanye too, find as much to like in weirdo-rappers like Kool Keith and Grand Puba or even the garbled goofiness of Ma$e as do they those rappers’ more stalwart peers.

Written by Brandon

September 19th, 2008 at 8:35 pm