Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is Hip Hop Dead?

I'm listening to "Hip Hop is Dead", Nas' latest album. It seems like it was just yesterday, it was late 1993 and I was in Stedeford's Record Store and The Funkster put on "It Aint Hard to Tell". I remember saying, "That is what Hip Hop is supposed to sound like!" This experience came soon after hearing Super Rapper Nasty Nas incrementally change the game on "Live at the BBQ", "Halftime" & "Back to the Grill".

By the spring of 1994 came "Illmatic", Nas' solo debut, one of the greatest records of all-time. Also in the running, Raekwon's "Only Built for Cuban Linx", Slick Rick's "The Great Adventures of Slick Rick", Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" and Ice Cube's "Death Certificate". Nonetheless, my whole hip hop universe was reborn and Nas has been the standard bearer for the modern lyricist ever since. When I was rhyming I wanted to make people feel like how I felt when I first heard Nas say:
" Word to Christ, a disciple of streets, trifle on beats I decifer prophecies through a mic and say peace.", on "Memory Lane".

13 years later is Hip Hop dead? I don't know but he forces us to address the question. I'm just as frustrated with state of Hip Hop as any 80's kid, but I do nod my head to the Lil' Weezy's and Young Jeezy's of the world. Thug Motivation 101 was tight! I thought it was ironic that Jeezy "The Snowman" took the most offense to Nas' assertion saying, "You got Nas coming back saying hip-hop is dead. Who is he to say hip-hop is dead?", and also said, "I might as well make a comment like Lil' Wayne dead. Ya'll gon tell me I ain't doing hip-hop? Has Nas did anything he talk about? Has Nas been on the block? Do Nas have street credibility? " on Philadelphia's 100.3 The Beat radio station to promote his new album, The Inspiration.

The important thing is that Nas is making the masses think and talk for the first time in 10 years about the state of Hip Hop, without coming off as a hatin' mad rapper. He comes of as nostalgic without being revisionist, purist without being dogmatic, experienced without being cynical. OK, ok on to the record.

"Hip Hop is Dead", is a solid record, it's not a 5-mic classic.
It doesn't have to be, ironically it just had to prove that Hip Hop was still alive. To add more irony, the first track that really stood out was a tune called "Black Republicans", featuring Jay-Z. The Godfather beat is sick and lyrics are iller. Jay-Z kills it BK style, "
I feel like a Black Republican money I got comin' in, can't turn my back on the hood, I got love for them." I bet Lynn Swann, Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele wished this came out a couple months ago. Nas brings it back to QB, "I feel like a Black Militant taking over the government, can't turn my back on the hood took much love for them."

Other standouts are the title track, "Hustlers" f/ The Game, "Let There Be Light" (produced by Kanye West), "Still Dreaming" f/ Kanye West and "Where Are They Now", an ode to noteworthy rappers from the 80's and 90's. In “Carry On Tradition,” he says, “I got an exam, let’s see if y’all pass it/Let’s see who can quote a Daddy Kane line the fastest.” I will let the NY Times have the parting shot, “Hip Hop Is Dead” flirts with a big, unanswerable question: Has Nas saved old-fashioned hip-hop? Who knows? Who even knows what that means? But this grumpy, lovable album definitively answers a much smaller question. Has old-fashioned hip-hop saved Nas? Definitely. And not for the first time. Maybe not the last either."

Also check out this
dope interview with Funkmaster Flex on NYC’s Hot 97

Pt. 1

Pt. 2

NEXT BLOG: Slots come to Pittsburgh & Philly


C-Doc (The WarHammer) said...

Interesting list of greatest albums...but no FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET? Or, to take the usual route, IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK?

But I do agree that Nas' album proves that Hiphop is still alive. Alive and well. And, more importantly, I think that it shows something revealing about the kats that come screaming out of the woodwork to refute the title HIPHOP IS DEAD. Those that don't get what Nas is saying have really lost touch with the music and where we need to go with it.

Go Steelers...

A Big Fat Slob said...

You appear to be on hiatus. When you return, let me know and we'll get you back up on the ABFS Blogroll.