Straight up, I propose that Hip-Hop adopt a universal Emcee or Rappers License that consists of a series of tests that a rapper must pass to enter this thing we have created.
Why? For just about every job, you need to fulfill certain requirements to become a master of that trade or to practice professionally.
For example, to be a doctor or lawyer, you must go through extensive schooling, college and other higher education. Doctors dont want some fool in the operating room and patients dont want to be sliced by an amateur! To drive an 18-wheel truck, you cannot just jump in the seat of the big rig. Who wants a guy that drives a Jetta to suddenly switch to a Mack Truck? Even basic things like flipping burgers, require a period of training.
Hip-Hip is most compared to sport, because of the fierce level of competition. I remember how Kimbo Slice was treated when he walked off the Florida streets as a hood legend into the sport of professional Mixed Martial Arts. He had raw talent, but he wasnt quite ready for the big time. (Hes training for the UFC now, but had to go back to basics after a terrible KO loss.)
I feel like a lot of rappers are like Kimbo Slice, only most are less talented. They need training to be emcees and we need to collectively lobby for this new Emcee/ Rapper’s License for all artists claiming to be artists.
Now, this isnt some old head, purist jibber jabber. Nor is this some backdoor way to discriminate against a particular region of rap. Everybody would be judged in their own area, by their criteria. This is simply a theory for quality control in Hip-Hop. Everybody gets better with my proposal.
Sports figures like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Julius Dr. J Irving practiced hours and hours and hours before and after they stepped on the court as professional ball players. How well would they fare if they didnt put in so much work before the game?
They would fare about the same as most of you rappers floundering around the internet trying to get on. It would also keep very person with some money from strolling up in the game and stinking it up. It would seem that people forget that there are some universal principles to success that dont change even though the times do.
The universal Rappers License would force people to adhere to rules and set standards. It would keep unsafe drivers off the road. If your stage show is weak, you fail and must go back and step it up. If your flow is trash and your teacher doesnt think you are ready, you must return to the basement (or wherever you practice). Get it right! When your baby sister beats you in a rap battle your license may get flagged as somebody forbidden to freestyle. Only after you pass the series of tests and read certain texts can you be allowed to rap professionally.
Here is a confession. I failed the written part of my drivers exam. I failed again. I finally buckled down and studied and was permitted to drive. Since then, Ive never had an accident to this day (Knock on wood), because of the skills my dad showed me on the road, and the stuff I learned in drivers ed.
The point is, most music genres require you to have a number of skill sets to be accepted. Even though Britney Spears cant sing, her stage show is reportedly crazy. She knows better than to bust out an acapella like Aretha. Lenny Kravitz was heavily criticized, but he can play that guitar. He went through the fire and came out on top, some 20 years later. The same applies to the greats of rap. Those that established a rock solid base are still here decades later.
We need that universal Rappers License asap.
Until then, here are some tips for your aspiring rap artists. I also recommend you study the other elements of Hip-Hop like Graffiti, B-boying, DJing and even peripheral elements like fashion and beat boxing.
1) Practice over and over and over and over.
I recommend practicing at least one year intensely before even doing so much as a talent show.
2) Learn how to perform in front of a crowd.
KRS-One and Busta Rhymes are two of the best live stage show and they will always have an audience because of it. A lot of other great rappers dont have any more streams of revenue, because they are wack in concert.
3) Have a good team.
I dont mean your mans either. I mean have a strong team of diverse, skilled individuals that can market/sell/promote your product once it gets to that level of quality.
4) Know the ins and outs of technology.
Just because you now can get on youtube and spit doesnt mean you should. Protect your image, because your career depends on it. Learn how technology can work for and against you.
5) Know your history.
Like I said, this isnt some purist rant. But, to know the past is to learn from it. Rappers of old have made strides and mistakes. It would be good to know this. Mike Tyson didnt just pop up and turn into a champion boxer, he used techniques from everybody Ali to Liston.
Chuck Creekmur is the founder of AllHipHop.com, a cultural critic, public speaker and has a really bad messiah complex.