Cormega on Why We Need the Boom-Bap Back

Labels don’t care about Hip-Hop culture no more, they care about success and dollars, so everyone’s following a formula rather than being original. First everybody started wearing suits and making those R&B friendly songs. Now people are going too far to the left with it. It’s played out. The producers started using the sped up […]

Labels don’t care about Hip-Hop culture no more, they care about success and dollars, so everyone’s following a formula rather than being original. First everybody started wearing suits and making those R&B friendly songs. Now people are going too far to the left with it. It’s played out. The producers started using the sped up vocals on their production and MCs even started singing. If that’s the case, we may as well be R&B singers with it. What happened to the knocking bass and the 808’s? And really, what happened to the DJ with scratches and stuff like that? Mike Tyson used to come out to Public Enemy. The s**t that’s out right now don’t get you hyped like how that Boom Bap s**t did back in the day. People play Rap for their kids now. There was a time when songs used to come on in the club, and you would just want to fight. It was adrenaline filled. People are scared to make those kinds of records.

That Boom Bap was an era of greatness. It was like watching an NBA All-Star Game. Gilbert Arenus made the team this year. Let’s just say you take it back to when Jordan and Bird and Barkley, certain people couldn’t be an All-Star during those eras. Jay-Z is able to shine during this age because he has flow. Rap is all about who has the dopest flow right now. Rakim and Kane are from the era when it was about what you were saying. You f**kin’ with a Hip-Hop historian. That’s where the term “wack MC” comes from. You can’t say “wack MC” today, because it’s all about flow. If you look at flow, Vanilla Ice had a dope f**kin’ flow. The record that Pharell produced with Fabolous rappin’ on it, he used Vanilla Ice’s flow. I know this for a fact because Pharell told me himself. Mase had a dope ass flow. But “The Message” by Melle-Mel isn’t the record it is because of the flow, it is the record it is because of what he was saying. Nas is one of the last rappers from the say-something era. If I was A&R a Kane or a G Rap, I’d say, “don’t follow the formulas of these rappers today, because you’re downsizing yourself. These guys are more accomplished financially. But as far as great artists, they’ve yet to catch up to you guys.”

When KRS-One did Return of the Boom Bap, I think he was just trying to bring it back and step it up. At that time, a lot of rappers on the East Coast was going into the Jazz sound. There was a lot of experimentation going on. That smooth G-Funk was dominating too. Also around that time was Black Moon. That is Boom-Bap too! If you look at it nowadays, all the artists that were trying to represent Hip-Hop as an art form aren’t getting the love they deserve.

Of course it’s the MC’s responsibility to keep it Boom-Bap too. A lot of MC’s don’t have balls. Everybody wants to accommodate the radio. Everybody’s running out to get a Kanye West beat or a Lil’ Jon beat because they’re the hot producer right now rather than using a new producers whose beats are crazy or working producers like DJ Premier and Large Professor whose sound is why we fell in love with Hip-Hop in the first place and now we treat them like they’re less of a priority. On every album, I show love to a new producer. So far I introduced Sha Money XL, J Love, and Emile to the industry and now they’re big producers in the Hip-Hop. I didn’t chose them because they had a name, but because their s**t was hot.

Right now, we’re extracting all the juice out of Rap. It’s getting to the point where it’s so wack, so boring, so predictable that people tend to forget what made Rap what it was. The sped R&B vocals tracks producers are using is played out. When I did that on The Testament, it was the early 90’s. Now I’m trying to get away from all that because it’s overused. I’m trying to make music that’s timeless, classic Hip-Hop. That’s one of the reasons why people are still able to listen to my album The Testament which we just put out in February. It was recorded nearly a decade but it doesn’t sound like the typical record you hear today. They all have the same formula. I don’t ride with what everyone else is doing.

Rap has been very abusive to its pioneers. I told Large Professor, he’s dope – I’m definitely going to put him on the album. He’ll look at me like, “word word?” So many people tell him that, but don’t do it. Take MC Shan. When we did the QB’s Finest album, I told him, “Don’t try to do what we do. Do what you did. Because what you did, made us want to do what we doing. The way you rapped is timeless. It’s not played out.” That’s one of the reasons why I like Soul music because it’s classic. Marvin Gaye’s album, What’s Going On, is a classic that you can listen to even a hundred years from now and it still has relevance and meaning.

In a way, when they first introduced the term “old school,” it was cute. It was a fun term. It was a piece of slang that some of the older people used to use. It was actually a term of endearment. But now, it’s almost a term of ridicule. You’ll hear a younger dude say, “Oh, he old school.” If a throwback jersey comes out, they don’t call it an old jersey. It’s vintage, or it’s retro. When the old Jordan’s come out, they don’t look down on those.

When I made The Testament and The True Meaning, it was a debatable topic as to which is better. To have that argument in itself is a compliment to both albums especially because The Testament wasn’t released when it should have come out. If it had been, it would have been crazy. I’m just happy it’s finally out. Now the challenge is to try and outdo them both on my next solo album, and fill what might have been missing from them and from Rap music at the same time. What’s missing from Hip-Hop is that Boom-Bap sound.

In 1992, I made a record called “Sex, Drugs, B######, and Money.” It’s just like Biggie’s “Dreams of F**kin’ an R&B B*tch.” I didn’t have an album up, but back in the day that music would circulate. It was a hit record in Queensbridge projects. Grandmaster Vic would make mixtapes in Jamaica, Queens. I was making songs like that. I had a song called “Set It Off” with a group called PHD on Tuff City Records. This album is called Without Warning, and it’s out there from 1991.

I know somebody’s gonna try and bite me, but on my next album, Urban Legend, I have a track with PMD, Grand Puba, KRS-One, and Big Daddy Kane. It’s my greatest accomplishment. It’s not even a Boom-Bap record, it’s a feel-good record and my way of paying tribute to the MCs who came before me. I didn’t ask them to give me 16 bars on any kind of topic, I just told them to be themselves. I also told them how much I appreciate them as artists. Urban Legend is my solo third album coming soon and it’s gonna be a challenge to myself. I don’t even include The Testament; that’s more of a collector’s album, or Legal Hustle which was a collaborative album. A third album is a defining moment. The one that can make you or break you. A lot of artists only get two or three albums. This one will prove if I’m going to stay or leave. So I’m going hard with it and I gotta bring back that loud Boom Bap s**t. Enjoyable, but loud. I want to f**k up people’s speakers. I want people to complain. I also want n***as to respect what I’m saying.

Reprinted with permission from Elemental Magazine issues #68.