Too Much Mediocrity-Not Enough Passion In Rap

Is it me or has this been a lean year for ‘over-the top, gotta have it-dope ass albums? I mean right now I’m thumbing to my collection and the only thing that strikes me as being really good was Game’s LP- The Documentary. I can listen to 5 or 6 songs off that joint and […]

Is it me or has this been a lean year for ‘over-the top, gotta have it-dope ass albums?

I mean right now I’m thumbing to my collection and the only thing that strikes me as being really good was Game’s LP- The Documentary. I can listen to 5 or 6 songs off that joint and be cool.

I’m also really feeling Common’s album Be, although I have to be honest as good as it is, it’s not his absolute best. I’m just happy to be hearing the mainstream say the words Common and ‘great’ in the same sentence. It’s been a long time coming. I think the only other album I’ve been looking forward to peeping is Kanye West’s Late Registration which has been moved back. Also I did get a chance to peep out some of the material from the Paris produced Public Enemy album Rebirth of a Nation . From what I heard it looked like PE would be back in a major way, but like Kanye, that LP has been pushed back till January.

As for everyone else, after hearing couple of songs I’m ghost. I’m not quite sure what it is… I’m not sure if it’s a simple case of hearing and not being happy with what appears to be mediocre efforts, or if I have become socialized like the majority of music lovers in this country-and become impatient and not willing to listen and fully appreciating the full body of an artist’s work. In other words I find myself asking, ‘Do I really wanna listen to Fat Joe, Lil Jon, Jadakiss or 50 Cent for 12-14 straight songs’? I have to be honest and say ‘not really’. But things haven’t always been that way.

There used to be a time not too long ago when I would grab a Jungle Brothers, KRS or a 2Pac CD and listen from start to finish. I would never grow tired of hearing the songs. In fact to this day, I still listen to some of those albums all the way through. Heck, just the other day I was bumping Snoop’s Doggystyle LP and remembering how good it was… As much as I like Snoop, I simply can’t hang with his Rhythm and Gangsta LP from front to back. I find myself wanting to pop in another CD midway through. I can only take Snoop in small doses. And it’s not just him. At the end of the day I come away feeling I listened to a few good songs, but I never really engaged the artist.

When I go back and listen to classic albums like Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy or X-Clan’s To the East Blackwards , Dr Dre’s The Chronic or Ice Cube’s Death Certificate I feel like I went on some sort of musical journey in which I really got to ‘know’ that artist. I don’t get that sense anymore. Even sadder is I don’t feel like a lot of artists are even trying to put forth a sincere effort to make me know them. Like I said I caught glimpses of that with Game and the Documentary LP. He painted some vivid pictures about his life, his hood and his struggles and aspirations. I got the same vibe with Common. He wasn’t as descriptive as Game but he kept me engaged in the conversation.

The other thing that stands out which I think has been lost on a lot of artists is the willingness to be vulnerable and really let me as the listener into his or her world. This I think was the strength of Common’s album. I definitely felt that with Outkast’s last LP Love Below and Speakerboxx , those guys open themselves up both via their lyrics and music.

A lot of the other albums I have peeped over the past few months, I’ve come away feeling tired and a bit overwhelmed. I felt like cats were either running around just throwing things together or that they were trying to satisfy a lot of politics when making their offering. In other words, I might hear a song with Mariah Carey and Jadakiss and wonder if the pairing was the result of long term strategic marketing versus Jada really feeling Mariah to the point he had to have her on his album Long Kiss Goodnight .

Think about it for a minute…If Game was to put singer Mya on his album, I think most of us could totally buy into the concept even if the song wasn’t that good, because we learned from Game’s brutal honesty that he has a crush on her…In other words I feel Game’s passion. When he teamed up with Timbaland to do the song ‘Let Me Put You on the Game’, you come away feeling like the pair vibed for a bit. Heck, Game even makes reference to it in the song.

There’s an old saying I like to use when describing the direction we as a society are headed: ‘Mediocrity is only realized in the presence of excellence’. Due to a lot of folks in the industry cutting corners and a concerted push to brand companies, producers and executive producers versus the artist themselves, we have a scenario where cookie cutter albums and templated music formulas are the order of the day. What’s ultimately produced and released to the public oftentimes seems to be based upon economic projections designed to raise stock prices for the label as opposed to moving the crowd.

Last week I had two experiences that shook me up. First, while visiting Scotland for the G8 Summit, I had a chance to see James Brown perform in front of 60 thousand people. At 72 years old, he rocked the house and had the crowd going absolutely nuts. As James went effortlessly from one song to the next, I kept saying to myself, ‘Now this is how music is supposed to be played.’ James brown’s 30 minute performance showed me just how wack everyone else is… It’s been so long since I seen a quality show from an artist of his caliber that I forgot how good it is and should be…

The day before I was looking at a Scottish newspaper when I read this article that announced how McDonald’s is now trying to bring either Russell Simmons or P-Diddy on board to help design their uniforms. It’s the fast food giant’s latest attempts to attach themselves to all things Hip Hop. Folks may recall earlier this year they were soliciting rappers to rhyme about their food products. They also managed to get a center role in terms of product placement in the remake of the movie ‘The Longest Yard’. When hearing the news about them trying to go Hip Hop with their uniforms I couldn’t help thinking, that I been eating too much fast food and been eating too much McDonalds. It’s time to start getting some home cooked meals or at least hitting up some high quality restaurants. With respect to our music I think we need to be headed in a similar direction….

Something to think About….