Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hip-hop, you're the love of my life, but does anyone else feel the same way?

When I first heard those words, it went through my ears as simply the lyrics of another verse on a conscious rap album. In that case, it was by the Roots, but it could have been Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def (and Common did elaborate with his song "I used to love H.E.R.").

When I heard those words again, I related. Like any other great love, there is a time when there is a fight or a large period of distance. For about a year, I felt that. Feeling like the years of gangsta rap had had a negative effect on me, I sold the large majority of my hip-hop CDS, with exceptions being Kool Keith, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and RJD2. I thought I could quit cold turkey and listen to rock, electronic, jazz and world music.

It didn't work out, though. I was at a record store and saw The Return of Dr. Octagon, copped it. There was alot of controversy as to whether Kool Keith, the voice behind Dr. Octagon, actually supported that album, but I enjoyed it. I soon found myself getting caught up in the 50 Cent vs. Kanye West media circus and bought West's Graduation, which I liked alot more than his previous albums.

I've been listening to hip-hop since I was at least eleven or twelve, starting off with Kool Keith and Eminem, who at those points in their careers appealed to the oddball that I've always been. I might not wear really baggy clothes and a chain around my neck (though I do have Fresh Jive and Sean John in my wardrobe) but hip-hop is an integral part of me that I can't get rid of even when I've tried.

I might not be able to make hip-hop leave my life, but unfortunately it may be leaving other people's lives. Album sales are plummeting for the music industry in general, but sales are hitting hip-hop especially hard. In a piece on the Kanye vs. 50 hype, Slate writer Jonah Weiner reported on the fact that ringtones are providing a large part of rappers' revenues as they no longer see it come from album sales. Indeed, when I bought Graduation, there was an ad in the liner notes that had the codes for buying ringtones for every song on the album.

The whole Kanye vs. 50 thing was only a momentary bump, but after it who is going to cause any excitement. Those are the two big rappers. Jay-Z has his 376th album or something coming out, and Nas has his Greatest Hits. There's got to be more than that. If you look at alternative and rock music, there are a flood of new bands coming out all the time.

Aaron over at Canned Thinking drew me to up and comer Termanology, who might be the blood transfusion that can get hip-hop out of life support. Check it:

After watching his video, I went and downloaded Termanology's last mixtape, which came out in July. It's got a healthy mix of mainstream and "backpack" style beats (I always hated that term).

There's also Lupe Fiasco, who was at this year's Lollapalooza and is already being compared to Kweli and Kanye. His new video, "Dumb it Down," is a great statement on the box hip-hop is being put into:

Brother Ali got a video out, though the chorus sounded a little bit too much like Everlast:

Then there's the gothic weirdos from my neighborhood, Grayskul. I'll put them in this blog because I have love for them, but I really doubt they're gonna be chart-toppers:

All around, I'm not sure that's enough to get record sales up. We really need some new blood and excitement in the game.


AaronM said...

Thanks for the linkage, Mike! This is a really well-written piece.
I see what you mean but I do think there's a lot of great talent in the underground right now. And thanks to the internet, rappers can put their stuff online, distribute their own CDs, even collaborate with producers by sending tracks back and forth via email (see Tanya Morgan, who made a dope album last year this way that you should def. check for:
That ringtone thing could be an issue, though...

MOPowell said...

Thank you! I've had a love-hate relationship with hip-hop for a while now, so the words just came flooding out.

Ironically enough, a ringtone costs around $1.99-3.99 and a song off of iTunes or Napster usually costs $.99-1.29. Apparently one is more valuable than the other.