Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where Art Thou, Hip-Hop?

Like a good portion of hip-hop fans, I've had an off again on again love and hate relationship with hip-hop. One day I'm criticizing its materialism, misogyny, glorification of violence and all around silliness. The next I'm listening to underground acts like Kool Keith or Grayskul and listening in awe to their brilliant verbal and musical tenacity. It's a bipolar affair if there ever was one.

My relationship with hip-hop went on again this winter. I bought a copy of Seattle area group The Gigantics' album Die Already and downloaded the new Kool Keith album, Dr. Dooom 2. I was impressed by both. I was also struck by the fact that both albums, which share no connection, both had verses about hip-hop being dead or on life support. If rappers from different sides of the continent can agree that the genre is hurting, perhaps it is.

Is hip-hop really dead? People said rock was dead for a long time, and before groups like The White Stripes brought real rock and roll back the genre was tagged with nu-metal monstrosities like Linkin Park and P.O.D. I hope that the genre is working itself out, realizing that the success of Barack Obama's candidacy, Oprah Winfrey's television show and conscious rappers like Common and Lupe Fiasco has proved that the black persona doesn't have to be interwoven with banana clips and bouncing butts.

The great combination of rhythm, melody and poetry that hip-hop provides is too creative to just go out of style like bell bottoms or long-collared shirts. It has drawn alot more people into it than just black males and should not just be cast aside as a musical presentation of post-Civil Rights black anger.

Whatever doesn't happen with hip-hop, I'll be listening with hope that I'll hear something I like. If I like, I might buy a CD or download and maybe even go to a show. That's only if I hear something good, though.

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