Posts Tagged ‘Blog’

Before we begin, check out Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage.” 

I love hip-hop. It’s an amazing art form, and it’s so diverse. In light of some of the recent happenings in the world (the situation in Ferguson, MO, the Ezell Ford shooting in LA, the incident in Ohio, the Tulsa police shooting, Robin Williams’ suicide, etc), some have brought up the question of “what can hip-hop do to educate people or cause change?” In the 1980s and 1990s, artists jumped to the mic in droves to speak on messed-up situations with the government and the police (not really mental illness, though; that’s another monster entirely which I spoke on on Boi-1da.net). These days, however, it seems that artists won’t speak on an issue unless there’s something to gain from it (publicity, saving face, etc). Is that indicative of artists being “owned” by their labels, therefore hindering them from speaking on issues?* Or is it just that today’s generation of artists aren’t educated on how messed up these issues are?

I think it’s unfair to say that every artist doesn’t give a you-know-what, regardless of their subject matter. I actually got into a bit of a “Twitter argument” with Lecrae over his semi-condemning of “violent” mainstream hip-hop, due to the idea that even if some music is violent in nature, it doesn’t exactly mean that all hip-hop that isn’t love, peace, and harmony is counterproductive. However, there is a tinge of apathy from the world as a whole–since some tend to devote focus to hot button issues, then move onto the next quicker than you can say “keyboard revolutionary.” Of course, human rights are something that need/deserve to be spoken on at all times. Thankfully, the message is getting across that people can’t just #TweetJustice and expect something to change overnight.

But, you combine this “where’s the next cause?” mentality with a generation that is more likely to turn Trayvon Martin into a meme, you’re asking for idiocy from the masses. Rappers aren’t excused from this. But, as “leaders” of black culture, hip-hop artists have to aid those whom they claim to represent–which is why I always applaud artists who give to charities, or do nonprofit work (or speak on these “real-life issues”). I’m also applauding the artists who have used their voices to speak on and/or out about these tragedies. As always, though, these are just my opinions on the matter. Feel free to tweet me on the matter.

*I will not go into how major label artists aren’t “allowed” to speak out (that’s another post entirely). I just wish that everyone could…put their money where their mouth is (plug, but not a shameless one).

@SpeedontheBeat


nas-bye-baby-video-600x450

Our topic in hip-hop this week is Nas and the belief that he’s, to put it lightly, a perennial loser at life. I got the idea, admittedly, from a recent post on HipHopDX on Nas’ opinions on “tanning” in hip-hop (that’s another post entirely) and the way commentators tried to eat him alive. I never thought someone who:

*has been nominated for several Grammy Awards (though he’s never won one)
*has gone platinum on several albums (though none after 2002’s God’s Son)
*has battled Jay Z and lived musically to tell about it (even though, y’know, Nas hasn’t gone platinum since around the time of his beef with Jay–even with the critically acclaimed Hip-Hop is Dead album)
*has been in the game for twenty years–and doesn’t look too corny on stage and
*has one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade so far with Life is Good

would be considered a loser, but here we are.

For some reason, hip-hop commentators love to single out Nas for almost everything he does–and slap a big, fat “L” on it. That is not to be confused with hip-hop legend, the late Lamont “Big L” Coleman. Big L was never a loser, because he struck men quicker than lightning. But Nas? If you let the internet–and several blogs even named after jabs at Nas (such as, well, smartenupnas.com) tell it, Nas has as much luck as the Detroit Lions or the 2013 Houston Astros. But where does it all come from?

nas-lost

Byron “Bol” Crawford, an influence of mine, said in an interview for his book on the subject that Nas lost because of everything after Illmatic (shiny suits and crucifixes with Diddy, “Oochie Wally,” Kelis, not being featured in Def Jam: Icon as a playable character, etc.). Typing “why Nas lost” into Google treats you with a discussion from Boxden with Thirteen Points on Nas’ Losses. If they had one more, they could have matched Woodrow Wilson’s reasons for why World War I was good and bad for…the world. Granted, Wilson called for peace and the internet seemingly calls for Nasir’s head every time he opens his mouth, but you get the idea.

There are a few reasons why he can be seen as a loser that I, personally, could ascribe to (if I were in Camp Nas-Lost-A-Lot).

First, let us discuss his constant “switched demeanor” (I know that bar referred to Mobb Deep. Don’t try to troll the untrollable) and bouncing between revolutionary Nas, street Nas and “let’s make songs for the club” Nas. However, let’s take a look at pretty much every memorable hip-hop artist, even Immortal Technique to a degree. GOOD artists don’t/can’t stick on the same subjects for the length of their careers, lest they become Soulja Boy (Sorry, Boi-1da.net fam; Soulja is still pretty one-trick to me. He’s made some decent songs, but most of his verses still revolve around swag) or someone. Even LL doesn’t just rhyme (lyrics to both songs NSFW) about getting women and their undergarments in a bunch, even if that’s what he’s known for (that and also being punchline fodder for perceived missteps; that’s another post as well).

Plus this is one of the only non-shirtless LL photos I could find.

Plus this is one of the only non-shirtless LL photos I could find when searching “LL Cool J and Nas” on the Google.

For others? It may be the fact that, after everything was said and done with the Jay beef, he eventually worked with–and under Jay. But, let’s be real here. The average rapper, regardless of how “conscious” and against the system they are, they’d rather be signed to a major label than do what I do and release everything–and I mean everything–independently. Note, of course, that I said “average,” because there are rappers that prefer the DIY method. As much as I sometimes dislike saying this, if you want your message to be heard, sometimes you need to go mainstream then lure them back into the “realness.” Or, at the least, get mainstream’s help.

Hi Macklemore.

Others still could even argue that Nas loses because he had one undeniably “classic” album, Illmatic. At under 40 minutes, it did what most albums these days can’t do in twice that time.

"It ain't hard to tell..."

“It ain’t hard to tell…”

Keep in mind that most of these grievances, especially this one, are also brought up in Jay Z’s “Takeover.” “Takeover,” in some ways, acted as a launchpad for anti-Nas sentiments shared by some of my hip-hop blogging/commentating contemporaries. That doesn’t make ’em any less true, though. I am a Nas fan and I respect what he’s done for hip-hop. But, other than Illmatic, Nas often comes up with stellar concepts (HHiD, the N-Word/Untitled album, his double CD, even Life is Good to a degree) that tend to fail to deliver on their promises in some way that ends up damaging the album. For the purposes of this conversation, let’s look at Life is Good.

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Life is Good saw the return of Illmatic-era Nas (obviously older and more worn). It featured boombap beats, soul samples, Swizz Beatz, Noah “40” Shebib drums, and Amy Winehouse. It was a great album. It was a summertime banger. It still gets played in my phone from time to time. But saying it’s the rap version of Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear? That is a bit off-the-mark. For starters, while both albums deal with musical icons after divorce, HMD showcased Marvin’s pain, anger and confusion regarding his divorce proceedings with Anna Gordy. LiG touches on the disintegration of Nas’ marriage in a few spots. One of those, of course, is the cover. Secondly, HMD is, in some ways, the culmination of all of Marvin Gaye’s different musical–and personal–entities over his career. He showcases the broken heart, the burgeoning/potentially recovering addict, the confused star-crossed lover, and the revolutionary all in one. Nas, on the other hand, showcases a little introspective thought toward his career and his situation(s). Throughout most of the album, he’s telling stories. But he’s not telling his story.

Essentially, Nas is the street poet. He’s the voice of the generation. He’s one of the God Emcees. But, twenty years in, he still often shuts listeners out of his own life. To me, this is one of his fallacies. I’m not saying everyone has to talk about shooting everyone else. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I mean that Nas is a great artist and a vivid photographer of inner-city life. But, he (often) doesn’t allow anyone to turn the camera around on him and that tarnishes his legacy in a sense. So, all in all, Nas should not be considered a loser, per se. Never that. However, he can–and rightfully should–be considered an artist that still doesn’t give everything that he should artistically, as he’d rather present scatterbrained efforts that attempt to tell everyone’s story.

And besides, he’s lasted longer than most “Nas Lost” commentators could in music. That’s got to be worth something, right?

(Editor’s Note/Disclaimer: I’ve attempted to address a problem/concern in the hip-hop community–hence the title putting emphasis on the “WHY,” not the entire question. I’m asking–and attempt to answer the following: Even with his follies, why can/should the man be considered a loser? This is not a post on why he IS a loser? I hope you’ve read through, taken away points, and begin to form your own opinions. Also, I ask that you don’t take to insults and baseless accusations just because I’m speaking on something “uncomfortable.” We’re all adults here; name-calling is juvenile. If you’ve an opinion on what I’ve written, please spark a dialogue with me. I’m not afraid to be told I’m “wrong,” as long as there’s proof with it. Finally, let me reiterate the following: I am a fan of Nas’ music and what he’s done for hip-hop. So, my comments are not based in “hate” of Nas, but more of an analysis of his music and the “facts” presented. Thank you for reading and peace be with you.)

Greetings, all.

In between the snow, wind, rain, and so-on of the past seven or so days, I legitimately haven’t had much time to peep some of the hip-hop happenings of this week. Add in the fact that I’m also working on my own musical projects at the moment (Ed. Note: #Thanatos128 is the first single from my next album, and it drops everywhere on 1.28.14) and I’ve had my eyes and ears away from most music that doesn’t contain a “Speed on the Beat!” dropped in there somewhere. Thus is the tragedy of a hip-hop blogger/artist/brand manager. Sometimes, you get overwhelmed and miss some stuff.

But, enough about me (I’ve got all next week to rave about me). This week, I want to talk to the aspiring artists out there. No, this won’t be a retread of my “Dear (Internet) Rappers” series. Because those, well, those are for the rappers who just started out, or those who have the business sense of a fresh-in-the-booth artist. Today, I want to talk to the rappers who’ve done everything right, but still find themselves losing out.

You may find yourself asking, “Why can’t I get on?” especially if you’ve dropped tape after tape after tape of halfway solid material. This can lead to a lack of faith, resulting in you switching your style up completely (in other words, you go from Kendrick Lamar to Gunplay in a matter of seconds) because you feel that style B is more complementary to what’s “hot.” That is the first step to failure. If what you’re doing isn’t reaching an audience, perhaps you should try a different audience.

Take for instance, myself with the whole “no-fi” thing. A lot of traditional rap blogs/fans were a bit hesitant to embrace it. Heck, who can blame them? I was making music that intentionally sounded like I recorded it underwater in the 1990s with 1980s equipment. I was distraught when I received my first couple rejection notices. But, then I thought to myself “hey, since ‘no-fi’ is more of a grunge-type of approach to music, I should find bloggers that know about grunge and hip-hop.” Surely enough, I began seeing my name appear on more blogs and saw the Speed on the Beat brand grow as a result of fine-tuning my efforts. Yes, casting a wide net is cool, but you’ll often end up with more water instead of fish. If you’re as dedicated as you say you are, you’ll find blogs and fans that are more likely to be receptive to you. If you can amass a large enough following from the so-called “little guys,” eventually the bigger fish will have no choice but to follow suit.

Simply put, the indie artist is Daniel Bryan to many a “big blog” (Ed. Note: I would’ve said CM Punk, but Bryan’s appearance is more “everyman” and therefore further illustrates the connection).

And just like DB, the indie artist may very well want to kick someone's head off.

And just like DB, the indie artist may very well want to kick someone’s head off.

Sure, the indie may be technically sound. The indie artist may have a decent fan base and a small amount of recognition from some prestigious places. The indie artist may even be the so-called antidote to what ails “mainstream” hip-hop. But, some bigger blogs feel that they’re just like the next small guy to approach them. This is often because many indie artists do exactly the things that I, and others like me, advise against. If those faux pas aren’t committed, then it’s up to the artist to make an effort to get himself recognized, if even for a catchphrase, by the big boys. Then, it’s up to both the artist to make himself known and accessible and the bigger blogs to find smaller acts to replace/complement the bigger ones. Let’s face it: Lil’ Wayne still draws views and hits, but Lil’ Wayne will not be around forever.

However, if this route doesn’t work, even after you’ve followed the “Dear (Internet) Rappers” posts to a T? If no one, and I mean NO ONE, has responded to your inquiry about hosting your song on their site, then it may be time to give it up. And while many of you may not want to hear that, it’s a simple fact. If you follow the “rules” and “etiquette” to a fault, build a fan base, build a rapport with artists/bloggers/etc. and still can’t get an iota of shine, you wouldn’t have been long for the music world anyway.

Most of us have it in us somewhere to be great. Others, well, don’t.