Archive for April, 2013

And now, a life’s journey through hip hop music

Like any good suburban white kid, hip hop to me, for the longest time, meant the Beastie Boys.   I knew very little about music in general, much less hip hop in particular.  But then my life changed when, in the ninth grade, I discovered a little icon on the desktop labelled “Napster Music Community”.  Quite literally, Napster changed my life.  I started out downloading old cartoon theme songs but eventually I moved on to more serious music. Napster would soon be shut down but other services rose to take its place.  And I had a voracious appetite for music.   I can still remember the first time I downloaded Kraftwerk.  It was “Autobahn” and it blew my mind.

But we’re getting off topic.   It was not until the twelfth grade that the world of hip hop started opening to me.  I discovered a lot of new music that year but there was one song, one song above all others that dominated the 2003–2004 school year and that was “Hey Ya!” by OutKast.   “Hey Ya!” was such a stroke of genius and really helped open my eyes to the possibility of amazing hip hop music.  I like to see it as the genius of “Come Together” turned inside?out.  Whereas “Come Together” featured a pop group playing a funk song, “Hey Ya!” featured a funk group playing a pop song.

During the same period I was still a little caught in that phase of “real music needs guitars” so a fellow from Toronto by the name of k?os and songs like “Follow Me” were oh?so?pleasurable.

Then I went off to school in Peterborough and discovered even more music.  Now, remember, this was all through word?of?mouth and various assorted websites.  Facebook and YouTube would not come into my life until second year.   But one group I discovered in first year was the Wu?Tang Clan.  The Wu?Tang Clan are known for their frequent use of kung fu imagery but some songs, like “One Step” by Wu?Tang associate Killah Priest featuring Hell Razah & Tekitha features some of the best biblical imagery I’ve heard in a song.  Now the biblical imagery you’ll hear in most Wu?Tang songs is often a little strange sounding.  That’s because most members of group are associated with the Five Percenters, a radical offshoot of the Nation of Islam.   Killah Priest himself is a Black Hebrew Israelite.   I find these groups’s black nationalism to be a little unsettling and often venturing into the realm of black supremacy.  As far as I know, both groups, for instance, believe that black people and specifically not Jews, are descended from the tribes of Israel.  Crazy?  Yes, but they still make some damn good music.

Now in second year I went on record saying I did not care for M.I.A.  I found her music irritating.  Then I opened up a bit, I mellowed out a bit and “Galang” is an awesome tune.  It was also in second year that Kanye West’s second album Late Registration came out and I fell fully in love with that man’s music.

But fast?forward to 2010.  Kanye West hadn’t released an album in two years, he hadn’t released a traditional hip hop album in three years and hadn’t released a truly great hip hop album since the aforementioned Late Registration five years earlier.  And in the meantime he had become obsessed with his celebrity and generally had displayed embarrassing public behaviour.  I was ready to write him off.  Then he delivered My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the greatest hip hop album ever.  That’s right.  Sorry Endtroducing….. and Illmatic, you’ve been replaced.  Kanye silenced the haters once and for all.  “Lost In The World” featuring Bon Iver and “Who Will Survive In America” are the last two tracks that are meant to be heard together.

Now Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” has become ubiquitous over the last year and it is a great song, but I think the best song from their album has to be “Same Love” featuring Mary Lambert.  Hip hop has had a very rocky relationship with homosexuality and this gorgeous number takes issue with that perceived inevitability while also taking organized religion to task for its institutional homophobia.  Choice line, “And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten / But we paraphrase a book written
3,500 years ago”

Aesop Rock is another artist I was not a big fan of back in the day.  Reflecting my rather conservative politics at the time I said I didn’t care for his whole “working class hero thing”.  I was quite enamoured at the time with his Def Jux label mate El?P.  So it’s strange when I returned to Peterborough this month, “Daylight” became the song I yearned to listen to several times.  It’s a brilliant piece of music and I only wish I had been blasting it 8 years ago.

Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”
Bubba Sparxxx feat. Timbaland – “Deliverance”
The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes”
The Streets – “Never Went To Church”
Uffie – “Pop the Glock”
Monster Fever – “Monsters Don’t Get No Respect”
Monster Fever – “Monster Night Out” (my brother Brad is featured rapping in this one)