So You Can See Me Now

It's rarely stated explicitly, but FD has a long and lasting connection to hip-hop. For all our jazz pretensions and obvious Pitchfork ties, many of us were shaped and formed by rap music, and spent many long hours trying to make sense of our place as fans and, in some cases, participants. All I know is that, no matter what they take from me, they can't take away the first time I heard Rakim, or Straight Outta Compton, or The Infamous. I've more or less repressed all the time I spent flirting with the tape trade underground, but certain albums, however obvious, are as much a part of my musical consciousness as, say, The Band (which came way later, by the way). I will even now unapologetically assert that Wu-Tang changed my life, without leaning too hard on Cuban Linx, but only if I only get credit for knowing most every Guru lyric by heart.

Why am I bothering to tell you all this? Well, mostly as a show of support for Dr. LIC's Straight Bangin' guest post on "why I hate rap now". It was supposed to be a "top 10 albums of the century" joint, but when the Doctor was blocked, and only go going when he realized what the problem was. I didn't even try and bother. Maybe I was always a tourist, maybe that "N.W.A. and Public Enemy were like punk rock" line had more truth to it than I thought. All I know is that, after having intently followed hip-hop since I first bought Raising Hell and yes, Licensed to Ill (gateway pass) in third grade, I'm just not interested these days. Did I give up hope? Grow out of it? Prove that I never had any place in it to begin with? I don't lose much sleep over ferreting out the answer.

But like I said, I think the good Doctor's post does a lot to explain why I've drifted further and further away, and right now own probably like three recordings from the 21st. My list would probably have included The Cold Vein, Supreme Clientale, Philadelphia Freeway, The Black Album, and Got It 4 Cheap 2. And yeah, I know there's definitely a problem/disconnect there, which is why I'll plead alienation instead of (for once) reaching for overwrought justification.

UPDATE: To reiterate, if you're in New York, and want to see me and most every other sports blogger of note on panels, attend Blogs With Balls.

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At 6/11/2009 10:27 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Dope post, Dr. LIC. Especially nailed it on the "white girls are the new black males" point.

Also, do you think rap has declined partially because many artists went with Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentlemen" theme and have gotten involved with R&B, crooning as opposed to rapping (ex. Akon, Kanye on 808s & Heartbreak, etc.)?

At 6/11/2009 11:20 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

RACE-That is still a major tension in the canon of hip-hop, AAAAAAYYY guess, but what of the experimental explorers who cater roughen up sounds that have run too soft. The new cosmopolitanism will come from below.

I think the seeds are continually sewn through ritual, hip-hop, like any top 40-minded genre, always needs a 'face'; this doesn't' always mean talent, credibility, emotive expression, rather a likeable character (LEft-a-Leanin' white people like them middle of the roaders, it's no coincidence).

This is some Carl Jung NBA anima shit right heeere this here dearth of inspirational hip-hop; decadent kings (IS it a coincidence Halberstam's first book was a novel about the fall of The Roman Empire?)

preitypo got stuck in some kind of feedback loop.

At 6/11/2009 11:29 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Maybe you guys got old and don't dance anymore? In my opinion, there are basically no rap beats that are actually worth listening to for 3 minutes in a row in the absence of a true lyrical tour de force, and these displays are pretty rare even on supposedly great albums. The only truly outstanding bits I can think of from Jay-Z's Black Album (which I guess you call great) are the end of 99 Problems and a couple sections of Lucifer. Other songs that qualify are the beginning of Big Poppa and the entirety of Juicy, but I think the impossibility of sustained compelling emceeing makes it pretty difficult to actually listen to rap outside of a party.

Also, you possibly grew better taste. For example, I find most of Blackstar's supposedly classic album to be unlistenable these days. I can still roll with Hater Players, but mostly just because of Mos Def's incredible part about landscapes. I used to love that album (except for the tracks with guests - Common is a pretty awful rapper in my opinion).

At 6/11/2009 11:59 AM, Blogger W2 said...

Shoals, are you hating on License to Ill?

Shit I like post 2000....

Supreme Clientele
God Loves Ugly
Soundpieces: Da Antidote
Hell Hath No Fury

But all of that shit hardly touches 20 (and this might be low) plus records that come before 2000.

In hoops you have LeBron, Kobe, CP3, Brandon Roy...these guys are taking the game to new places. There is no equivalent in rap music. This makes it all the more maddening.

@Spanish Bombs...the Blackstar record is, was, and forever will be a disappointment.

At 6/11/2009 2:28 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...


At 6/11/2009 2:28 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/11/2009 2:29 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Blackstar is an awesome way to get indies into rap, but when they stop liking it is the barometer for when they actually understand rap.

Hell Hath No Fury was classic post 2000 material. Probably The Blueprint also. The Minstrel Show is close to classic, though Little Brother will struggle to ever come close to that level again. The Tipping Point is also close for me.

Perfect example of whats happened to rap: Supreme Clientele vs. Fishscale. SC doesn't have the banging joints that Fishscale does, but is twice the album.

At 6/11/2009 3:05 PM, Blogger Joey said...

Turtle, I'm as big a Ghost partisan as you'll find, and I think that last graph is right on. I love both albums (and I even admit that it took me some time to accept Clientele when it first dropped because it wasn't as much of a Wu sound as Ironman), but you're right: SC is much more of a whole work than Fishscale, even as Fishscale succeeds on its own merits.

At 6/11/2009 3:21 PM, Blogger The Till Show said...

Even though I believe Dilla is hip-hop producer GOAT (with Madlib a close 2nd), there was truth in those comparisons.

And as far as post-2000 goes, there's more there than Dr. LIC is giving credit. I agree that most of the music is distilled/tainted/etc., but there are some pretty hot joints. Both Black Milk joints, Slum Village's "Fan-tas-tic, Vol. 2," and J-Live's "The Best Part (though it was originally slated for '95" and "All of the Above," are some dope albums.

At 6/11/2009 3:48 PM, OpenID alphabetsoupkitchen said...

It's not difficult to cherry pick arguments about why you don't like a musical genre -- everyone can take the common straw men of pop rap and Jay-Z's overratedness, etc., etc. and sit back like that's a definitive statement.

But the truth is, you don't like hip-hop because you're not hip-hop anymore. There's no shame in that. My dad doesn't like modern rock anymore, especially not the acoustic guitar indie stuff, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still share a connection with the past.

To drop names just for the sake of it, I'd throw out the following albums from post-2000, in no order: Why's Alopecia, TI's King, Kanye West's College Dropout and Late Registration, Black Milk's Tronic, Q-Tip's The Renaissance, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter, Devin the Dude's Just Tryin' ta Live, Scarface's The Fix, El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead, CunninLynguist's A Piece of Strange, Panacea's The Scenic Route, Blue Scholars' Bayani, Madvillain's Madvillainy, Foreign Exchanges' Connected, 50 Cent's Get rich or Die Trying, Jay-Z's The Blueprint, Masta Ace's Disposable Arts, OutKast's Stankonia, Ghostface's Supreme Clientele, Binary Star's Masters of the Universe, Eminem's The Marshall Mather's LP, Common's Like Water for Chocolate and BE, Rich Boy's Rich Boy, Young Jeezy's Thug Motivation 101, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, Blu & Exile's Below the Heavens, The Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury and Lord Willin', Mr. Lif's I Phantom, Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein, Cam'ron's Purple Haze, Three 6 Mafia's The Most Known Unknown and Da Unbreakables, Cormega's The Realness, Cage's Hell's Winter, Quasimoto's The Unseen, De La Soul's The Grind Date, Little Brother's The Listening, Freeway's Philadelphia Freeway, Canibus' Rip the Jacker, Vakill's The Darkest Cloud, Nas' Stillmatic and Streets' Disciple, Atmosphere's God Loves Ugly, Wu-Tang's Iron Flag, Non Phixion's The Future Is Now, The Roots' Phrenology and The Tipping Point, Dr. Dre's 2001, Prodigy's HNIC, Jedi Mind Trick's Violent By Design, etc.



Now I know that's just a big list of albums I like a lot, and that any individual is probably going to hate a sizeable chunk of it and demand something else be added. I'm not trying to define the canon.

But if you can't find 10 albums you like from the past 10 years, I don't think it's because hip-hop has changed so drastically. There are 10 albums in the ATCQ style up there and 10 albums in the Beatminerz style up there. There are also far more than 10 albums in styles we never dreamed about, styles that combine the best of other elements, borrow from other genres, or defy any attempts to define them.

Honestly, as someone who listens to a lot of hip-hop, I'm proud of the music that's come out in the past 10 years.

Yes, if you selectively take the most egregious examples, you will find the modern day equivalent of New Jack Swing, pointless Reggae biting, and an overabundance of skits. You will find great rappers saddled with terrible beats (the Rakim path to greatness) and incredible beats given to people who don't even rhyme.

But all the garbage of the 80's and 90's has been forgotten, and it's not fair to compare the garbage of today to that. Compare the best with the best, and be glad that hip hop is so great that it's provided us with so much good stuff year after year after year.

At 6/11/2009 4:20 PM, Blogger JohnCraig said...


Dre's 2001 came out in '99!!

A common mistake that you should not be making!!!

I expect much better out of FD!

At 6/11/2009 5:37 PM, Blogger Jiminy Jetpack said...

Grip Grand. Marinate on THAT!

At 6/11/2009 7:12 PM, Blogger Octopus Grigori said...

All of this just makes me want to go back to listening to DAILY OPERATION in my American car. Is that just a life-denying form of nostalgia?

Also, all of Kanye's tracks would be so much better as instrumentals

At 6/11/2009 7:30 PM, Blogger W2 said...

B Shaw (might be the only dude with his poster on my wall as a kid) sounded off on coaching and playing with Kobe...solid read, found...


Oct...agreed Kanye can drop some slick beats, but that is some glossy shit. And I don't get what not feeling something like Kanye has to do with age.

At 6/11/2009 8:14 PM, Blogger Mark said...

alphabet, you didn't seriously just put de la soul's the grind date on there did you?

There's no denying that hip hop has lost it's way and become something of a parody of itself. I think a lot of that lies in the fact that nobody rhymes about anything anymore. No politicisation, no storytelling, just lots of empty claims and fake hustle.
That and the suspicion that those producing stuff today don't have an education in the roots of what made the music great in the first place, and are drawing on their influences from the 80's (and playing to those tastes in the kids)
the pharcyde flute point was perfect btw DLIC

At 6/11/2009 9:00 PM, Blogger tray said...

I would've thought people who could love something as ignorant as the Nellieball Warriors (and Stephen Jackson!) would also be Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane fans. Very puzzling.

At 6/11/2009 9:35 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

i love dumb rap like jeezy just like i love dumb hoops like nellieball. at the same time, i like thoughtful rap and thoughtful ball. i'm calling out people who only like the dumb shit in a kind of creepy way.

At 6/11/2009 11:20 PM, Blogger tray said...

I guess I'd turn that around; what about people who only like dumb ball? Who can't stand any team with a structured offense and hated the Spurs in their heyday because Duncan bored them to death but love/d Nellieball, J.R. Smith, Iverson, fetishize "raw athletes," are a little too amused by players who jack up unconscionable threes? I think they're arguably just as creepy, and in about the same way. Besides that, I don't know that you can categorically deem Jeezy (or other rappers like him) dumb. Jeezy has stuff to say and says it fairly intelligently; he just does it with a relatively small vocabulary and a ton of ad-libs.

At 6/12/2009 1:15 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Don Nelson is white.

At 6/12/2009 2:17 AM, OpenID alphabetsoupkitchen said...


I love The Grind Date and will rep Rock.co.kane Flow as one of the illest beats of the past 10 years, but obviously it's all a matter of taste. While I like the two Jay-Z albums I listed, Jay-Z and 2Pac are consensus top 5 rappers that I probably wouldn't even have in my top 20, so I just wanted to present myself without trying to guess what's "consensus dope."

I think it's absolutely untrue that rappers don't rap about anything anymore. There have been surface rappers and issues rappers throughout hip-hop's history. Kool G Rap is my second favorite rapper of all time, but 95% of his stuff is no deeper than 95% of 50 Cent's stuff. Nor is, say, Immortal Technique's conspiracy theories and impossible politics any more deep than Chuck D's conspiracy theories and impossible politics (though I will give that nobody will ever make beats like the Bomb Squad again -- the Son of Bazerk album was on some Eisenstein-on-meth ish).

Look, when I was teaching hip-hop and poetry afterschool programs, kids got bored when I played them Rakim and Public Enemy; they don't get bored listening to TI, and when they're in their late 20s-early 30s they're going to hate the current artists and wish that people still made classics like Get Rich Or Die Tryin.

The truth is, nothing will ever compare to the music we listened to when we were younger. Just because something came out after you were in high school/college/grad school doesn't mean it isn't good. And just because Nice & Smooth and Lords of the Underground did doesn't mean they're better than the throwaway acts we have now.

We can't blame human nature on the artists of today. They're still doing their job.

At 6/12/2009 8:00 AM, Blogger emynd said...

Dude, DLIC's article was fucking AWFUL. You guys dont listen to rap anymore because you lost interest in it. The "reasons" listed in that article are absolute hogwash and fucking offensive. Seriously. You know I fux with y'all 'forever, but you should be ashamed. Stick to talking about basketball.

1. White girls are not the new black males. The streets still run hip-hop. That's why Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne's ugly ass, Lil Boosie and a variety of others are the biggest artists in hip-hop and rap today. To use Jim Jones as an example of anything (except for a dude that looks like me) shows just how disconnected you are from what rap is actually popular and relevant.

2. Jay-Dee is a dope producer but has very little to do with today's hip-hop landscape: good or bad.

3. Even if the stupidity is rewarded statement was right (which it isnt necessarily), it's been that way for the history of rap, so to say that that's a reason why rap sucks now is stupid as fuck.

4. Political rap was popular for like 4 years. Rap can be overtly political but it is often not. You can manufacture reasons that your favorite rap albums as being political in some important way, but youre not going to tell me "Cuban Linx" or "The Infamous" were good because of their political content. Politics has nothing to do with why rap is still as awsome as ever.

5. Jay-Z and Nas aren't the kings of rap and havent been for quite some time.

6. Samples are cool and all, but you sound OLD!!!

I'm really annoyed someone I consider smart wrote this stupid shit.


At 6/12/2009 10:51 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...


At 6/12/2009 10:57 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think everyone should have to say what their racial background is when talking about hip-hop, so we know how seriously to take you. Especially if the comment is "WHIIIIITEEEE PEOPLE!"

And for good measure, people should include their parents' mean annual income when last they were claimed as a dependent.

At 6/12/2009 11:52 AM, Blogger Alexander J said...

It's just too hard to get a word in to the general argument here; especially when you're a college boy that grew up in a college town where being a Japanese Jew just sounds like an admissions joke (that same joke that got me in to college).

I find these types of exercise in futility thrilling!

The declarations made in the original piece are telling me to stop talking about how hip-hop was good and to go back and listen to more good hip-hop from all times. The theme this year seems to be a solid, "fuck everybody".

At 6/12/2009 12:45 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

if auto-tune wasn't dead, "WHIIIIITE PEOPLE" would sound catchier, every thing did back in the days when AUTOTUNE was still around.

At 6/12/2009 1:11 PM, Blogger Joey said...

re: dumb rap and dumb basketball--there are fair, obvious parallels, so tray's point is well-taken. but at the same time, part of what's intriguing about dumb basketball is that the memorable instances of it have been those which have mounted a true assault on tradition in the name of achieving the same goal. unlv wouldn't be so lionized if it hadn't won and was, instead, just cincinnati. those warrios wouldn't be those warriors had they not been competitive and toppled an old-world goliath, hinting at a true possibility for a title.

dumb rap is usually put together in service of something different than achieving what revered mc's and groups from the 90s attempted. look not further than the piss-poor condition of albums. people don't make them anymore. instead, people make singles and then filler. or they scheme their way toward a catalogue by attempting to capture market segments with specific styles. to jeezy's credit--and i can't really get with what he does--he has some cohesion on his records that demonstrates more thought than this. but so many of today's rappers don't try to do something indisputable awesome--like winning a title--by applying their dumbness. instead, they settle for consolations more easily attained just by being dumb. maybe this is where the analogy falls apart, but it's like hiring eddie jordan to be your coach. he'll get you closer to the mountain, but never to the mountaintop. eddie jordan is a dumb rapper, in effect.

At 6/12/2009 1:26 PM, Blogger Andy said...

if auto-tune wasn't dead, "WHIIIIITE PEOPLE" would sound catchier, every thing did back in the days when AUTOTUNE was still around.

Just say it like Ron Browz does "EEEE-THER BOYYYYYY!"

At 6/12/2009 3:29 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

Rap has passed you up. Sorry you couldn't keep your listening habits current. Rock ain't what it was in the 50's, rap ain't what it was in the 80's. I got no sympathy.

w.v.: waliffie - DLIC's article is waliffie.

At 6/12/2009 3:34 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I have always looked to this comments section as a source of comfort and yes, sympathy.

WV: undrma. Underarm drama or un-drama, both of which describe what I'm saying here.

At 6/12/2009 3:41 PM, Blogger Louie Bones said...

I'm not gonna make a personal list. All I'm gonna say is "DLIC, quit being ignorant and generalizing what. you. are. not."


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