With the unparalleled certainty of a mathematical equation, it’s a given that any time anyone in the hip hop world starts to shine it’s guaranteed that shade throwers will materialize to do what they do best. In the words of one particular larger than life artist who has been thrown under the bus by the lot, “Everybody I know from the hood got common haters.” Like petty thugs who mock the clothes, the hair and most importantly the work of the players grinding it out in the trenches, these cynics create an atmosphere rife with mistrust, paranoia and haterism in the game and at the end of the day their biggest argument about the music seems to be that it ain’t early 90s hip hop.
I think we can all agree that the early 90s were a golden age of hip hop and one whose influence reaches far beyond the genre. The people of the 90s can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Nobody is trying to take your hip hop away, your high tops are safe here. I think we can also agree that Kanye doesn’t always have the sickest flow out there and has been known to drop a few clunkers, but overall his lyrical wordplay, beats and ideas are now. Similar arguments can be made for other artists who are often lumped together by the “current state of hip hop” crowd including Drake and Nicki Minaj. I don’t think anybody’s denying that Drake is 3 ply soft. Is Nicki Minaj weird? Hell yeah she is. Everyone deserves their opinion of what’s hot, but when haters start to shut down the views of others you have to question the authenticity of the critique.
The stance that the music of some of the leading musicians in the game today is nothing short of repulsive is sorely one-dimensional and reeks potently of a little something the Greek like to call “nostalgia,” or in the words of one Don Draper: “the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” Is it possible that the early 90s-loving haters are homesick…?
Haterism plus homesickness are a powerful combo when combined with such a polarizing figure as Kanye West. After a high profile series of sticking his foot in his mouth like 2005’s “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and his “I” and “She wuz robbed” moments at the 2004 American Music Awards, 2006 Grammys, the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards and the infamous 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he upstaged Taylor Swift, Yeezy’s not helping himself out with statements like “As a man I’m not perfect. But my music is!”
When compared with another famous stage rushing rapper, the legendary Old Dirty Bastard, the contradictions become glaringly obvious. ODB grew up in the early 70s when Forte Greene was the Hood and not the gentrified melting pot it is today. Kanye is the son of a journalist and an English professor who had the choice to go to a college that he dropped out of. ODB was arrested 15 times on charges ranging from injuring a child to the attempted murder of a police officer to car-jacking, selling drugs and gun-running. West recently closed down the city center in Qatar to shoot a high speed Lamborghini chase for a short film. This isn’t a class commentary. A man does what he has to do to survive. The beauty of hip hop is that without ODB, there probably wouldn’t be any Kanye West, Drake or Nicki Minaj.
The truth is that the next rapper to come out who spits as hard as the Big Baby Jesus is probably going to get a label deal because of these guys. That’s game changing. With the power of influence and talent that today’s hip hop elite possess, it’s frightening to think what they could accomplish if they set their champagne bottles aside and put an end to the hate. Surely if the whole science community can embrace a new, working theoretical framework for all of physics, the haters can at least recognize some of the innovation taking place, even if it ain’t the early 90s.
In the words of Don DeLillo, “I’d have to hand myself over to the structures that defined the time. Float on its clotted oil. Become obese with power and self-loathing.” When the Cruel Summer hits in August, I can guarantee you that the sound spilling out of all those speakers isn’t going to be from the 90s because everybody will be listening to that G.O.O.D. Music.