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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reaching the end of my rope

As the NBA lockout continues, and with an infant standing between me and full nights’ sleep for what is now 7 weeks, I might be growing a bit ornery…
Add to that the fact that VERY LITTLE good music has come out over the course of this summer and I am borderline psychopath. So far this summer, we have gotten albums from Jay-Z & Kanye Zest and another from Lil’ Wayne. It is hard to have been a fan of hip hop in general for as long as I have without having some admiration for Jay-Z’s work, and I have gone on record explaining that I do not dislike Lil’ Wayne, especially Tha Carter III.
While most people pin Tha Carters I and II as his arrival as the most improved rapper in hip hop history, I count part III as his magnum opus. Try as he might, there will just not be anything better than that from him.
HOWEVER
I am deeply disappointed in what has been presented on both of these albums. I burned a copy of Watch the Throne that I downloaded at a cost of about $0.58. This is considering the cost of one disc as well as paying my cable (internet) and electricity bills for the 5-10ish minutes it took me to download it, I feel as if I have been shitted out of my money and would like it back with 2500% interest.

Anyway…
In the past 2 weeks, I have been in 5 (two internet forum, two Facebook each and one ongoing text message exchange that has simply continued on) different conversations about the two albums. It seems that I might be among the last holdouts when it comes to keeping my demands up in a once-competitive music market in which it seems that the CONSUMER is supposed to lower their standards if they want any new music at all, as opposed to the ARTIST keeping theirs up.
I have heard the Lil Wayne album referred to as a “banger,” despite the fact that the best verse on the first half of the album was from Tech N9ne (who I will stop avoiding because of this) in a damned intro and the best song on the second half of the album was the only good song in the whole presentation to me. All 3 songs that the radio has picked up make me physically ill and I can’t imagine what they would pick up next. I am going to go out on a limb and say that if not for a seemingly rabid fanbase hell bent on remaining loyal to him despite faltering product, the drugs have largely done Wayne in.

With Watch the Throne, I have heard people argue from the side of it being “pretty good” – which is not acceptable to me, given who is involved – to “dope,” and one idiot actually referred to it as “classic.”
My own assessment leaves the album somewhere between “not bad, but not good” and “mediocre at best.”

The point, here, is that NEITHER album is as good as the people releasing them pretend they are. If you measure either against either side’s previous work and still think it is good, then you have had your expectations successfully lowered, thank you for playing.
The increasingly frequented go-to when excusing this nonsense is “well, it’s better than 90% of the other shit out right now,” which is equally sad.


Wayback with me… remember back in 1998, a certain James Todd Smith took offense to a harmless line (which he bitch-madely had struck from the song, but still responded to) from an up-and-coming Germaine Williams? This was suggestive – no, indicative – that he saw a threat to his popular spot in rap at the time. As expected, the younger hot-head went in and while he may have had the best looking jabs in this fight, the fact remains that the trajectory of his career from there shows that he did not win this battle.

What does it mean?

There was a time where an established artist would do one of two things…
  1. Take an up-and-comer and put him under his wing, develop and make him into the next star under his tutelage.
  2. or…
    take that motherfuxer smooth the fux out! How dare you come for my spot before I am ready to give it?!

Capitalize on the changing of the guard, or hold on to the throne as long as you fucking can. Jay-Z has done both in his time. Big and Pac died and there was no really popular rap “legends” primed to take that spot with the accepted top two dying within 6 months of one another. Jay-Z took that spot quickly, and (whether Nas fans accept this or not) has kept Nas under that same thumb he has been under since Biggie’s “Kick in the Door.” Kelis would come in later, squeeze out a baby and make it so no rappers need to be bothered with Nas for 18 years to come.
Market cornered, success attained, we have watched how EVERY successful artist in ANY genre EVER gets lazy and slips with time after their star is made and cultivated.
A weakening market and an overall populace that seems to want girlyman rap with plenty of singing instead of rapping, skinny jeans and perhaps a tear or 5 every few songs – you know, the kinda shit that girls these days like, dudes that they can beat up – has made it to the point where former heavyweights feel it is acceptable to not go all in anymore.

Part of me hopes that they still have it in them and will someday come with the classic shit that has made us love them.

But!!!!
  • Muhammad Ali from 1977-1981
  • Jordan with the Wizards
  • Mike Tyson after he got out of prison
  • Ozzy Osbourne since they put his life on television
  • Hulk Hogan with the saggy underarm fat and two-tone beard

The realist in me has to look at things as they are and simply accept that we should look back on the good times instead of hoping for a renaissance (and yes, I spelled that word right) of them.

I can stand on the fact that Wayne – to be 29 in 4 weeks – has been quoted saying he doesn’t want to be rapping past 30. He has his artists making money, which makes him money, and it seems that this is a distinct possibility provided he has managed his money properly.

Jay-Z, on the other hand, has about one more bad between he and the sullying of his legacy.

In the meantime, though… We as lovers of hip hop are left with the choice to either let the spending of our $10 on this speak until we get something we want to hear (this is MY approach), or we can lower our standards just because we want to hear new music that is barely better than the shit on the radio (with Wayne projected to scan 700k this week, ignorance seems to have won again).
dammit
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