April 30, 2008

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Zilla Rocca’s chief problem isn’t too much rapping, but rather too little stunting like his daddy. 

As someone who loves, loves, LOVES lyrics and rappin’ and bars and spittage and darts and verbal dexterity, it occurred to me the other day that rappers today rap way too much. I have a few theories as to why this happened: shorter attention spans, an oversaturated market, cheap recording equipment, MySpace, an endless supply of “producers,” exploitation of mixtapes, Lil’ Wayne, etc. 

It seems as though now, most rappers pride themselves on that ability to have recorded 150 songs for an album that will “only” carry 22 songs, 16 of which will blow cow choad.  This works great if you’re a member of the Wu-Tang Clan—I think GZA only spit on 7 joints for the entire double album “Wu-Tang Forever.”  But for someone like Young Jeezy, to pen a full forty-eight bars over a 100 times in 3 months, well it’s safe to assume he won’t be unleashing anything close to “Verbal Intercourse” soon. 

Here’s the biggest problem: most prolific rappers aren’t that interesting.  They don’t take many chances.  They don’t dabble outside of the same 6 concepts often.  They don’t comment enough on the world around them outside of a few lines randomly addressing Obama, the Jena 6, Sean Bell, shitty public schools, etc. To quote Brother Ali, “There’s 8 million ways to wrap words around beats, and 6 millions rappers be using the same three.”
But what happens if you don’t rap ENOUGH?  Well, you end up making “True Magic” or whatever the name of the new Mic Geronimo album is.  It’s a delicate balance.

 Here’s a list of rappers who rap too much, not enough, or drop just enough to stay relevant/interesting/sharp.

 TOO MUCH RAPPING

 

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  Yes, the man drops 2,943 songs a year.  How many get serious replay value 3 months after initially hitting?  And claiming to be so high that you “eat a star” is lyrically impressive if you’re U-God on a track with Street Life, 9th Prince, and GP Wu.

2)      Papoose:  A solo artist who drops 17 mixtapes a year will not have much to say on a full length LP.  Jive/Zomba knew this and immediately started dumping more money into T-Pain and Lil’ Mama.  Roger Zapp and the cosmetic industry rejoice.  Kay Slay slaps the shit out of himself.

3)      Snoop Dogg:  You can still spell your name.  We get it.  You still smoke weed.  We get it.  You are from the west coast.  We get it.  You are a rich pimp who likes the 70s.  We get it.  That is the basis of every single Snoop album made since “The Doggfather.”  And he’s made 6 more since then.

4)      Jim Jones:  Did you know this guy has released 3 full lengths and 4 mixtapes?  That doesn’t include his guest appearances on everything Dipset related.  For a man with the lyrical prowess of a retarded monkey farting, this is not good for hip hop.

5)      Sean Price:  I loved most of “Monkey Barz” and the first half of “Jesus Price” but for a guy who raps really well about slapping the shit out you, brandishing pistols, and fucking your mother, it’s sad that he’s recycling verses from MySpace collabos and under the radar guest apperances.  He broke his own rule of never saying “the same shit twice like Mike Jones.”

NOT ENOUGH RAPPING

 

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1)      Mos Def:  Like Slug from Atmosphere, Mos was an absolute stunning MC in the late 90s.  Unlike Slug, Mos pissed away the last 10 years on decent films rather than Suicide Girls.  Around the turn of the century, Mos devolved from poignant, layered, sharp and funny to mush-mouthed, hackneyed, and boring.  Listen to “Hater Players” than listen to anything from “New Danger” or “True Magic.”  Yikes.  If Andre can rebound from “Be Cool” to the best in the game right now, anything is possible with Mos Def.

2)      Elzhi:  I’ve never heard Elzhi spit a throwaway verse since first hearing him on Dilla’s “Welcome to Detroit .”  As a guest spitter, he has NEVER been outshined (though Bishop Lamont gave him a run on that “Caltroit” project).  He is intricate, focused, precise, visual and hardcore.  There’s nothing clever or funny to say about Elzhi; the man is just dope.

3)      Cee-Lo:  When he wants to, Cee-Lo can be one of the most jaw-dropping MC’s in the game.  His two solo albums were extremely indulgent, but man when it came time to just spit, Cee-Lo was ferocious.  He’s been used mainly to sing hooks as a collaborator or to dress like stoner film icons with Danger Mouse to pay the rent.  He’s the best MC after Andre 3000 in the Dungeon Family when he locks in to being an MC.

4)      Rockness Monstah:  The most charismatic NYC gritty underground rapper that everyone forgot about…because he stopped putting out music (those bullshit mix CD’s you could’ve copped outside Virgin Megastore in ’03 and on MySpace don’t count).  Sean Price might be more well-known, but Rock is the total package—the voice, the weird adlibs, the presence, the flow.  This is the one MC who could’ve matched Method Man in terms of star power and sheer “Oh shit!” moments from Boot Camp during the late 90s/early 00s had he not signed a solo deal with DJ Lethal and been stuck in purgatory for 5+ years. 

5)      Andre 3000:  Right now, he is the best in the business.  And who knows if that was possible had he kept on spitting post-“Love Below.”  But be serious: would the majority of southern MC’s be getting such praise if Three Stacks kept his pen handy from ’03-’08?   Big Boi has stayed busy the past 5 years strictly rapping (and now doing ballets, but I digress) and he is now playing Robin to the guy who wrote “Prototype.”

JUST ENOUGH RAPPING:

 

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1)      Black Thought: As long as he’s been signed (15 years now), Thought hasn’t put in much work outside of Roots albums.  But holy crayons has he gotten busy!  Philly’s greatest MC of all time is too busy putting on outstanding shows night after night to record a Gangsta Grillz.  Except for Jim Jones-approved“swag,” the man has no flaws technically.  He’s the best off the head MC I’ve ever heard, the most consistent show man, and has constantly evolved from a freewheeling jazz-hop maestro, to a dreaded Neo Soul purveyor, to a gritty voice of reason who truly has mastered his craft.  “75 Bars” might end up as the rawest hip hop song of ’08 and it’s not even the best verse of his career.

2)      Aesop Rock:  For a guy who consistently put out product since the late 90s, Aesop hasn’t ran out of ideas like Slug nor completely unraveled like Vast Aire.  Still the biggest star on Def Jux, Ace Rizzle has managed to be prolific and intriguing, potent and challenging, weird and motherfucking weird.  He’s managed to excel as a producer, a live performer, and recluse while gaining more popularity with each release long after the indie boom of the late 90s fizzled out and hipsters stopped wearing Def Jux trucker hats and started worshipping the Re-Up Gang.  Think about this: a guy who raps mainly about hamster wheels, lost barnacles, boys with lobster hands, and broken blue notes managed to take over MTV2/MTVU/MTV.com for a week.

3)      Jadakiss:  Jada’s like a lights-out scorer off the bench—he’s only asked to do one thing really well.  Defense?  Full-length albums?  Not so much.  But his 20 off the bench every night translate into an incredible consistency of spitting monotone sixteen’s about the usual street shit.  And he never fails.  He does too many guest appearances, and yet he holds his own against scrubs and greats.  He’s clever and cool without spouting gimmicks or wearing nuthuggers.  Though his beat selection is questionable, he’s always managed to deliver on his end.  And that weird ass, raspy and squeaky “Ah-heh!” adlib he does is strangely heartwarming.

4)      Masta Ace:  Unlike most white people who love hip hop and frequent the internet, I don’t salute Masta Ace.  I think “One Hot Summer” is (gasp!) pretty boring.  I haven’t listened to “The Show.”  But I do acknowledge the appeal, influence, and relevance that Ace brings to the game year in and year out.  Of all the Juice Crew members, you’d have NEVER picked Ace to still be doing shows, dropping albums, and getting universal praise 20 years later over Kane, G Rap, Biz Mark, Craig G or MC Shan—that’s like picking Craig Hodges to beat MJ in a pick-up game.  He’s one of the few elder statesman who is never bitter nor preachy.  And he has never had a serious drop-off in concepts, skills, or presence.  Simple and plain, when Masta Ace raps, you listen.

5)      Phonte:  Somewhere between “Minstrel Show” and DJ Drama’s “Separate But Equal,” Phonte made what sports people like to call The Leap.  He was no longer one of the two fat guys in Little Brother nor the dude of the 9th Wonder/Nicolay beats.  Phonte got nice, son….like CRAZY nice.  Another MC who has never spit a throwaway sixteen, Phonte can be smooth, playful, fly or he can be intricate, cunning, stinging, and deliberate.  He scorched the “best rapper alive” on “The Get Back” as well as damn near anyone else who wants to straight spit amongst him.  He’s a rare MC who actually benefited from mixtapes in that he was free to go in and added that ammo to his already full arsenal.  Now if he can only work his mojo on Big Pooh and Joe Scudda…

Download:
MP3:  5 0′ Clock Shadowboxers-”No Resolution”
MP3:  5 0′ Clock Shadowboxers-”Weak Stomach”

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