The New Rap Language Vol.4: Senescence Edition

Camp Lo-“Another Heist” (prod. by Ski) Cormega-“Make It Clear” (prod. by DJ Premier) Redman ft. Ready Roc-“Cock Back” Royce Da 5’9″ ft. Joell Ortiz...
By    October 22, 2009


Camp Lo-“Another Heist” (prod. by Ski)

Cormega-“Make It Clear” (prod. by DJ Premier)

Redman ft. Ready Roc-“Cock Back”

Royce Da 5’9″ ft. Joell Ortiz & Bun B-“Hood Love” (prod. by DJ Premier)

Roughly half of the year’s 10 best hip-hop albums (UGK 4 Life, Born Like This, BlaQKout, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2, Blackout 2) have been made by rappers whose careers are approaching uncharted areas that Age of Exploration cartographers would’ve filled with sea serpents, dancing mermaids, and the occasional fabricated continent (word to Thule).For those with Muggsy Bogues memories, it’s a stark contrast to the days before Zshare, when rappers pushing 40 typically received Eskimo kiss-offs from their old labels or released largely unheard records on imprints owned by Joan Jett.

The mathematics make sense: when you factor in a graying but still substantial fanbase of people weaned on aging artists’ catalogues, an architecture of blogs equally ready to post on KRS-One or Wiz Khalifa, and iTunes’ ability to minimize or even eliminate manufacturing costs, it creates a much more ideal environment for both fans and veteran artists (who would’ve likely bricked regardless of web piracy).

It’s difficult to imagine checking for Camp Lo at 50, but then again, without the need to please the most fickle elements of their fan base, veteran rappers are free to make hard-core compromise-free rap for people raised on hard-core compromise free rap.  As Sasha Frere-Jones pointed out in his recent New Yorker piece, “the movement reminds me of metal and jazz, areas where artists work in a larger number of established subgenres that do small but consistent business with loyal audiences.”

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None of the songs above will ever compete with Drake for a spot on the radio, and whereas, even five years ago, these artists may have harbored a lingering discontent at their fading commercial prospects, they now seem content to channel why they started rhyming in the first place. Perhaps there’s a sense of diminishing returns. Royce and Primo will probably never make another “Boom.” Chiba, Suede, and Ski will never cook up another “Luchini.” And Redman, for his incredible resilience at mining new ways to rhyme about smoking guns and sour diesel, will never match Muddy Waters. But relieved of unfair comparisons to their old heights, the four tracks above boast a pleasure that extends beyond cheap nostalgia. Even if they break little new ground, these are good songs.

The full-lengths attached to these singles will never be confused with any of the artists’ apogees either, yet all have a half-dozen or more worthwhile moments. In particular, Camp Lo’s Another Heist, is their most consistently realized record since Uptown Saturday Night. Like the aforementioned great old-man records listed above, the Lo ignore any of the trends of the last decade and half. There are no token trap-rap songs, no auto-tune, no limp R&B collabos at the behest of the label. They stick to the basics, and in the process make you remember why they were our building blocks. In a year in which many of the vaunted freshman prospects have Kwame’d (both the polka dots and the Michael Jordan casualty), it’s nice to see the veterans fill the void. 2009: The Year of Matlock Rap.

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