I have a stilted piece at Pop & Hiss about Black Hippy and the unsung merits of ditching a solo career in favor of the group. For those who typically associate black hippies with Hendrix, I’m referring to the new kinda’ sorta’ supergroup compromised of Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Schoolboy Q–four LA rappers who have spent the last several years bouncing around the blog/mixtape circuit.
If those names sound unfamiliar, it’s probably because you aren’t ardently invested in the state of Los Angeles underground rap and thus, don’t squander crucial hours of life downloading everything from 2 Dope Boyz. Wise. Jay Rock is the most famous of the bunch. He’s got one of those permanently shelved deals at Warner Bros, where every Thanksgiving, one of their publicists will try to get me to go Watts to watch him pass out turkeys, but they won’t mention him the other 364 days of the year. He’s a quintessential “pretty good” rapper. Strong voice, strong flow, occasionally affecting themes but he doesn’t do anything great. These days that will get you on the XXL Top 10 Freshman.
I’ve ridden for Kendrick Lamar (with slight reservations) since he went by the name K. Dot. His last mixtape, the Kendrick Lamar EP was pretty good too — it would’ve been better if he had actually lived up to his word and released the five or six best songs. As for Schoolboy and Ab-Soul, I’d previously chalked them up to being Top Dawg Entertainment role players, which is to say, I hadn’t listened to them beyond the occasional posse cut. Amounted together, they’re four guys who would’ve formed a quartet a generation ago and released 20-25 very good songs scattered over two albums. And at least, one of them would’ve released a solo album that would’ve got 3.5 Mics in the Source and would’ve been hailed in 2009 as a lost classic by obscure rap fetishists.
Black Hippy is the first thing of theirs that I can fully endorse. The ego-driven, cash-grab ethos of contemporary hip-hop devalues being in a group. After all, you can’t be “the man” if there are three other men. But more rappers (and not just old ones doing vanity projects after their creative apogee) ought to subdue their craving for fame and consolidate forces. What separates “Zip That Chop That” from other semi-super groups like Slaughterhouse is that they seem to understand the importance of chemistry. It’s not supposed to be four rappers spitting hot 16’s. It’s about transforming into an entirely different entity altogether.
On their unofficial first single, the members of Black Hippy reveal their personalities far more than they have solo, and in far fewer words. They trade off bars, they have fun, they’re rapping to rap, not necessarily to impress. Being a good rapper doesn’t necessarily make you a good artist (see Termanology). Often times, talented MC’s try so hard to stand out from the Nah Right rabble, they just seem dull or belabored. Rap’s been around for 35 years–there’s only so much new that you can do. Which is why sometimes, it’s best to channel an old mentality to yield fresh results. Even though there’s nothing hippy about any of these dudes except for the amount of weed they smoke, it’s nice to hear them sound liberated. –Weiss