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“Let the Hated Feel Blessed: Tracking Hip-Hop’s Functional Arc in Society”

* “He do it for the smelly hubbies / Seeds know what time it is like it’s time for Teletubbies” -MF Doom
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MF Doom’s a funny guy, and for some reason, he’s not all that hated. I knew a guy, though, one time, who hated The Roots. It’s highly possible that this is because they hone in on a certain substantial rudiment of coolness of which this guy is deprived.
It certainly makes less logical sense to hate The Roots than it does to hate MF Doom, seeing as The Roots are a band of musicians capable of great instrumental overtures like “Water,” whereas MF Doom is just a guy rapping into a mic about brew and honies. Puzzling, to say the least.
Ted Leo once sang that “In the midst of all of the action / We’ll maybe only there find satisfaction.” This likely wields a special proverbial magnifying glass upon the mind of the successful emcee. Eminem’s bezerk spazz-out “The Way I Am” aside, you do get other rappers as well saying that the “salty looks,” as Kanye would disclose, help give their art a certain power, and specifically the one I’m thinking of is Black Milk on Tronic‘s inimitable “Overdose.”
Anyway, recently, I listened to these three albums and one more all in a row, the four, in order, being MM..Food, Tronic, R.A.P. Music (by Killer Mike), and Phrenology. The sequence had a certain artistic flow from ruggedness into pure musicianship.
And true to Atlanta form, Killer Mike addresses religion. Varying from Big Boi, though, who would “Go to church on Sunday with great grandma and granddad” and assure us that “If I ever went astray then got would get me back on track,” Killer Mike is very frank that, for him, it’s pretty much just rap music, which isn’t even so much cool, just real.
Record sales are way down for rap albums. I’m not sure how good you have to be to move units anymore, but actually I’m a hypocrite, because I ripped R.A.P. Music from the library, and I remember some guy on a Raekwon album or something saying “Good rappers ain’t eatin’ / They Olson twinnin’.”
Basically, we’re in a time when rappers who aren’t angry are rappers who aren’t true. It’s a mind-bogglingly and ruthlessly formidable economic landscape that black musical visionaries face who are from the ghetto and want to make an original statement. I’m not sure, but I imagine putting together an album takes time, a hell of a lot more time than blogging, and I must say “Jamie and Mike” nailed the production.
Lord Jamar presides over a great scene in Ice-T’s documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap that dictates the story of jazz having come to form as a creation and donation entirely of urban blacks, and then biting the dust, simply for lack of instrument availability in the declining economical times of 1970’s in schools. Sometimes I think public schools need their own political party. Anyway, you can see, it wasn’t snide, reticent consumers in LA or Montana who killed jazz, it was the criminal political negligence of a couple key schools in Harlem or Queens. Lord Jamar goes on to indicate that, with no musical instruments to play, “We took the one thing in the house that was makin’ music, the record player, and turned that into an instrument.”
Obviously, hip-hop eventually got so powerful that a force from outside stepped in and committed violence, to cut it down. One good thing is, the Tupac and B.I.G. incidents prompted an indelibly precocious Canadian emcee named K-OS, within his breathtaking LP Joyful Rebellion, to pen a warning call known as “Emcee Murder,” in whose introduction he issues a cautionary cry to would-be Earth-bound aliens: “Don’t even get caught up with these humans, they’re crazy… They’ll just wanna give you a record deal, and then you end up dead, it’s like body snatchers.” And finally, this is where we’re at now: with Joyful Rebellion as the best smoked-out paranoid chill-fest known to man, provided your surroundings allow you to chill.

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