“On the Importance of Reference and Knowledge in ‘Emcee Skill’”

As you might have noticed, the functioning of this site is based almost solely on my opinion of whether a given recording of music is good or not. Now, you might say, this is sort of a shallow, banal mission statement for an entire website to have (although obviously there have been others). And to an extent, you’d be right, especially obviously in this age of post-truth and post-clothing.

It’s especially true seeing as there have been various and fairly ubiquitous and grounded discussions as to whether “Is Hip-Hop dead,” hip-hop of course being about the most crude and confrontational genre of music imaginable to the human mind (which is to say the most “futuristic,” approximately). One thing I’ve noticed, though, about the most vital rappers of this decade, is that they’re almost like walking allusion machines, Drake with his “I’m the Osiris of this sh** right now” nodding to one of Wu-Tang’s biggest hits “Triumph” and Kendrick Lamar all over King Kunta, citing everything from Parliament Funkadelic to Michael Jackson to the movie Scarface (“singin’ life ain’t sh** but a fat vagina”).

I’m listened to some J. Cole but not too much. The reason why I once called him a Drake ripoff on Facebook to a torrent of comment resistance (none of which was by black people, mind you), is that like Drake he seems content to simply tell earnest stories about his real life, with basically no slang involved (slang a key part of Wu-Tang’s and A Tribe Called Quest’s headiest moments), and also no reference to the hip-hop greats of old, as if he doesn’t feel indebted to them, he doesn’t feel the “soul” of them within him, so to speak. But I think the fact that Drake and Lamar do so copiously give shoutouts to the yesteryear legends is especially a feather in their cap seeing as if we were to pin down an “hip-hop heyday,” we’d be more likely to point to the early ’90s than to our current period.


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