Is Rap Dead? The New Yorker vs. Das Racist

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Jake
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Is Rap Dead? The New Yorker vs. Das Racist

Postby Jake » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:54 am

Sasha Frere-Jones wrote a thing in the New Yorker that was essentially a profile of an underground Gary, Indiana rapper, but he prefaced it with a bunch of stuff about how hip hop has reached its boring, complacent stage.

Victor Vazquez and Himanshu Suri from Das Racist respond on Flavorpill, and they make a lot of good points:

Concepts like “periods” and even “genre” are loose collections of tropes that have no inherent meaning but rather contextual meanings that are only useful to the extent to which they can help organize texts. The point at which they actually serve to define texts is when they can enter a lens of scrutiny so intense as to render them meaningless.

In the article, SFJ describes Jay-Z and Kanye’s new work and the work of Kid Cudi as “hip-hop by virtue of rapping more than sound,” describing the “sound” as mostly ”blues-based swing” (a term he also uses in A Paler Shade of White) as opposed to the “four-on-the-floor thump” or “European pulse, simpler and faster and more explicitly designed for clubs” that is “replacing” that swing. But even ignoring the fact that “rapping” is technically a “sound” (arguably the single defining “sound” of the genre, and even that is not entirely true, considering sing-rapping like Bone Thugz N’ Harmony et al.) and that music “explicitly designed for clubs” seems hardly antithetical to rap (or hip-hop or whatever you want to call it), what seems even more contradictory is that SFJ himself admits that rap is “a spinoff from New York City’s early disco culture” which is not only almost definitively about “four-on-the-floor thump” but itself shares roots with black American soul and funk.

And actual “swing” vs. “thump” argument aside, European dance music is nothing new to rap. In perhaps the most obvious example of this, Kraftwerk, the quintessential German techno band, has been sampled by everyone from Afrika Bambaataa to Jay-Z. Sampling has helped make rap’s “sound” not only diverse but literally referential in a way that serves to weaken the notion of genre as even a relevant question and make a lot of questions about origin and period seem fairly moot. All this is to say nothing of where Dancehall, Reggaeton, and Bhangra fit into all of this as other types of electronic music that are not European but that inform and are informed by “hip-hop” and further complicate its status as a genre. The more you look at the idea of genre as a collection of tropes, the less there seem to be any one single trope that holds sway over the rest.

[...] Rap (nor anything else) needs not necessarily be viewed in terms of origins or boundaries, births or deaths. Genre is a construction whose analytical use is primarily economic in nature. The study of genre is largely the study of marketing.


Interesting discussion.

Sugarcubes Forever
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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:54 pm

On The Media devoted their entire hour this past weekend to the Music Industry. One of the segments dealt with sampling and Hip Hop.

They talk about Public Enemy's lavish use of samples. Go back and listen to one of those late 80s PE albums and compare it to some of the new stuff coming out. Public Enemy used hundreds of samples on one album. New rap tunes might use only one or two samples per song.

The f'd up interpretation of fair use by the Courts in the 90s put a strangle hold on hip hop and sampling. Non of today's acts has the money to pay royalties for more than a few samples.

Listen to How To Kill a Radio Consultant . You can't find Hip Hop tracks like that anymore because it's illegal to sell it.

I would agree that Hip Hop is a shadow of what it used to be. It's mainstream now. It's a big business. But there's a lot to be said about how the law has impacted the sound of the tracks coming out these days for consumption on iTunes. It ain't what it used to be. Not necessarily because of a lack of creativity.

Public Enemy wouldn't be able to release Apocalypse 91 today.

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Postby D. Phillips » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:13 pm

Sugarcubes Forever wrote:On The Media devoted their entire hour this past weekend to the Music Industry. One of the segments dealt with sampling and Hip Hop.

They talk about Public Enemy's lavish use of samples. Go back and listen to one of those late 80s PE albums and compare it to some of the new stuff coming out. Public Enemy used hundreds of samples on one album. New rap tunes might use only one or two samples per song.

The f'd up interpretation of fair use by the Courts in the 90s put a strangle hold on hip hop and sampling. Non of today's acts has the money to pay royalties for more than a few samples.

Listen to How To Kill a Radio Consultant . You can't find Hip Hop tracks like that anymore because it's illegal to sell it.

I would agree that Hip Hop is a shadow of what it used to be. It's mainstream now. It's a big business. But there's a lot to be said about how the law has impacted the sound of the tracks coming out these days for consumption on iTunes. It ain't what it used to be. Not necessarily because of a lack of creativity.

Public Enemy wouldn't be able to release Apocalypse 91 today.


Did Jake pay you to post that? What's next, how St. Paul corrupted Christianity?

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Postby creepy » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:47 pm

Paul was a bitter old queen and everyone knows it.

As for rap and hip hop, I'm of the opinion that we're gonna look back on the last few years the same way we look at the early 90's. I think we're in hip hop's 2nd "golden age" . Latin, Caribbean, and British hip hop have come into their own, and American hip hop has become an omnivorous, mutating beast capable of absorbing any and all genres. The mainstream (Jay-Z, Kanye, etc.) is interesting for once, the underground (Aesop Rock, Doom, Madlib) is producing a new generation of obsessive crate diggers, and the middle ground (Ghostface, Murs, Nas) are holding shit down. SFJ needs to shut up and make me another Ui record.

Sugarcubes Forever
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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:11 pm

D. Phillips wrote:
Did Jake pay you to post that?


YOU can't HANDLE the truth!!

Jake
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Postby Jake » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:20 pm

Sugarcubes Forever wrote:Listen to How To Kill a Radio Consultant . You can't find Hip Hop tracks like that anymore because it's illegal to sell it.

Girl Talk. It's illegal but the kids don't pay for it anyway.

LionIndex
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Postby LionIndex » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:37 am

I subscribe to the New Yorker, and the only reason to read SFJ's articles is to be ever increasingly astounded at how such an absolute twit can write an article every other week for such an otherwise reputable magazine. He basically alternates articles like this one, where he's trying to make a provocative general argument but simplifies away all the (rather obvious and vital) evidence against it, with breathless paeans to whatever flash-in-the-pan pop star happened to be on MTV this morning. Thank god he never gets more than two pages, but I do wonder if his idiotic articles like this one, and the one bashing indie rock because it lacked African-American influence, result from some sort of pressure from the top for him to garner publicity for the New Yorker by manufacturing controversy. Or maybe he's doing that himself and trying to become a name in his own right. Whatever. Don't take anything he says seriously.

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Postby sab » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:13 pm

...hip-hop is no longer the avant-garde, or even the timekeeper, for pop music.


Duh.

Jake
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Postby Jake » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:39 pm

LionIndex wrote:Don't take anything he says seriously.

I like SFJ. Sometimes he's clearly being blatantly provocative, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think it's never a bad thing to get people thinking about, talking about, and defending music.

His generalizations might be sweeping and full of shit, but there's at least a little truth to it. As embarrassed as I am by his phrase "blues-based swing" (I prefer "funk") I'll personally admit I like what's left me cold about most contemporary, mainstreamish hip hop is the apparent lack of soul...

But I'll also admit I don't seek out much these days. I got the recent Mos Def and it's pretty great. So I'm very likely full of shit. All I know is we gotta have that funk.

LionIndex
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Postby LionIndex » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:55 pm

Jake wrote:I think it's never a bad thing to get people thinking about, talking about, and defending music.

Meh. That's like saying Sarah Palin is vital to get people talking about politics. I'd rather she just went away like she promised.
Jake wrote:His generalizations might be sweeping and full of shit, but there's at least a little truth to it.

I agree that the general direction he starts off in is usually correct (like with this article), but the reasons he gives for whatever he's arguing are completely ridiculous. The indie rock article really pissed me off: so, he doesn't dig it so much. That's fine. But then going and saying there's something inherently wrong with it because it seems to lack a blues influence? Half the punk movement was specifically about removing the blues element from rock because that's what led to the wanky solos! But of course, SFJ doesn't mention that. And then there was all the African-American influence that he was just oblivious to anyway, and the Arcade Fire called him out on it.


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