By: Know Alibi
Post Date: June 2010
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and have decided to express for a number of reasons (none of which I will bore you with).
But as a fan of Hip Hop and Music in general and also as an artist, I have been thinking about the low point we have hit (disagree if you want but music sucks save for a few songs here and there that give you just enough hope to crush your heart repeatedly) and wondering how we got here, and where do I fit in as a fan of something that is virtually non-existent? (The artist portion of my feelings is a whole other subject I’m still battling with, we’ll save that for another time.)
Reflecting on where we are currently, it is very convenient and justifiable to hold the industry responsible (as well as the capitalist system) for the decline in the quality of music. But I take that as a given, the nature of the beast remains the same. What seems more curious to me is the role of what I’ve been calling post modernism (not sure if its the correct term or not) or post modern culture, and the impact it has had on fans and the younger generation as a whole.
What I mean by post modern is the idea that “everything is everything” (hence the title of this note). Your music is my music, my music is your music, anything goes. A friend of mine, first brought this to my attention when he made the statement that the Black Eyed Peas are ruining music. He says this is so because they have managed to take all the popular genres of music and mix them into one watered down sound of nothing (eg. Techno/dance, hip hop, pop, and r&b). He believes soon, and very soon, all music will sound the same. While I personally can’t stand the BEP’s and find my contempt for will.I.am growing daily, I thought hehad a very good point (plus who wouldn’t love to hold them responsible for the death of music as we knew it?) Music could very well be headed in that direction.
Indeed, everything is everything. As I look around the hip hop landscape, some of the artist who once represented all things hip hop, I find more and more of them crossing over into this nebulous zone of watery nothingness. The most recent artist I can think of is Mos Def. His new album has been critically acclaimed and I can’t figure out what I’m missing. Call me old fashioned but I thought a hip hop album should include some hip hop. I mean, he doesn’t even rap on half the songs! Granted I didn’t really care for the New Danger, but I was able to dig some of the songs, and I think Modern Marvel is brilliant! I don’t really want to count the Black Magik album (or whatever it was called) because according to him it shouldn’t have been released, and quite frankly, the majority of the songs don’t sound finished. But I bought the Ecstatic anyway. Why? I have no clue. Hadn’t heard a song (other than History which I had owned for quite a while). But I thought why not, how disappointed could I be? It’s gotta have a couple of joints I can vibe with, right? Wrong! Even with the bar set very low, I really didn’t find the album listenable. I played it back to back twice (gotta give it a fair chance) and gave it to a friend who asked about it. I told him he could keep it. (He listened once and is presumably using it as coaster)
My point is not to diss Mos, its more so that I feel he is the latest example of an artist feeling as if everything is everything. There’s is nothing wrong with being eclectic (I fux with Andre 3K) but good music is good music. This was not. If anyone wants to try to convince me otherwise I’m all ears. You can’t just decide to throw punk, rock, hip hop, r&b, and latin music all in a blender and come out with a solid album! You haven’t even released a solid Hip Hop album in years, now I’m supposed to listen to you rap on a salsa track?! WTF!
I digress. Within this whole post mod thing, I think people are getting way to carried away with crossing over into other peoples cultures. This isn’t a bigoted, separatist statement. What I mean is Latino folks got they own thing going on. I might get my salsa on and partake in some arroz con pollo and a Cuba Libre but that’s about it. I respect the culture enough to know my role. I don’t lay claim to be a part of their heritage and I appreciate it so I wouldn’t try to hijack or co-opt any of their traditions. Everything is not everything. Some things should be respected as such. Culture is a very important thing, and music is an important part of culture.
What I am seeing is all of these cultures having an influence on one another, but in a very superficial way. There is no substance behind the influence, no history behind the influence, and some of the influence isn’t even natural. And believe me I understand the root of all of these genres is African in origin, but many of us are so far removed from the root we’re like broken branches. You can’t take some leaves from here, some branches from there, some bark and some roots from some other place and call it a tree.
So here are my questions: do you just accept this as a part of change, even if it’s whack? I’m I just getting old and unwilling to embrace this new direction? Do you feel this new direction is a good thing? How so? What happens when people stop embracing the values that created something? Is everything indeed everything?