There’s nothing that annoys me more than Hip-Hop heads who do nothing but complain. Don’t get me wrong, in a rap world that considers Eminem and Kanye to have released the best albums of 2010, Drake to be the saviour of lyricism and Lil’ Wayne to be one of the greatest emcees of all-time, there is much to disagree with as an OG Hip-Hop junkie who grew-up during rap’s formative stages and the fabled late-80s / early-90s Golden Era. So don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying I’m a massive fan of many of today’s so-called ‘hot’ artists. But what I am saying is that, as a fan of true-school Hip-Hop, there is still plenty of good music out there to be found and, like your favourite back-in the-day classics, cherished enough to be enjoyed again and again throughout the years.
So it frustrates me when I read various internet forums and see supposed supporters of the culture bragging about the fact that they only purchased one album last year, as if there was absolutely nothing of merit released. Or stating that their iPod play-lists only consist of the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Main Source and Gang Starr, as if admitting publicly that they only listen to music from the Golden Era somehow makes them a more dedicated fan than those who still actively seek out new music from the vast amount of acts still releasing quality product today.
If, as a longstanding fan of Hip-Hop, you don’t take the time to search out new music from those artists who’re still doing their part to maintain some sort of balance within the culture, then really you’re in no position to criticise those who simply support what they’re force-fed by the mainstream. It’s basically two sides of the same coin as, either way, those underground artists who deserve support are being ignored. And whilst teenage girls singing along to Eminem / Rihanna collaborations don’t know any better, so realistically can’t be expected to be checking out the likes of Eternia, Murs or John Robinson overnight, fans who complain the music isn’t what it used to be do know better, so really have no excuse for not taking the time to find what’s out there that suits their tastes.
Last year alone there were strong albums from the likes of Vinnie Paz, The Roots, Roc Marciano, Moe Pope, Blacastan, Celph-Titled & Buckwild, El Da Sensei, DJ Muggs & Ill Bill etc – plenty of satisfying beats and rhymes to blast in your headphones. So there was no shortage of good music that was commercially available – and I defy any self-respecting “true head” to listen to those albums (and others) and not find something that appeals to them.
Sometimes I wonder if the reason why many old-school rap fans are unwilling to admit there’s still good music being released today (and are quick to dismiss artists they may actually like) is due in part to nostalgia. Early releases from the likes of Run DMC, BDP and De La Soul were not only genre-defining classics that helped shape Hip-Hop, but they’re also albums many of us grew-up with that have memories of times, places and people attached to them.
Listening to Ultramagnetic MCs’ 1988 sure-shot “Critical Beatdown” not only allows you to once again hear one of the greatest debut albums in rap history, it also enables you to walk down memory lane, revisit your youth and reconnect with a simpler time when you didn’t have to worry about being late for work, paying a mortgage and keeping on top of those credit card bills. Whereas checking out Fashawn’s “Boy Meets World” or Hell Razah’s “Heaven Razah”, however dope, will just never completely satisfy those listeners for whom revisiting old-school favourites is not only an opportunity to enjoy some timeless music, but is also a way to literally travel back in time and escape, albeit temporarily, from the here and now.
True, the years of 1988 and 1994 will never be recreated, and granted, the rap game has changed almost beyond comprehension when compared to back-in-the-day, but if your passion for the golden age of Hip-Hop is preventing you from appreciating music of today that is still attempting to uphold the artistic values of that amazing time, then you really are missing out.
So stop complaining so much and perhaps start listening a little more – you might be surprised by what you hear.