HawkbitAlpha Posted January 18, 2022 Share Posted January 18, 2022 I've made no secret about the fact that, over the last couple of years, my feelings on music and other media have been taking some unexpected turns. I've even become more sympathetic to a bit of pop music over the last few months, if this was any indication. Well, even after all of that, at the ripe old age of... [checks notes] ...22, I still can't find my way into enjoying rap music by and large. Now, let's clear some things up first... I'm a guy from very white rural Louisiana who grew up listening to rock and old-school country, and has been vibing to Van Halen and 80s thrash Metallica since he was 9 thanks to his dad. Given that background, you might expect me to come at this subject with some stock boomer complaints like "iT's NoT rEaL mUsIc!", "rApPeRs ArE tALeNtLeSs", "iT gLoRiFiEs viOLeNcE aNd SeX", or some shit like that. Well, this isn't going to be one of those threads. Instead, I'm about to lay out my own really big problem with a lot of rap music, and I want any of you with the patience to read the whole thing to let me know what you think in response. Hell, maybe by the end of this whole thing, you'll have made a convert out of me yet. But, onwards! I have a fairly big collection of music today (>3,300 songs) that, while the majority of it is rock, also includes quite a big share of other genres like electronica, funk, soul/R&B, country, folk, jazz/fusion, even a bit of pop, and more. (I'm actually listening to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music while writing this.) Through all of this content, I can find something in every single track that keeps me engaged, be it the funk-heavy bite of Living Colour, the adrenaline-pumping ferocity of Tremonti and early Metallica, the rich chromatic sounds of Gino Vannelli and Dream Theater, the emotional soul depths of Etta James (or Beyonce?) and Sturgill Simpson, the nostalgia-inducing minimalism of Jan Johansson and Boards of Canada... okay, this list has gone on long enough. Point being, there's something about all of these that I can enjoy, and I believe the really big common factor is that all of them are "musical" in some way, in the sense of having notes, chords, melodies, etc. This is the really fundamental thing that keeps me from getting into a lot of rap. It's a form of music where the tonal element is almost entirely stripped out in favor of focusing on the vocals, which also don't have much tonality to them. Now, that on its own isn't a total deal-breaker for me (as you'll see below). The problem is that this tradeoff of music for pure lyrics means that, in order for it to work for me, the lyrics have to be great... and as far as almost every bit of rap music I've heard from the last 15 years or so goes, it doesn't meet that standard. As I said before, I hate to harp on this theme, but in the year of our Lord 2022, we need another rap song about violence, sex, materialism, and so on about as much as we need another country song about beer, scarecrows girls, and trucks. Both of them should be legally considered a type of grain. Now, I could probably cook up some sociological hypothesis for why this kind of rap music is what makes the biggest hits (in a nutshell: its core audience is a population for whom, much like the music, the process of getting anywhere has generally been slow as well - EDIT: okay, that was poorly worded), but that doesn't mean I would start liking it regardless. Well, after all of that, this is the part where I throw a curveball and bring up the fact that I actually have a bit of rap in my collection too. Along with a select few songs I particularly like, I've also got two albums, both of which I want to talk about: Madvillainy and Biggie's Ready to Die. Let's do the second one first. Ready to Die has all of the rap tropes I disparaged before in spades, but a few things that make it still worth listening to in my opinion. One, there's still a good element of production behind it, making it easier to listen and not fall asleep like I usually would (I also especially like that one of the songs is built off a sample from one that was in GTA SA). Second, much like the song Gangsta's Paradise, it's great for historical value, as a way of getting a clear, brutally honest look into the state of the supposedly-prosperous "Roaring 90s", and seeing the consequences of the previous decade - over-militarization of police, Reaganomics, the oppression of the American underclass - in full detail. Third, it's a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical loose concept album, meaning there's something to the entire album to get your attention and keep it. Madvillainy, on the other hand, is something straight out of what I imagine could've only been a very stoned meeting between rapper and DJ. Whereas Ready to Die is an album I can only really listen to all at once, Madvillainy has everything that I've looked for in a rap work, with strong (if off-the-wall) production/sampling and aesthetic, MF DOOM's supervillain persona making for an interesting narrator, and tight lyrical work all coming together to make an album whose individual tracks I go out of my way to replay all the time. It took quite the oddball effort, but the two madlads managed to pull it off! I also have to give another honorable mention to my favorite rap song outside of these two albums: Scared of the Dark, which avoids some of the pitfalls I've discussed above by (other than X's clearly shoehorned posthumous verses) combining some solid, pretty emotional lyrics with a memorable sung chorus, not unlike the aforementioned Gangsta's Paradise (which, fun fact, also samples a Stevie Wonder song in my collection). Just take the unnecessary autotune off of Lil Wayne is all. So, after all of that, you should know what clicks with my boomer-heavy music brain. I'd like to think that rap isn't a genre that I'm totally hostile to, and at worst, most of it just makes me feel... well, bored. Like I wanna yawn hard. With all of that said, what would you suggest I try listening to next, if anything? Or am I just not a guy who has enough of an acquired taste for this kind of thing? You decide! 1 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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