Let me take a deep breath before I say this…
I may be getting OLD! The dreaded “o” word. This epiphany happened on my 12 hour solo drive home from Florida on Saturday with the company of three teenagers and came in the form of one of life’s greatest pleasures-music.
There is ALWAYS music on when I am around. I love how there is a song to fit any mood, circumstance or situation you may find yourself in. I have playlists for days and my iTunes houses some of the most eclectic ranges of genres you could imagine. Need some indie rock? Some punk? Got you covered. A little 90’s R&B? Checkmate! There are even a few country tunes scattered in there every now and then (none of that “my dog got run over and my truck won’t start kind of shit though). People marvel with excitment over what they will hear when they get in my car on any given day. You may be all “check yo self before you wreck yo self” with Ice Cube one minute and trying to decipher the meaning of Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron and Wine the next.
So, we have established that I am open-minded and love all things music, right?
Let me set the scene for you. I am captain of a ship (ok my friend Amy’s car-but nautical talk is just far cooler sounding) with no bluetooth for this seemingly endless drive from the Gulf palms back to the land of the pine. Luckily, Amy purchased an aux cable so you can just plug your phone into the headphone jack. Problem solved.
For better than SIX hours, I allowed my passengers to commandeer the aux cable of power. I am still unsure if that was stupidity or just curosity at play but I went with it nonetheless. One thing became glaringly obvious pretty quickly-I am increasingly unimpressed with the state of current hip hop/rap music. And when I say unimpressed, I mean I had to keep checking my ears to ensure there wasn’t blood trickling out of them from the absurdity they were being exposed to.
FINALLY the girls fell asleep so I snatched the coveted cable to plug my phone in when I realized that I have an iPhone 7 Plus…which doesn’t have a headphone jack unless you have that adorable little adaptor (which was safely snuggled in NC-6 hours away). WTH?? Are you kidding me, iPhone? Why did you have to go and be an asshole about it like that? I made a special roadtrip playlist for the trip home and now I couldn’t even listen to it. And so the ear bleeds continued…
Let me preface this by saying that I have been a fan of rap since I smuggled a cassette tape of The Predator by Ice Cube into my house at the tender age of 13. (Side note-nothing makes you feel older than a 14 year old telling you they dont even know what a cassette tape IS. Too bad they missed the joys of sticking a pencil in one of the holes to wind it back in when the rat bastard tape snagged on something and billowed out of the casing like a streamer…remember that fun??)
Ahhh memories of the tumultuous teen years. I didn’t even know what an A.K. was but I sure as hell knew that Cube didn’t have to use it that day and that made him happy. I sang it like I meant every verse as much as he did when he wrote it.
The joy of being young, sheltered and naieve.
I didn’t know how lucky I was in some ways. Despite the sometimes significant differences in upbringing and culture, I always felt like rap music was full of raw emotion-and lyricism. Rappers like Ice Cube, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, Tupac, Biggie and Common were clever, full of heart…real.
Juicy remains one of my all-time favorite songs because it’s a celebration of success and rising above. It’s a rags to riches/phoenix from the ashes story to rival Cinderalla-and it doesn’t come across as gloating…only hard work paying off. And let’s be honest-it has a beat you can’t NOT love on top of lyrics that flow like butter played toast.
Herein lies the “old” realization…
To me, most (not all but most) of the mainstream rap in the last few years lacks one critical component-lyricism. Storytelling seems to be dead and has been replaced by a focus on a catchy beat and nothing more. Whyyyy? Pressure from record companies? Greed? Lowered expecations from audiences? Whatever the driving force, it feels like all of the songs are just rehashed versions of each other-no real creativity involved. No story to follow. No tale to tell.
Weave me a tale damnit!
I am fairly sure a four year old could compose better lyrics than much of what I hear on mainstream today. It’s an insta hit if you have a catchy hook that is repeated at least 50 times. An all time low was hearing Drake (who I don’t ALWAYS hate), rapping the line, “Got so many chains they call me chaining Tatum”. That sounds far more like one of my dad’s corny jokes (and let me tell you-he has an endless supply of them so I would know) than a rap lyric.
I lit’rally cringed when I heard it for the first time.
I am willing to admit that like everyone else, there are always those simple, mindless songs you love to dance to or blast in your car when you don’t want to think for a few minutes…so there is a time and place for those-I just hate that most people only hear what’s on the radio and miss out on so many better artists/albums.
It’s not all garbage, kids! You just gotta look further than mainstream money makers. I truly hope that popular music shifts again soon and the lyricists return to the limelight as they are why I love music.
Maybe I am not old at all…but simply wiser on how to find the good stuff?? I often find it exhausting to listen to mainstream of ANY genre…it just seems that rap has gotten the worst of it.
So there you have it, folks. More savvy…not old. :)~