Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh no! Not the Mighty Mos!

Warning: this post is way too long and swears a lot.

Crap. One of my all-time favorites must now be written off as DTM- Dead To Me (tm).... Er, Maybe just his current shitty album, not previous ones as I hold Blackstar too close to my heart. I'm confused and hurt right now, but as a tried and true Hip-Hop fan and musician, it causes great pain for me to utter the following words:

HIP-HOP IS DEAD. As a mainstream phenomena that is. Or at least it's coughing and wheezing it's way back to obscurity, where it belongs and I mean belongs in a good way. Let me explain myself:

Mos Def, Common and Talib were great partly because they weren't Lil' John or 50 cent. There was something exciting about them when they had the urgency and vibrancy (read: chips on their shoulders) of youth. Rhymes about the difficulties of life rang honest, even if I knew they were mostly framed by bullshit. They were speaking of their experience. Now they are not speaking of their experience, because rhymes about the sparkling new estate in the Hamptons only work for people like Snoop Dogg, who, in fairness, has been mining that territory since the beginning.

Hip-Hop is and always has had a large dose of fraud mixed in with its sincerity. Open mindedness was always the catchphrase, but the message is undercut by the clarity with which Hip-Hop discriminates. There are no female MC's or DJ's worth talking about. Many are patently antisemitic, as Mos Def himself expresses on The New Danger- "The tall white Jew is running this rap shit". They generally deride homosexuals, as Common states in Like Water for Chocolate- "In the circles of faggots, your name is mentioned". And of course, they deride their main audience, white people (too many references to mention).

All of this doesn't necessarily make their art moot, as it is the raw expression and flow of words over bad ass beats that can be downright moving, not necessarily the message. It just gets a bit tiresome when you realise that these millionaires think they're being "oppressed".

So, on the bright side, maybe it'll continue as it truly should, as an under-the-radar idiom free to be what it wants, like Jazz is now; no longer selling millions of albums, but with fine musicians kicking out some fine material, with much of jazz being more free and important than ever.

So with any luck, Hip-Hop will not end, it will simply evolve past its cro magnon beginnings, recess back to the shadows where it belongs and become brilliant again.

Update: Mos Def's screed is strangely reminiscent of this Chapelle piece on jury duty.

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