From Sky: Week Seven Response

There are a lot of tracks, hell, there are a lot of things that I am aware of, but never took the time to actually check out. “The Message” is one of those things.

So three years has passed since “Rapper’s Delight”. Party tracks dominate hip hop. As you wrote in your reply regarding DJ Kool Herc–he commercialized the block party. He took the party from the clubs and brought it to the streets. Well, this is where “The Message” takes place.

That first verse is so full of imagery. It’s so vivid. Already from the first verse we see that the black party had gone, and now reality is setting in–“Broken glass everywhere / People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care / I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise”. This is that evolution you speak of. I imagine this not only as a stereotypical picture of shitty NYC project, but rather as the literal end of the block party. The broken glass from the broken beer bottles from partygoers. People pissing wherever because they’re too drunk to care. The smell is common at this point. Think of the bar, EXIT in Hongdae. Smells like shit, but it’s the noise of the party that would drive you crazy. This is were the verse shifts to more of a residential verse–talking about the living conditions of New York. Now, I’m sure you could apply this to a commentary onto all of society, but I don’t particularly care to do that. Being from a small town, having always grown up with so few people, I don’t think a lot of the equation between big city society necessarily fits with all of society. I could write a bunch on this, but I’ll spare you.

Melle Mel

Although I feel there was some elements of conscious rap in “Rapper’s Delight”, but nothing to the level of Melle Mel in “The Message”. I think now, today, about the top conscious rappers today, Talib Kweli, Lupe, Kendrick, obviously Grandmaster Flash pioneered the way for these rappers. When it comes to poetry, this is what makes Melle Mel’s words more poetic than that of say, the guys from Sugar Hill Gang–consciousness. He’s rapping about reality. He’s rapping about life. Again, I’m not saying that there wasn’t some of this in “Rapper’s Delight”, but nothing to the extent to that of that last verse.

“A child is born with no state of mind / Blind to the ways of mankind / God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too / Because only God knows what you’ll go through”. It’s this idea that we’re all born the same, but that it’s where we’re born into that can dominate and control our lives. This is that urban element. Of course the “jungle” referred to in the hook is that of the concrete jungle. Which can be also seen as irony, as slaves were often taken from the jungles of Africa and brought to the United States. Yet, the jungle they now find themselves in, after all these years, is one much more dangerous than the one they were taken from.

The ending to “The Message” is really, almost sickening. “Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag [a prison fuckee] / Spend the next two years as a undercover fag / Bein’ used and abused to serve like hell / Til one day, you was found hung dead in the cell”. To be so blunt, to be so candid and real, after all, this is the reality of prison, really shows that the vessel that is hip hop can be used for more than just the party. There is nothing glamourous or ritzy about “The Message”. That’s probably the point, that once the block party is over, everyone must go back to their realities and be forced to live their lives. Each verse in “The Message” really illustrates these different perspectives of the hard-knock life.

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From ‘Cole: Week Seven Response

A formidable pick for music Monday Sky. This one is interesting because J Cole is all over the critics’ radar, but, like you, I didn’t really mess with him too much. I do like “Crooked Smile,” and looking at that song and spirit of this track, I can clearly see why he’s chosen as Nas’ successor. I think it’s mainly because they’re both in the realm of conscious rap (although I think J Cole is more along the lines of Common than Nas–something about the lack of street cred. He has a much softer touch.)

But, again. Every popular song has a part of the zeitgeist.

This one, I’m interested in because of form/origin. The mythos is just as important as the track itself here. J Cole got word that Nas disliked his hit single–and this song was born. Then after hearing this, Nas remixes the track and everyone lives happily ever after.

Nas & J. Cole

The call and response format is nothing new–diss tracks make use of this all the time. We see more of those, however. This ones special because it’s like the opposite of the diss track. It’s like submission to his idol, like he’s repenting for the bad job he’s done by creating something great. It’s a sign of how much respect he has for his hero. And THEN even better than getting a personal phone call from Nas, better than a hand-written apology, a remix was born. It’s exactly what (I think) art should be–an expression, a response to stimuli, whether good or bad. Disappointment and pride–it’s all very inspiring.

I can’t help but feel that Nas addresses this in his remix: he had his share of criticism from those he looked up to, and he had to deal with it in his way. He knows that his job as one of “the idols” is to push him, to never let him plateau. Nas made his comment knowing that J Cole would probably take it to heart. I mean, it’s no coincidence that No ID told Cole about what he said–there had to be intent there.

To think that the idol can not only be the impetus for art, but also create a response that also becomes art is just awe-inspiring.

Still don’t like J Cole too much, but I can respect him more for what he’s trying to do. And maybe that’s what Nas was going for–like a PSA for an up and coming rapper. Very interesting.

From ‘Cole: Week Seven – The Medium is the Message

I know, I know, I’m taking it back really old-school here, but my desire is always to inform and educate.

You should be aware of this song, but I know you may not have examined it closely. I just want you to examine the urban elements of the song. There is a distinct evolution from what we saw last week.

And a bonus:

On my blog I always make the argument that what I examine isn’t about music, it’s about poetry. How is what Grandmaster Flash doing considered
poetry?

sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under

From Sky: Week Seven – Let Down Week

Hopefully this week will be anything but a Let Down week.

This album came out last year. I didn’t fuck with it much. I still don’t fuck with much of it. Never really saw this kid as “the chosen one”. I do, however, fuck with this.

If you do a little googling you’ll find a pretty dope remix. 😉

I’m still drafting a response to your Danny Brown write up. You’ll get it soon.

Don’t let me, nor Nas, down on this one.