January 31, 2007

There is NOTHING wrong with Hip-Hop

Let me repeat that:

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH HIP-HOP.

Now, I'm sure there are many of you, particularly fans of hip-hop, who might take issue with that statement. So many folks from my generation, who came of age in the era of the Native Tongues and Digable Planets and Brand Nubians and Boogie Down Productions, have, quite frankly, been crying for over a decade about how bad hip-hop has gotten. About how it's so much more misogynist and violent and materialistic.

And, yet, we all seem to forget that, at the same time we were grooving to Guru's "Jazzmatazz", someone just down the domitory hall was jamming to Apache's "Gangsta Bitch", or AMG's "Bitch Betta Have My Money", or Digital Underground's "Freaks of the Industry", or Paris's "Bush Killa", or Ice Cube's "No Vaseline".

Like with most things we fondly remember from our youth, our memory is quite selective. For every X-Clan, there was a Poison Clan, even back during the glory days of conscious hip-hop.

What's the difference between then and now?

It's the same thing that happened to that little song "Cadillac Car" in the movie "Dreamgirls" - somebody figured they could make money if they took a little piece of what the original artists had done and repackaged it. Or, as my man Lil' Louis said back in the day:
"They used to laugh at me. But I saw the future. Record company recession. Dancehall boredom. And copy machines spit out song after song."


As with anything popular in the pop culture, there's a gold rush, and tons of knock offs are generated.

What's happened is that the hip-hop fans have forgotten what real hip-hop looks like, and so they get angry when corporate pop, dressed up to look like hip-hop, seems to dominate the airwaves.

And, because they've forgotten, they don't realize that the real hip-hop has never gone anywhere.

The conscience of hip-hop that lived among the Native Tongue click got all Five Percent and took a left turn into Shaolin Island during the mid '90's before it was reincarnated in a version of its original form at the turn of the century as Rawkus Records. And, now that Rawkus has gone the way of the do-do, the new epicenter of thoughful, collaborative, innovative hip-hop is, oddly enough, not far from my old neighborhood of Los Feliz right here in the City of Angels.

I'm speaking, of course, of Stones Throw Records.

Stones Throw kind of came in under the radar for me a few years ago when my buddy, who's a bit of a hip-hop evangelist, slid me a few albums by Yesterday's New Quintet, one of many aliases from the artist known as Madlib. They've been gradually creeping up on me, until the last 2 months where I had a virtual Stones Throw explosion.

Not only is Stones Throw the home for Madlib and other blazingly good artists like MF Doom and Peanut Butter Wolf,

Not only do they also have a sub-label called Now-Again Records which specializes in unearthing and re-releasing classic local funk, soul, and R&B music from the 60's and '70's,

Not only are they coming up with some of the most creative musical collaborations, like they're growing relationships with Adult Swim and KidRobot,

But, over the last month, these cats have started just straight GIVING AWAY entire albums on the internet.

I kid you not.

On New Year's Day, they released an album called "Liberation" - a collaboration between Madlib and Talib Kweli - in its entirely, online, for download, FOR FREE, for, like, a week.

And, yes, it's banging.

Now, they're doing it again.

In the link in the title of this blog post, Stones Throw is releasing one of their compilation albums, "Chrome Children", also for free download in it's entirety on their website (albeit, only for a few more days).

Between these two, plus two other collabo albums, "Madvillainy" (Madlib & MF Doom) and "Danger Doom" (MF Doom and Danger Mouse), I have been positively jamming in my car like it's 1993 all over again.

And let's not even get into acts like Dead Prez, Black Star, Common, and all of the other people who've been holding it down all these years. Or the new guys like Little Brother or Foreign Exchange or Slum Village.

So, again, hip-hop fans - the good stuff is out there. Don't let the crap mascarading as hip-hop get you down. Like the Bible says, "let the dead bury the dead". Let's just keep sending our love to the stuff we DO like, that is positive and uplifting and conscious and skillful and creative
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