Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
Rapper Shyne is more popular for his actions (namely shooting up a club for his then-boss, Puffy Combs) than he is for making music.His latest string of disses, which include the aforementioned Puff, 50 Cent, & others, has extended it’s reach to Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, whose name & album are currently bulldozing rap music’s landscape. That’s a good thing, by the way.
In an attempt to rock the virtual rap boat, Shyne recently tweeted that Kendrick’s album was trash, & that allegation set off a backlash from supporters & fans that echoed throughout the internets.
Seriously, not only is good kid, mA.A.d City not trash, but it’s worth the money that I suggest you spend on it. & even if you don’t like it, here are five reasons why Kendrick Lamar isn’t trash.
The closest thing to a musical instrument that any rapper has is his voice. The consummate rap dude who is aware of this pigeonholing fact has the vision & ability to step outside of the proverbial recording booth & into a world beyond monotone flows & repetitive vocal fluctuations. K Dot’s voice doesn’t sound strained or contrived, & that neutrality gives him room to experiment a little. & the results are nice.
The art of storytelling has been eclipsed by bodacious bragging & imaginary tales of real-life situations. Flashing, flossing, & flexing have become the basic supplement in most Hip Hop meals that are being served to us, whether we saw the menu or not. Kendrick’s gkmc is an entire story, broken down into stories, told through rhymes, complemented by skits. Somewhere, right now, Nas & Slick Rick are beaming with pride. Telling me how to sell dope or slap bitches doesn’t count as a story, for the record.
After my gkmc listening session (shout out to my ace boon coon, Esquire), I realized what all the hyperbole was about. The west coast has struggled for years to find a true identity, an identity beyond random gang celebrations, weirdo raps, & interwoven hood anthems. Alas, Kendrick is proving to be the leader of the new West Coast, providing a more realistic, & even more vivid in-look at the place we call home. His story is like a lot of ours; neighborhood ties & set affiliations out of necessity & survival, not necessarily just to be “with the business.” Not every fan can relate to slanging, hanging, & banging, but the majority of us can definitely relate to “the homies.” If you grew up in California, you were either Kendrick Lamar or his gangster compatriots, at some point. Really, though. Consider Kendrick a frontline reporter, like a young, Black, rap Wolf Blitzer.
2. Work Ethic
Point blank, this kid raps his ass off (shout out to Treach). If Good Kid didn’t prove this to you, refer to his previous mixtape, Section.80. Where Trap Rap has impeded the flows of many MC’s, KL has avoided those barriers with consistency. Now that I think about it, I’ve never heard him take a breath between bars. Writing rap songs has become a watered down process whereas the fans are only receiving 2 minute verses labeled as songs. I can adamantly say that Kendrick may break this lackluster cycle.
1. The People Love Him
Even the most skilled rapper has detractors. Take Jay-Z, for example. For what it’s worth, he’s the king of New York for various reasons. He’s proved he is worthy of every accolade Hip Hop has to offer. Yet, he is equally loved as much as hated. Maybe even a little more so on the hate side. Kendrick, however, was criticized by a not-so relevant rapper & most of the United West Coast responded to the criticism with death threats & vacation pass revocations. Why? Because Lamar’s tantamount to that little brother or cousin that you want to see succeed in life. A lot of rap songs & albums rotate around self-service & narcissism, but it’s hard to find that quality in him, for now. My pops used to tell me that if a lot of people feel a certain way about something, there’s a reason for it & it’s probably true. People like Kendrick Lamar. Shyne might as well have tweeted “Fuck puppies & anything that makes people smile.”
Not for nothing, but you should purchase good kid, mA.A.d city as soon as your hard-hustled recession dollars allow you to.
Words by Tony Grands