(5) Classic artist ­­≠ Classic Album

I'd originally STARTED to use this as a piggyback or even a series of rebuttals to a Curtis75Black guest post over on Tony Grand$' blog a minute ago, but I decided instead to make this one for my own instead of a series of responses in someone else's comments section, so here we are...

The conversation, as presented, was one to fly in the face of the "hip hop is dead" movement from those who look at the current state of hip hop and music in general and look at it as being on a decline.
My response, as a direct quote, was...

"I won’t declare hip hop necessarily 'dead,' but there comes a time where one must look at quality over quantity. Just because artists who HAVE been “classic” in a past life are releasing albums does not mean we’re getting classic material on name alone.

I own the last 3 on your 2008 list, and listen to Heltah Skeltah damn near every day still.
Own or downloaded 11 of the 2009 list, but would not call all of them “great,” and only a couple would I even classify as “good” at that.
2010 is only a single download from what was named, that would be Ortiz.

While we ARE getting product out from hip hop which keeps us from declaring it 'dead,' one is clearly in denial if they’re not seeing it as a little “sickly” at this point."

To which he retorted...

"No ones in denial. The way Hip Hop is being pushed today is wack but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good “reliable” artists still out there. If you noticed, alot of my music came from elderstatesmen. I can rely on those artists because we already connected in life. They aren’t gonna put on a front just to sell. Gimmicks aren’t apart of their forte. Now to be honest and you can ask Tony also, the only product, I truly find uninspiring is the Canibus & Keith Murray project which was all over the place. Now, that doesn’t mean someone else will not enjoy it. Now if this is about sales and quality, I see you stated you own or downloaded 11 for 2009, but wouldn’t consider them great, only a couple you’ll classify as good. Now to clear it up, what I meant is the artists, these are greats artists. Sorry about that. The product is however you feel. I can’t debate that with you. I will say though, if you purchase something, you’re more inclined to listen than to look at it as expendable music on the hard drive and our artists won’t be suffering the way they are nowadays. Nice rebuttal though Philip."

[Phlip note - Curtis, if you're reading, it is P-H-L-I-P... pronounced "flip," thanks]

The $ykotic Don McCane finished the comments (as of when I type this now) with...

"I do agree the music will still live on. It’s even easier now to make a song than yesteryear, when you had to book studio time and find someone who knew how to work the machines. But from the business side of it, to make rap a career these days, and have some type of longevity with it, that’s pretty much a done deal. The mantra of ‘make a hit’ instead of ‘make an artist’ today is testimony to this fact."

And this is where I will pick this whole thing back up to continue the conversation based on the merits of Curtis and his initial response to my own...
I stopped to think for a moment over my 10am deuce (yes, you can set your watch to my shits), and I came to the question "does having a classic album in your catalog mean that you can be thought of as a classic artist?"
In my mind, a classic artist is one that you can go to for consistency every time... Even their "meh..." product can ride out in the car for a season or so, and they very rarely if ever need a pass in the name of "well, he made [album], so he aight..."
Let us look at the 2009 list, the longest of the 3 in the post in particular...

De La Soul-Are you In
Masta Ace & Ed OG-Arts&Entertainment
Blaq Poet-The Blaqprint Canibus & Keith Murray-(Undergods) Wu Tang-Chamber Music Dres-From the Black Pool of Genius
Ghostface Killah-Ghostdini
Crooked I- Mr.PigfaceWeaponWaist
Raekwon the Chef – OBFCL2 Q-Tip-Kamaal The Abstract
Joell Ortiz-Covers the Classics
Slaughterhouse-Slaughterhouse
Royce Da 5′9″-StreetHop
Statik Selektah-Pregame
KRS-ONE & Buckshot-Survival Skills
Skyzoo-The Salvation*
The Alchemist-Chemical Warfare
Method Man & Redman-Blackout!2
Eminem-Relaspe

I will step outside of myself for a moment and address the * first... Skyzoo gets rookie of the year to me for Salvation, in fact I will listen to that as I scribe the rest of this post.
Beyond that, I will go in on bolded materials...
Masta Ace AND Edo G... I am 30 years old and a raving hip hop maniac, but right off the top of my head, I cannot name 5 presentations between the two of them, let alone individually, yet I still respect the place they hold in the culture.
Blaq Poet... who?
Canibus and Keith Murray... Both stay catching bricks in spite of their potential... Well hell, potentially, I am a published author with multiple awards and shit... Instead, I work a help desk position and own a 1200­ft² house... See the difference? Doesn't make me a failure when considering my position in the world, but unlike them, I do not spend my days pretending to be a rap star.
Wu Tang... I present EVERYTHING released as a collective after Wu-Tang Forever, and leave the argument right there.
Dres... I live in Greensboro NC and I have seen the dude in the mall here more since he last mattered as anything more than an artifact than I have in any medium that might make him some cash... Just sayin'
Raekwon... the good (not great, just good) status of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II does nothing to either excuse or validate the albums coming between it and the first installment.
Q-Tip... I will be honest. I want him to make a good album WAAAAAY more than I want to see him keep catching these bricks. I am not losing any sleep, though. He is but a dude who COULD be as great as he once was, but set his own ceiling too high.
KRS One & Buckshot... Buckshot is excused by virtue of a raw deal... Blastmaster, on the other hand, still has some questions to answer. As of this album, they have not been answered.
Method Man & Redman... Method Man has EVERY release after Tical to answer for, and Redman COULD have been excused if not for their sitcom and now this, the album extension of it.

One really should look and see what just happened... A grouping of individuals who HAVE had classic releases in some way in their lives, yet seem to want to see that fact further their names instead of leaning on the onus to actually CONTINUE making classic material.
The burden of remaining a classic artist falls in the idea of continuing to BE a classic artist. The line between continuing to rap your ass off and being Napoleon Dynamite's uncle Rico, or even Al Bundy talking about his 4 touchdowns is very thin. Only you can prevent the wholly preventable. If I am to continue to believe that you can, will and are making classic material is to CONTINUE FUCKING MAKING IT.
Otherwise, you become an old guy talking about what you were once capable of...
Or you die and no one even has to question it, they just call you the greatest anyway, even if you never did much...
Or you marry Beyonce and it doesn't really matter, but that is not what this particular blog is about.

All jokes aside, one should really spend a minute stopping and looking at this on the grander scale of things.
In the history of hip hop, how many (gimme a number out of, say... 100?) can HONESTLY as an artist say that they have made music that was consistently great from beginning to end? Be honest. There seems to be at every juncture a pause to put down some ol' bullshit in the in-between, followed by what could be seen as a return to the quality, which has been invariably followed by a return to the shit.
I have named possible reasons for this with a prior post in which I might have discussed people and their rush to get the maximum amount of product to the market without care for just how bad it may be.
Quantity over quality is the problem, it seems.
I have said it before, and I hate to admit it as an individual who has been listening to the music for 25ish years now. The pan gets hot and burns out fast, and it seems that everyone with a chance to cook in it knows that and acts accordingly instead of taking necessary steps to address just why careers don't last.

At the end of it all, the argument remains that having made a classic song, or a classic album or dropped a classic deuce in the handicapped stall in the bathroom furthest from your office while you played Mah Jong between 10:01 and 10:13am doesn't make YOU classic if you don't continue such behaviors. Your name is never as good as you might think it is until someone other than you says so and proves it against retort.
And lord knows that there are people who have made classic albums that I would LOVE to see return to greatness, if only for me to not look like an old-ass hater.

... and my 10am deuce is legendary, for the record.
3 comments

Popular posts from this blog

Just Spell My Name Right

Writing about Writing Vol. 7

True Story... Throwback Thursday