As I think about music that I like and what I find to be “sustainable” music, I find big differences between the two categories. Music I like can include hip hop, indie, folk, most prominently, but certainly other genres as well. Music that I find sustainable, though, seems to leave out a big chunk of hip hop music today. Some days I listen to hip hop music and wonder – ‘hmm…have all of the topics to speak on been written about already? Are people out of ideas?’ But after thinking about it for the past few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s not what it is. That’s not the root of the problem.
The problem is that the barrier into the rap game has disappeared. Today, it seems anybody can be a rapper. It’s as though society is saying, ‘If you took a poetry class when you were younger, try your hand at rap!’ And the problem is, music blogs are allowing this culture. What some people call “Frat Rap,” others call “Music Blog Rap.” I try to shy away from posting a lot of this music because, to me, it isn’t good music. It’s not sustainable. What I mean by that is that though the music can often times have good production or a fun beat, if you take a second to listen to the lyrics, there’s nothing there. Is it anything more than rhymes? Is it conceptual? Is there a meaning to the song? Or is it just rhyming for rhyming’s sake?
Too many times, in the music I’m being sent, it’s just rhyming for rhyming’s sake. It’s so and so saying “I’m the shit. I’m so dope. I’m taking over the world.” and making it rhyme at the end of each line. A problem I have with this is that these people are simply talking about themselves in an arrogant fashion for 16 bars three times in a song. Sure, that might be the “cool” thing to do, but it’s not sustainable. Ask yourself, the next time you fall in love with a song like that, if you’ll still be listening to it in a couple years. If you will be, then yeah, it’s sustainable for you. If not, it’s going to fade away. It will disappear. Probably, with the way we live our lives today, the song will be forgotten in about a month. It’ll get a few plays in your iTunes, maybe mostly on Friday and Saturday nights, and then will get lost in your music library.
So what does that mean? Have I lost all faith in hip hop music? That could seem to be the case, but it’s not. The reason I opened this post with the Kid Cudi mention is because Kid Cudi is a very relevant comparison to bring up. Why is Kid Cudi so popular? He talks about himself in most of his songs, which is what I’m accusing these other, unsustainable, untalented rappers of doing, right? Here’s the difference:
Kid Cudi talks about himself in the most honest of ways.
Cudder shares his life stories. He admits to defeat, whereas the rappers I’m criticizing (often times “frat rappers”) tend to send out the message that they’re immune to defeat. That they are, essentially, invincible. The honesty that Kid Cudi lets out for his fans is something that a lot of us can not only relate to, but we cling to. We get excited when he shares his personal stories, because it makes us feel okay, and perhaps it empowers us. Here’s a guy who’s world famous for being a rapper, and he’s saying that he’s lonely? So that must mean it’s okay to be lonely. It’s okay to feel like a failure sometimes. It’s okay to have issues inside your head. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to feel like you’re living on the dark side of the moon. Or in a cocoon. He speaks to so many people and it feels so real. I’m not getting that feeling from the majority of the other artists who are crossing my radar these days. Not even in the slightest.
So I guess your conclusion at this point could be, ‘okay…she likes Kid Cudi. She made that clear years ago.’ But it’s not just Kid Cudi. There are other artists out there who are reminding me why I love hip hop so much. But unfortunately, there are more artists coming my way who are reminding me why I can hate hip hop so much at times. I wish there was some way I could put my hand out and tell people NOT to try rapping if they don’t have something real to say. Mixtapes aren’t supposed to be just a clump of music that you stick together and give away for free. Albums aren’t either. They’re supposed to have a theme – a message – that ties all the songs together. If you don’t have a story to tell or a story to write about, don’t write at all. If you aren’t able to come up with something conceptual, or something honest, maybe your ability as a lyricist isn’t quite there. Being a rapper isn’t just about rhyming. It’s about being a writer.
So here it is. The straight talk bottom line. I’m sick of people making themselves out to be heroes when they’re not. I’m so ready for “artists” to stop pretending they’re taking over the world. I’m desperate for more music where artists are honest with their fans. I’m itching for music that means something. I’m begging for sustainable hip hop. I’m hoping for the emergence of more Kid Cudis – artists who allow fans to find faith in music.
Check the video of Kid Cudi pouring his heart out to his fans. In the toughest of times, he’s thanking his fans for getting him through it all.