I just started a new job last Monday, and on Thursday I was asked to introduce myself in front of the entire company. Yall. That’s like 250 people. It was terrifying, but I did it. Got up in front of a full room and said my name, where I’m from, what I like to do in my free time, and a fun fact about myself. It went a lot like this.
[Lydia walks up to the mic. She is approaching the mic to grab it from the CEO who is one of her heroes. Her knees are shaking a bit.] “Hi everybody! My name is Lydia Simmons, I’m originally from Houston. [People around the room start cheering. What up, Texans!] I moved here from Durham, North Carolina for the job. In my free time…I spend a lot of that time maintaining a music blog called Sunset in the Rearview. I really like hip hop music. [People in the room giggle a little. Most likely they're thinking 'This little girl likes hip hop music? That's weird.] Fun fact I guess would be that I lived in Kenya for a little bit and used to speak fluent Swahili. Really excited to be here!”
It was awkward and terrifying. But like I said, I did it.
The best part of it was that some people came up to me afterwards asking about my blog and what type of hip hop I like. That prompted this post, I suppose. Lately I’ve been digging up old school hip hop that I can’t help but love. The old school stuff built the platform for today’s stars to stand on, even if they don’t echo the sound. It’s an ever-growing genre, but it’s always great to see current bands sticking to those old school roots. A group that’s great at doing that is People Under The Stairs. Man, I fucking love those dudes. Pardon my language, but I just needed the oomph to emphasize how great they are. If you’re not onto them, you need to be. They recently released an album called Highlighter that is incredible. The album almost went unnoticed by me, because of the bold move by People Under The Stairs to release it independently in an effort to avoid low-quality MP3s being released. They worked really hard to release a high quality album: from hand-printed and packaged physical album artwork and only selling digital versions on their site at very large file sizes, People Under The Stairs went to extreme measures to maintain the quality of their sounds, at the risk of losing money. It’s great to see that they’re not all about the profits, as you rarely see that from professionals anymore. The good thing for us was that the music itself was quality, too. Some of their beats sample rock songs from my childhood (think Red Hot Chili Peppers), which only enhances the experience. Like hip hop that reflects on old school flows and is set to incredible, full-sound instrumentals? Highlighter is the album for you.
Now here I am being a douchebag and giving yall an MP3 of one of the songs – but I only intend for this to get you to fall in love and buy the album. Seriously. You need to.
So many people ask me how I can stand hip-hop or “rap music.” The thing is, most of the hip hop that I love will never be played on the radio. And I have a love/hate relationship with that fact. I love it because, well, partly because I’m a music snob these days (I’ve admitted to it and I’m okay with it) and I like having some sort of ownership of what I listen to. But I love it mainly because it means that the songs will remain respectable and not overplayed; songs that make it to the radio quickly get overplayed to death and become resented by many. (Read: “Pumped Up Kicks.”) But I hate it because it’s sad that the radio is in such poor state. It makes sense, financially (with the cost of radio streams and all that), but it doesn’t make sense morally. The artist who work their asses off to create great music don’t get the same type of money that the artists who are represented by major labels do. But whatever, it is what it is, and I’m not about to say I have the recipe for changing the system. So I blog instead.
To get more into what type of hip-hop it is that I love, though, I think it’s easiest to say that I love hip-hop that’s easy to listen to. I like melodic hip-hop. I love lyrical wordplay. I love an artist who is conscious of their surroundings. I love hip-hop that could easily be an indie-rock song if the person was singing instead of rapping. I love hip-hop that gets you moving. I love hip-hop that’s played witha full band. That’s about it. Not much more to say other than I love it. With all of my heart. Hip-hop is part of me. It always will be. Even when I’m a grandmother, I think I’ll still love it. Maybe not what the kids will be listening to then, but I’ll still have a love for hip-hop that I grew up loving. Something about that tells me that I might be the coolest grandmother EVER, and I’m cool with that.
Here are a few more new songs that embody all that I love about hip-hop. Press play on “8-Bit Kid” and tell me that couldn’t be an electronic song on its own.
MP3: “8-Bit Kid” – LiLa