Monday, April 27, 2009

All Hail the Queen: Celebratin' the Old-School

You know, in my stint as a music critic (unfortunately, the publication isn't online so I can't link) I seemed to develop a niche as the reviewer of hip-hop music. How, I'm not quite sure since I seemed to criticise it far more frequently that I would heap it with praise. Thing is, I L-O-V-E hip-hip, it's just that today's idea of what constitutes good hip-hop is far far removed from what I consider to be good hip-hop. Give me most stuff between 1982 and 1996 and I won't stop yapping on about it.

The same goes for almost all music classified as "urban", whether it be r&b or soul or whathaveyou, it's just not as good anymore. Beyoncé would have been eaten alive if she was around in '92. She would have fallen through the cracks like so many others who tried and failed because they couldn't deliver enough. Hell, even those who could deliver mostly ended up failing because the market is just too ever-changing. If you have read Adem with an E's "Urban Feminism: A Story of Melody" piece (and if you like music at all then you should) then you most surely had pangs of nostalgia and sadness. Who else heard Eternal's "Stay" or En Vogue's "Free Your Mind" and thought they were gonna take over the world? Well, it sadly didn't last. Even Destiny's Child, who were written, cast and bronzed in the same light, unfortunately ditched quality after a few albums and went down the tired tuneless brain dead hip-hop route.

However, there were times when I did indeed feel I was being too harsh. I was in a very tiny minority in my outright hatred of Timbaland's "solo" album Shock Value and there have been copious numbers of albums that I wrote off for being stock standard identikit disposable and tired. Was I just jaded?

And then I listen to something like Queen Latifah's "Just Another Day..." from her 1993 album Black Reign (which also includes the Grammy-winning "U.N.I.T.Y." - how many saxophones do you hear in hip-hop music today?) and I realise that I was perhaps not harsh enough. This song popped up on my iTunes player today after a very long time between drinks and it amazed and startled me once more. I remember hearing it for the first time on Rage and being blown away. It is a stunner in every sense of the word and it is what hip-hop should be. Not just a monotonous beat and lots of yelling about being crunk and bitches and all that modern hip-hop entails. Indeed there once was a time when hip-hop had social relevance and the artists had anger and desire to succeed in their veins. Their songs were about important issues and the production had grooves and tunes, melodies actual MC talent. They used interesting original use of samples - not lazy ones like Flo Rida using Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" and the artists loved and worshipped music of all genres too, taking tips from pop and disco as well as Motown and world music.

Now I'm gonna go listen to this track another 38 times in a row just to cleanse.

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