Monday, 22 June 2009

Dose 21...Stunts, Blunts, and Hip Hop

1)Vitamins by Elzhi, Dwele, and Lacks

Detroit is one of the few places, outside of New York, Houston, and Chi-town, with a real claim to breeding the best underground hip-hop. Just think about her notable alumni: Eminem, J Dilla, Slum Village, Guilty Simpson, Black Milk...the list goes on. Furthermore, it doesn't seem like this trend is changing. D-town continues to be a fertile environment from which new MC's and producers are burgeoning.

With all of this competition in the big city, it can be pretty hard for lesser known, but equally talented, artists to make their mark. As is often the case, it seems as though a grassroots campaign is best adapted for such a climate (Obama '08?). When hard working, skilled artists get together to start a movement, there is no stopping them. This is definitely the case with The Breakfast Club EP (2001). When Detroit natives Lacks (formerly LacksiDaisyCal, now MC Ta'Raach) and Big Tone recognized the immense talent in the city's underground scene, yet the inefficacy of each artist in completing his own project, they teamed up to assist in producing, sequencing, and mixing. As Lacks said on Platform 8470, "The Breakfast Club was an artist support group started by myself and Big Tone then later Elzhi (Slum Village). It was never really a rap group." By enlisting Elzhi, 87, and Dwele (he's the soulful guy on "Flashing Lights"), the collective was formed and the team became much more than the sum of their parts (Synergy!).

Although the group recorded constantly, they were really interested in helping each individual member release his own solo project. Despite this ethic, the guys would put on shows in Detroit together, all for the public's enjoyment. This warm reception instigated them to sequence some of their unreleased tracks and therein lies the birth of The Breakfast Club. 20 or so cassettes were sold locally but, as Lacks continues, "the craze hit and muhfuckahs in Japan, Germany and everywhere else had a copy. Last I remember copies of the original tape on CD where selling for $80. I guess we did something people loved." Truth...

The Breakfast Club EP (2001)

(The sound quality on this unreleased album is lacking, as it was ripped off a cassette, but the 192kbs creates a pretty cool aesthetic)

2)Stress by Jazz Addixx

I often wonder, "What the fuck happened to hip hop"? This bastardized music we listen to on the radio (Hot 97 and Power 105, for me) just isn't cutting it, especially when so many real artist and talented musicians are being slept on. In this age of the global recession, wherein Harvard grads are struggling to find employment, should Jeremiah seriously get recognition for a 3 minute blumpkin of a song, entitled "Birthday Sex". Our world is one where former chiefs of industry are driving taxis and delivering pizzas, while a no talent ass-clown like Drake sits atop iTunes hip hop chart with his "hit" ("pardon me, I had to laugh at that" -Jay Z), "Best I Ever Had". Honestly, something ain't right!

Unfortunately, the parties that profit are far fewer than those which suffer. Not only does the public have to sit back and watch as the music industry implodes due to its own decadence, but we must also live with the fact that our children (none for me... *knock on wood*) and their children are being indoctrinated in this drivel. Moreover, artists with even a smidgen of talent are being overlooked for their more pop-friendly (dare I say, Dumber!) counterparts.

America, let's look at ourselves as the cause because the people on the radio tend to reflect what we desire out of music. With regards to hip hop, in the 1980's our society needed change. There existed a yawning dichotomy between the rich and poor and grave social injustices were plentiful. As well, the lingering effects of the country's inherently racist doctrine were coming to light. To all this, we called on figures like Chuck D, Run DMC ("Wake Up" is like a hip hop "Imagine"), and NWA to expose the hipocracy in statements like "equality for all mankind" and show that there was a sector of the population being exploited. In the early-90's, gangster rap emerged to explore the manifestations of legislation employed to keep blacks in the lower class. It showed that what whites feared in blacks was really a monster they themselves created. By the mid-late 90's (at the time when I was first "allowed" to listen to rap) the themes had changed once again. As the unofficial apartheid began to lift, rappers began to think, not only in terms of keeping up with whites, but rather in exceeding their wealth and power. The game, thus, changed from one of equality, to one of narcissism, opulence, and power.

Then, somewhere in the late 90's and early 2000's, there occurred a Gestalt switch. Suddenly hip hop became everyone's music, and little white, brown, yellow, and purple kids were allowed into the club (metaphorically speaking). As such, the music's aims became universalized. Every kid, then, became infatuated with the themes of money, glory, and power. As evidenced by our culture (think Pacino's famous Scarface line, "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."), sex was a natural corollary. Thanks to this dissection, we can now understand the climate we have created, and how these talentless people became our icons. But what to do?

The change from good hip hop into its evil counterpart did not occur overnight. That said, any reformation will take time. In order to be part of the change, we can't play into the hype and idolize these figures any longer. Instead, we have to work to find better music and patronize it, thus creating an incentive for musicians to return to the "art".

Listening to Jazz Addixx', Oxygen (2005), is a breath of fresh air and a step in the right direction...

Oxygen (2005)

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