…I should’nt have left you, without a dope rhyme to step to. Or, at least, a few words about something. The bit about a “dope rhyme” comes from the one and only Rakim of “Eric B. and Rakim” fame.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hiphop these last few days, over the weekend someone asked me, upon hearing some of what remains from my adventures in rap, who my favorite rapper was. I instantly said Common, mostly expecting her to not know who I was referencing and thinking maybe I should’ve just said Biggie or Tupac to make this whole thing easier. But she knew. And she went on to say, “So you’re a gentlemen rapper?”
But something else interesting came from this conversation. My inquisitor pressed further, asking who my favorite rapper is before Common. Here it became clear to me that she, like many people probably, must think Common just appeared in recent years as a result of his collaborations with Kanye West. I let this slide and gave the first answer that came to mind. Before Common? Hmm. Run DMC.
This, it occurred to me, may be a bit more “before” Common than she anticipated, especially if she thinks Common is a relative newcomer. But it is what I came up with on the spot. The thing is, looking back, it’s kind of true…at least as far as I want to admit. I got into rap by listening to Kris Kross, Dr. Dre and Snoop, some really awful Christian rappers (worse, even, than DC Talk, though they were there in the beginning. I’m thinkin, specifically of this group of pre-teens that had an album. Anybody ever hear of this…I can’t remember what they were called. I’ll call my mom.) Completing that list I started a few lines above, however, are the likes of Paperboy and Digable Planets. Incidentally, Digable is the only one there that I’m not at all ashamed to mention…and they’re probably the least known. (They had that single “Cool like Dat” with the awesome jazz samples…so good.)
The rest of my old favorites now only have value as nostalgia, little more than discarded souvenirs that, when discovered in the back of a closet (or, as the case may be, on an old hard drive of illegally downloaded tracks from early college years) provoke a half listen, a laugh and a yearning for those times when I, too, could be considered an MC.
Much is said about the fate of hiphop. Nas proclaimed it dead and then made several more albums. I proclaimed it dead but never felt as if anyone agreed. It probably is dead and yet no one cares. Those of us who knew what it was don’t miss it. We don’t have to. We have all the valuable recordings. Those who thought they knew what it was don’t miss it either, because they didn’t have a clue and think it’s still around. And those, like Steph, who never cared for it anyway just wish it would go away.
I occasionally dream it back to life. Me and Jay back in Adidas jumpsuits and shelltoes before an audience that happily makes us the minority jumping around like fools. Then, I call Jay and plan a reunion tour in my apartment, but, he assures me, it will probably never happen.
More on hiphop in weeks to come…I hope.