Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why You Should Always Write in Google Documents: Mostly Lost Thoughts On Gangster Rap

Progression leading up to this post: 

  • My brother sends me a link to listen to.
  • I listen, then search out other rap, which gets me listening to Biggie Smalls again.
  • I remember a (great) list my brother made for Kanye West's guest spots and searched around to find a list of Biggie's guest spots.
  • I found a list of The Ten Most Underrated Notorious B.I.G. Guest Appearances.
  • I listened to all of those, very slowly (still on a DSL connection at home here), searching out rappers I didn't know.
  • I realized this link should be shared, but I wanted to dish on it and also make a YouTube playlist of the countdown for easy listening (linguistic juxtaposition between 'rap' and 'easy listening music' intended) purposes.
  • I lost the drive to make a playlist after I lost more than half my blog post here (see below).

Hip-hop has a ton to offer, which always makes me cringe when someone says or writes "I listen to all music. Everything. Except for rap." I also cringe if they say/write that about other genres of music, since each has something to offer. I just cringe more when it's rap.

I grew up in the Will Smith era. I watched Fresh Prince religiously. I listened Willenium. I watched The Wild, Wild West. So this was rap to me for a while. A long while.

Other rap was always around me though. Coolio, for example, had a massive crossover hit with "Gangsta's Paradise." A friend of mine in junior high school was more or less obsessed with Eminem. Some other non-friend skinny white kids in junior high walked around in XXL-sized Wu-Tang Clan t-shirts. I had never heard a single one of the group's songs, but I dismissed it all outright as 'kids trying to be cool'. I was mostly listening to rock at that time — classic rock, grunge.

Fast-forward about 10 years. In college, in the midst of listening to indie rock on a daily basis, I slowly became introduced to all kinds of hip-hop. There was some mingling with indie rock and rap — Gorillaz is a good example. OutKast's "Hey Ya," which was basically playing every day for a good year there. The Streets was very hip (I still dig it, more than 10 years after Mike Skinner started). But once I started listening the floodgates were opened. Jurassic 5, Jay-Z, Kanye early on. Luda, OutKast. Then Brandon (my brother) gave me all of Biggie's recordings and it was pretty much over. I dumped them all in MP3 format onto a CD and listened to it on shuffle in my car, for weeks, maybe months.

Gangster rap is a hard sale. It's still hard to consciously reconcile my progressive liberalism and my 'not caring much about money' with what are pretty obviously gangster rap's basic tenets — getting cash, toting guns, using women as objects, embracing homophobia, reinforcing macho masculine stereotypes. (Other tenets — cursing a bunch, non-violent drug use — I have no qualms about.) Biggie is listed as one of the best rappers in general, but in specific he was in gangster rap and he hits on all the things I just listed in just about every song he did. Still, there's something in his songs that just isn't elsewhere.

I liked 300. I liked Shoot 'Em Up. But not for the machismo so much as the over-the-top style. They were movies that were just this much short of utter ridiculousness. A kind of surreal take on macho behavior. But maybe I was reading too much into it because I've gathered that most people liked those kind of movies (and Fight Club and Tarantino movies, and others) for different reasons — for the violence, for the machismo, for the reinforcing male stereotypes (being 'strong', hating on women, etc.). I find it hard to defend Frank Miller's art as being more sensitive than it is macho, though, especially after reading through the Sin City series. I enjoyed that movie and those comic books for the same artistic reasons I mentioned above, but it's very difficult for me to determine the artist's intent behind those pieces of art. For most art I don't care about artist's intent, but for these things for some reason I feel like if other people are enjoying them for different reasons than I...

Wow, I just lost several hundred (thousands of?) words and maybe an hour's time of writing on this post when I hit the backspace key and my browser navigated back a page instead of my writing cursor moving back a space to delete a letter. And Blogger did not auto-save my writing (despite a sleek redesign they made since I last wrote here) and so now I'm really not liking Blogger very much and I think I'll compose everything I write in Google Documents from now on.

Suffice to say it was all brilliant and I was just closing out the post with this quote:

"If I wasn't in the rap game, I'd probably have a key [kilo] knee-deep in the crack game. Because the the streets is a short stop. Either you're slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot." —Biggie


1 comment:

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