Friday, July 18, 2003

The thing that amazes me about the hardest rap is the sense of tragedy, the awareness of it that goes hand in hand with the braggadocio, and that overwhelms it in the end. At its base it's not 'popular' music, any more than honky tonk, blues, or early country. It's too close to its roots, though hip hop is the biggest influence on popular music world wide for the past 20 years. Every artist who comes up is tested by the street and by the wider market. The secret is to be able to play both sides simultaneously, both underground and mainstream. If you lose the street you lose respect, which is important.
Still, it's sobering when you understand the difference between some kid rhyming and mouthing off about guns and drugs, and someone describing alternately tears falling down his cheeks and touching the muzzle of a glock to the back of a man's head and pulling the trigger. The realism of one reinforces the reality of the other.
I'm not talking about Nas, though he has stories to tell. He doesn't scare me. But there are others who do, or should, even though I can't imagine myself not giving some of them even ungrudging respect. It's hard to explain. It goes back to my childhood.

"(Everybody) Get Down"

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