Is RAP Actually a Musical Genre?

 

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I will begin this blog post with my usual disclaimer. 1. Art is subjective and if you like something, than my opinion should not change that, be who you are! 2. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one but this one is all mine. In the words of heavy metal band Anthrax, “Don’t like it? Don’t read it”.

Generally speaking I can’t stand “Rap” music, for me it has virtually zero redeeming qualities, it doesn’t speak to me like rock or country or heavy metal and much of it actually irritates me. There are some exceptions but for the most part I do not enjoy it whatsoever and I will explain why as we move along.

I question whether or not it should be classed as an actual “musical genre”, let me explain. I am 45 years old and I was alive and old enough to remember the early, early beginnings of “rap”. Ok, I wasn’t in the basement parties when DJ’s started rapping over their record mixes in New York or Chicago. I am talking about the first commercially heard rap music that began playing on suburban, Canadian radio stations in the early 80’s. I clearly remember Rappers Delight from The Sugarhill Gang and The Message from Grand Master Flash. My Mom was pretty current at the time and we had these records in the house, it was fresh, it was new and it was exciting.

To me “Rap” is a vocal technique and not really a genre. I will admit it takes a certain amount of skill and a considerable amount of time to become proficient. I was out with my wife one time and we were watching an amazing R&B band with a group of friends and acquaintances. Turned out one of the gentlemen at our table was a “freestyle” rapper and the group insisted that he show off his skills. Using the bands music for his beat, he asked one of the ladies at our table four or five questions and launched into a freestyle rap that was incredibly well crafted. I was totally impressed how quickly he could put that together. So I respect it as a technique and a skill BUT, he was rapping to the music being played which at the time was Rhythm and Blues.

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When RUN DMC broke huge mainstream it was when they teamed with Aerosmith for a re-worked version of the classic hard rock anthem “Walk This Way”. Rap is a vocal style that is placed over top of existing dance music, electronic music, rock music, country music. Rap in of itself is not a form of music. Go back to its birth, those DJ’s started rapping overtop of the records that they were spinning. On those records were music from different genres.

One of the things that bothered me most when rap really started to explode was the incessant need to sample music from previous hit songs to rap over. It’s a cheap way to guarantee a hit rap song. The melody is already proven and ingrained into the minds of everyone that heard it in its original form. It was great song and became a hit the first time because it was a great song. So with zero actual musical creativity and most likely the same amount of musical talent the artist can sample the music and add their “rapping skill” and it becomes a new song with its own genre. This is not art, this is theft!

Look, I understand the rappers most likely (although some legal proceedings spoke otherwise) purchased the rights to use these hit songs and let’s face it the songwriters were most likely going to allow it as the results would immediately mean increased royalties coming in. This practice started at the birth of rap and continues on today. Hell P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Diddy, or whatever the hell else he calls himself based his entire career on this practice. Hey Mr. Combs, you did absolutely nothing to improve on the music of Sting and the Police! Nothing!

imageThink about how ludicrous (NO not Ludicris!) this is as it relates to another art form. Let’s take an iconic painting, say Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa and let’s take that home. Seems Mona Lisa is looking a little pale so lets throw some make-up on her, a little pink lipstick, some rouge to brighten up her cheeks. Oh and maybe a little bling, (NO not Hotline Bling!) so we paint on a nice bright gold and emerald necklace on the old broad. Perfect! My new Crap song is ready to go. That is exactly how this practice translates.

Of course we then get the “rappers” that will indeed write their own original music to rap over if indeed they actually possess some actual song writing ability or they will contract that out to musicians that do. Either way we then end up with a song that before the vocals are added, could be placed into either dance, pop, metal, rock etc. Instead Drake or Kanye or MC Sucksalot is going to lay down some “art” for us all.

Speaking of Drake or Drizzy or whatever the hell he likes to be called, have you heard his new creation “POP Style” featuring the “Throne” (Kanye and Jay-Z)? When I heard he dropped a new song I couldn’t wait to hear it (sarcasm mode off) and I jumped on to you tube to listen for research on this specific blog post (the things I endure for my readers!)

The first you-tube link I found was actually the instrumental version, the original music composition of this new masterpiece BEFORE the wizards of Rap (Drake, Kanye and Jay-Z) got to lay down their “verses” and add so much autotune that they will all sound like the constipated Cylons from Battelstar Galactica which seems to foretell that they lack any ability to rap on key. Either that or they are all big Starbuck fans.

As I listened to the track Click here for Drizzy! I couldn’t help but think of two things. First, why with all his money was Drizzy choosing to record his new song on a $79.99 keyboard from Radio Shack circa 1982? The second thing it immediately reminded me of was this click here = mind blown.

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So once they have reaped the millions that come from riding the talents of the actual hit makers. The next practice is to team up with someone who can actually sing. How many times has Rhiannon been called upon to sing a melody line with one of these ass clowns. Hell they even recruited Sir Paul McCartney to polish one of the turds.

You can like it, you can hate it but I don’t think you can argue the fact that the music itself is not rap, the vocal technique is rap and for me I don’t think that it’s just a coincidence that the term “CRAP” contains r-a-p.  Just sayin.

 

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