January 17, 2004


Dare it be admitted, but isn't Hip Hop the problem these days?

Hip hop is now totally assimilated; not so much a part of the mainstream, as the mainstream itself, Pop's Reality (Principle). There's nothing unsettling about it any more. On the contrary: hip hop is quotidian, everyday. It's everything you'd want to escape from. Sometimes literally. The hip hop uniform of trainers and hooded tops is the default uniform of youth, associated both with a dreary lack of imagination and a wholly unexciting sense of physical threat. And if bling once wore the sheen of Promethean excess, now it is both repellent AND tedious. There's only so long and so far that you taunt the moralising Leftie in you... Something like Cribs(the most boring kind of consumer porn) is unthinkable outside a Hip Hop culture in which Success is all.

Isn't hip-hop now a kind of anti-glam? It is an ultra-masculinist refusal of glam and its feminizing threat.

If you are looking for the 00's equivalent of 70's rock dinosaurs, look no further than Jay-Z, Pharell and their kin. Like those lumbering beasts of three decades ago, they are living off the sonic invention of the previous decade, complacently assuming that they still occupy the avant-garde.

And even when it's good, and it still often is, be honest - can you bring yourself to care?

Take the Neptunes-produced Kelis single. Objectively speaking, I ought to like it, but I just can't summon any enthusiasm for or interest in it. Same goes for the new Ludracris single. Great sounds. Never want to hear it again.

Am I alone?

Posted by mark at January 17, 2004 11:42 PM | TrackBack

Mark, you're never alone, even if nobody agrees with you!

Posted by: oliver at January 18, 2004 12:24 AM

I agree with you, but then I always felt alienated by hip hop (I just thought it was the musical equivalent of being mugged in Peckham), so perhaps my endorsement doesn't count for much. It's the writing though really isn't it, there just isn't any writing. I don't think dizzee is hip hop, I think he's a playwrite.

Posted by: sean at January 18, 2004 12:50 AM

Mmmmm. I might argue that Hip Hop is a form, but your problem is with the content... That isn't to say that "underground" hip hop is NECESSARILY worthwhile, but I reckon there's still some life in there... troulbe is, how do you find it?

Posted by: John Eden at January 18, 2004 01:02 PM

I'm not sure if its the content I object to either: it's the CULTURE, I think.

Posted by: mark k-punk at January 18, 2004 02:29 PM

quite agree Mark - an utterly false culture at that. S'got fuck all to do with people I work with who happen to be black. In a way perhaps one shouldn't even give most of it more credit than all those kung fu films they've got down the vid shop. Or something

Posted by: sean at January 18, 2004 06:40 PM

hmmm so does that Missy, fetishizing old school hip hop the way the Sex Pistols did Chuck Berry, is hip hop's punk rock?

Posted by: Abe at January 18, 2004 07:03 PM

Is the culture a monolith, then? For that matter, is anyone actually arguing that hip hop has to be representative of all black people? (Is anyone arguing that Mixmag equates "rave culture" and that that has to be representative of all white people, for that matter?)

Posted by: John Eden at January 18, 2004 11:06 PM

well, y'know back in the day ('86-'88 ish) Hip Hop was king as far as I was concerned. Finally, music that even my Dad (who thought Punk was great) hated. "It's just not fucking music!!" he would moan. Great. Of course, I was on this anti-melody, anti-conventional instrumentation, kill-all-rock-stars kick at the time (some might say i still am). But, to be frank, I haven't given a flying fuck about Hip Hop for years. It's everywhere, and it's totally formulated and not even slightly dangerous.
I like that new Kelis single, mind. But that's not hip hop, is it?. that's pop music, like the latest kylie single. weird, electronic pop music. And there's nothing better than GOOD weird electronic pop music.

Oh, and the Richrad X track with Kelis with the human League samples? Wicked.

Posted by: Nick at January 18, 2004 11:16 PM

Well done for saying the unsayable and thanks for making me feel like it's not _merely_ that I'm getting old. The vast majority of hiphop music and culture is now moribund. We might still find scattered sparks and glowing embers, but the combustion is over and hiphop is no longer an exception to the general rule that 99% of any given thing is crap. It's not that producers are failing to 'produce the goods', the problem is precisely that that is all they're doing (probably they've reached various ZFIs). Meanwhile via TV and subsidiary media we're subjected to a smothering blanket of smoothed-out 'hiphop culture'. Beats, graf and baggy trousers have become our wallpaper. A testament to the tungsten-carbide stomach of Kapital, able to digest anything and turn it into a procedural machine stamping out hollow gloss-encapsulated placebos. Regardless of whether you enjoy or decry it, the mashed-up clunkatronic spasm of Dizzee's crew is the sound of the meat inside the hollow shell rotting out.

Posted by: undercurrent at January 19, 2004 11:59 AM

I agree about 'milkshake'...prompts a long spool of qualities that interesting pop music should have and corporate-majority hiphop doesn't : uncool, unpolished, risky, joyful, peculiar, ambiguous, etc. etc.

Posted by: undercurrent at January 19, 2004 02:29 PM

"Like those lumbering beasts of three decades ago, they are living off the sonic invention of the previous decade, complacently assuming that they still occupy the avant-garde."

yeah man i miss diamond d too!

Posted by: giaour at January 19, 2004 10:31 PM

Very compelling post! Especially the comparision of Jay-Z and the Neptunes to 1970s rock dinosaurs . . . . I have never been particularly keen on hip hop. Only by pure happenstance did my adult years driving an automobile on a daily basis (98 to 00), with car radio blaring, coincide with the hip hop renaissance. Now that I no longer drive, I'm unexposed to commercial radio. And I don't watch television, so no MTV or BET. I therefore cannot comment knowledgeably. I did, however, pick up David Banner's screwed-and-chopped "Mississippi" based upon reports in the blogosphere. Think it rather dull . . . . But I'd say that ultra-masculinist street sounds are a crucial coordinate of "bad taste." (Hardcore was an ultra-masculinist intensification of house music.) The other coordinate is gay/glam/feminine club sounds. (Glam as ultra-feminine intensification of rock 'n' roll.) Each of these coordinates is the Other of "good taste," at least traditionally. Perhaps this critical framework needs revision??? In any case, a very compelling post.

Posted by: dominic at January 21, 2004 02:59 AM

i think you're right in a number of ways - it's in middle age and rather complacent - up till 91 it was one of the most vital and creative forms of music around and changed and shaped my life and even my politics in so many ways.
Now it's seems to have puffys "we invented the remix" discease. Doing the same sort of thing again and again and collecting the bucks .
The lyrics have become almost totally pointless, mainly filling default option criteriors, 50 cent being the nadir and as far as the gangsta genre can go.
Sometimes the beats are great but even they've become pretty predictable.
I just can't imagine young people getting the kind of involved life changing thoughts ,perspectives and activities from it that i had as a kid listening to p.e. bdp, eric b and rakim, nwa or even big daddy kane or ice t .

Posted by: ms at January 21, 2004 06:39 PM