What rhymes with suck?
Rap has gone dumb
Hey kid, remember the days when mustaches, Members Only jackets and tight pants were the uniform of hip-hop, not just costumes for suburban kids to dress ironically?
Of course not. What are you, like, 15?
Anyway, it was a good time. I know you think guys like Ja Rule are poetic craftsmen with lyrics like, “Do you love me, do you hate me / Do you love me, do you hate me / Yeah, yeah,” but, really, wouldn’t there be more eloquence cupping your ear to Rush Limbaugh’s ass?
But seriously, kid. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, “Here’s a little story that must be told …”
It was the early ’80s. Neon was the new black, Wall Street brokers were doing blow off hookers’ asses and Bono had just started his quest to replace the Lord.
A group called UTFO was making a name for themselves as rappers who dressed like the Ice Capades. The Educated Rapper was a nerd; Doctor Ice, a doctor; and Mixmaster Ice donned Civil War attire along with a sword because he “cut things up” on the turntables. Get it? They were considered the Village People of rap. You think they gave a shit? Nope. They were having too much fun to care about how gay they looked.
And the Fat Boys. They were, well, fat. They told tales, ate tons of pizza and got into mischief. You know?
Point is, hip-hop’s been so serious lately. Rappers rap about how good they are at rapping! Worse yet, they’re trying to shove some half-assed morals down your gullet, like Q-Tip sans A Tribe Called Quest: “E’rybody’s a star, e’rybody shine / Follow your heart and not mankind.” OK, but lemme take a nap first.
That’s not to say emcees can’t write rhymes these days. Look at Immortal Technique—dude’s like a Peruvian Noam Chomsky: “I leave you full a’clips, like the moon blocking the sun.” Full a’clips. Full eclipse? Pardon me while my mind explodes.
Shouldn’t all emcees share the same fascination with language as Mr. Technique? Or are we just going to be subjected to drones like Jay-Z, singing, “Revolve like the sun round the Earth”? Sun around the Earth? That’s just cosmically inaccurate, Jigga. It’s language. Respect that shit, stupid!
Rappers used to have fun with their lyrics, like when Ol’ Dirty Bastard would smoke too much crack and ad-lib verses: “Rahhwarwaahauh, rawwaroar! / Rawwwaahrah / Yeahhhhh.”
I mean, any amount of crack is too much, I guess. Don’t go around smoking crack thinking it’ll make your rhymes any better, kid. But at this point, it might make you more interesting.
Remember Mos Def? That man doesn’t need crack to write verses that rival the dead white poets: “See me, want me, give me, trust me / Feed me, fuck me, love me, touch me / This whole world is cold and ugly / What we are is low and lovely / I am the most beautiful boogie man / The most beautiful boogie man.”
And genre doesn’t matter—gangsta, conscious, underground, top 40, whatever. But for the love of Bono, just make it intriguing again. With limited vocabulary, Kanye West attempts to express that exact sentiment: “You motherfuckers better do your job and roll up and watch how we roll up and / I can’t control it, can’t hold it, it’s so nuts.” With all that dough, Kanye, please, cop a thesaurus.
So when did it start to crumble? When Dr. Dre warned us, “Never let me slip, cause if I slip, then I’m slippin,” when Ma$e thought he’d paint his picture “as clear as Mozart,” and definitely when Lil’ Wayne, the same man who dropped “I Miss my Dawgs” and “Man, I Miss my Dawgs,” got philosophical: “I’m a vegetarian. I only eat meat.”
Rap is a kitten abandoned in the New York streets. Over the years, the feline turned as ugly as it did hungry and bored. It’ll probably die that way—unless someone feeds, loves and plays with it. A lot.
So you’d better find that little bastard and get to work, because believe it or not, we’re listening.