Filed under: Not Your Average,The Unkut Opinion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
It’s time to admit the awful truth – I wasted many years of my life as a lyrics nerd. From constantly rewinding ‘Prsioners of War’ to attempting to memorize Percee-P‘s ‘Lung Collapsing Lyrics’ and even listening to Soul On Ice multiple times. Sure, I appreciated the genius of Willie D‘s Shout Rap and enjoyed NWA as much as anyone, but I also went through a period of dismissing a lot of great records for their low syllable count. Then one day, I woke up and began to understand just how important the ‘Character MC’ really is. Hearing rap fans complain that rhymers like Blaq Poet, Big Twin and Tim Dog are garbage reminds me of the lessons that should have been learned during the dreaded Backpack Era – a lot of complicated but ultimately dull rhyme schemes over bland beats. Bogged down by their notebooks, the Lyricist Lounge Generation produced some incredibly boring music.
Somebody like Tupac, however, was able to overcome whatever limitations he had as an MC by projecting so much raw emotion into his vocals that you had to take notice, while a Too $hort is able to get over based on his larger-than-life character. The unfortunate side-effect of this phenomenon is that far too many rapper dudes now think they can get over on attitude alone. When these same characters are revealed to be as dull-as-dishwater, that’s where the problems start. The essential quality of any ‘character rapper’ is that you actually require an appealing personality to begin with – if you’re no Bushwick Bill, then you might want to actually put some time into those bars. That being said, when you’re able to find a technically proficient MC with an entertaining personality to boot, you’re onto a winner. Big L, Lord Finesse, KRS-One, Sean Price and early Kool Keith spring to mind as good examples of this. It’s tough to call which is worse – bland but decent rhymers or lyrical under-achievers who can still provide some amusement?
The idea that any hip-hop fanatic might fail to appreciate the charisma, presence and technique of an MC simply because they don’t sound like a Big Pun rip-off is pretty disturbing. If you hate Infamous Mobb for being ‘too street’ and fail to acknowledge the blissful ignorance of Gucci Mane‘s ‘Wasted’ then you might as well go and sit in your parent’s basement and listen to all your Canibus CD’s while you punch through a few cones of that kush. A knocking beat and the right attitude on the track can work wonders, which is why the recent work of Prodigy still gets burn in my ride. P’s whole state of mind on those albums really translates through the speaker, regardless of how ‘simple’ his lyrics might sound in comparison to early Mobb music. Not to say that I encourage the dumbing down of rap by any means, but a dope beat and a rapper with some personality should never be underestimated.
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