Five Reasons Why Rap Can’t Mourn The Dearly Departed
Monday May 10th 2010,
Filed under: Features,Guest Drops,Internets,Rest In Peace
Written by:

Phillip ‘Prime Minister’ Mlynar explains why Rest In Peace is not the word to play.

Mourn you ’til I join you? Not in the spit-on-the-grave world of rap. Guru‘s passing has shown once more than when it comes to death, hip-hop has no idea how to handle itself with dignity and grace. Being a legendary rapper and part of one of hip-hop’s most beloved groups didn’t stop the ex-Gang Starr man from being pronounced dead on Twitter when he wasn’t, having a soap-opera-style drama unfold in the wake of his death, and seeing his life ‘celebrated’ by a stream of rubbish, pixelated YouTube videos. But that’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to hip-hop deaths. Why? Here’s five starters…

5. Rap Is Violent!

Going out on a limb here: No other music in the history of the world has shot, murdered, tortured and maimed so many people in rhymed verse as hip-hop. When you’re being bombarded by songs that refer to the business end of a revolver more often than peace, love and nappyness, it taints the truth of rappers as vulnerable flesh and blood human beings. Instead, the persona projected is that they’re public-housing-raised futuristic killing machines incapable of being destroyed. Sure, you can trot out the usual trickle of titles when it comes to songs that deal with death poignantly, but for every “Dead Homiez” or “One Day” there are a billion songs about impressing nuns with automatic artillery, shooting pro-homo-dudes in the back and, er, gunning down 80 Frenchmen. For most rappers violent death doesn’t become them – it’s been a part of their music all along.

4. Rap Eats Its Elders!

There’s little dignity in being an old rap legend. Maybe it’s to do with the culture’s rich heritage of encouraging its enthusiastic up-and-comers to take down the established icons of the day. Or perhaps it’s because of some sociological theory that posits that young African-America kids are more preoccupied about finding that next shit than valuing the present or past (at least according to the 1998 edition of Haralambos’ Sociology Themes And Perspectives). Either way, by the time most hip-hop idols pass away their stock has plummeted. Most fans don’t care for their contributions of ten or twenty years ago. Few value their back catalogue of classics, even if they’re reissued with previously unseen artwork, new liner notes, and in fancy deluxe gatefold packaging. Newly post-pubescent rap kids want to hear what The Adventures Of Bobby Ray sounds like, not keep Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik or Soul Food in rotation. Rap moves quickly – and that’s the way it is.

3. Fuck A Fact Check!

As a medium for spreading word of news quickly, the internet is amazing. It’s not, however, particularly good at distinguishing itself as being accurate when it comes to relics of the past like ‘facts’. Consider poor Guru: First, he was pronounced dead by artists and fans alike on Twitter when, er, he wasn’t. (Shame on you, rumor-hungry shit-pigs!) Then when he did pass away, his legacy was summed up by a barrage of short obituaries that seemed to crib from a Wikipedia entry. Jon Caramanica appears to be the only writer to have actually, you know, checked Guru’s real age (47-years-old, direct from Guru’s family, as opposed to the near-universally reported 43-years-old). Sure, renowned ladies man Keithy E might have down-sized his years in the game on Wikipedia for vanity’s sake, but large media outlets like Billboard and MTV should know better than to rely on a source based on the fuckwit idea of “user-edited content.” It’s as if they’ve never seen that episode of 30 Rock where Big Frank Rossitano freaks Janis Joplin‘s Wikipedia page and comedy ensues.

And there’s more! Solar may or may not be staking a place for himself as hip-hop’s ultimate pantomime villain, but today’s hungry young news-hounds are so obsessed with his shady-seeming shenanigans that they seemingly couldn’t pick him out of a line-up. You don’t have to be bumping “Le Bien, Le Mal,” to work out that Solar and MC Solaar are two completely different people. Clue one: Their names are different. Clue two: One has been making solo albums with Guru for the last few years, the other hasn’t. Clue three: One probably has no idea who Thierry Henry is. Most brilliantly, those infinite monkeys hunched over their iMacs at AllHipHop.com’s HQ managed to raise the bar by mashing up Solar and MC Solaar, creating the all new and improved “MC Solar” in the process. It’s as if they didn’t realize that Solar is the “super producer”!

2. Bichasbootleguz!

According to interviews with turn-of-the-’90s New York rappers, the art of bootlegging used to be easy. You’d set up a wooden bench somewhere on 125th Street in Harlem, display you bootleg tapes, and hope that a rapper didn’t turn up to kick seven shades of shite out of you. But if they did, you shrugged, said it was a fair cop, and moseyed off to nurse your injuries. There was something almost earnest about the whole shebang. Now though, it’s arguable that 90% of daily rap operations are effectively some form of bootlegging – and a rapper’s death brings out the worst in it all.

There are people who genuinely seem to believe that posting up links to YouTube videos somehow correlates with ‘celebrating’ a rapper’s legacy. It doesn’t. And it’s pretty insulting on sonic quality grounds alone. There are people who think it’s respectful to post up back catalogues and archives of ‘rare’ releases that at times seem to break into nothing more than a list of CD singles (you really need the clean version of “Nice Girl, Wrong Place”?). There are people who start selling shoddy, posthumous t-shirts. Have you seen the fantastic array of tat that passes for Dilla tribute tees? It won’t be long before someone’s hawking the broken jpeg symbol on a tee as part of the Yancey legacy. There are mixtapes from people you’ve never heard of (if you’re not Premo you really should think twice about whether what you’re doing with those Gang Starr records is anything other than self-promotion under the guise of a ‘tribute’ – or at least be honest about it).

1. Rappers Are Violent!

Going out on the other limb here: No other music in the history of the world sees getting shot as a beneficial career move. We all know the examples, from ‘Pac posturing in court in his wheelchair to Gravy getting shot outside Hot97 and deciding that going on the radio was more pressing than a trifling thing like medical treatment (though in fairness he could have been a Jehovah’s Witness). When rappers seem to be willingly throwing themselves in front of bullets, it’s no surprise that when death comes calling it doesn’t impact with the cold, stark shock that it should. Instead there’s a shrug: another day, another rapper shot, another rapper dead. Sadly, for a lot of listeners you suspect there’s little difference.

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17 Comments so far
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it is ironic how you got Guru’s age wrong as well while criticsizing other people who got his age wrong. “1966” was in fact the year used in biographies on both imdb and allmusic.com. the real year, 1961, was not mentioned until some idiot scanned his passport, and in his older brother’s eulogy published in some newspapers.

I agree to most of what you wrote.

however, there’s something special about Guru that should be mentioned
the entire “hiphop blogosphere”‘s blatant disrespect of his wishes and post-Gang Starr work. first, they ignored him for 6 years before his death (when he was actually very much alive, busy touring the world/recording three albums and a “mixtape”). then, after news broke about coma and then death, concentrating on (probably faked) 2010 statements and letters. at the same time ignoring audio/video statements from the past few years, even such from 2009, when he kept explaining in interviews that Gang Starr was a part of his history and that there was no place for it in his future.

he wanted to move on, yet “jealous” people demanded him to work with their favorite producer – or be ignored. after a legend’s death, one does not pay tribute him if one ignores his wishes. to put it simple: you dont have to like Solar’s style, but he did – and thats all that should matter to anyone who writes a funeral eulogy.

Guru is dead. and now, all of sudden, everybody’s a fan. some are even trying to show this through ridiculous actions such as setting up fucksolar.com, or posting clean versions of Gang Starr tracks. wow. where were all those people since 2004? why not showing love when the man was still alive, instead of showing hate now that he’s dead? he sure would have needed it then.

my point is: I don’t know what he really wanted (however, from interviews he has given between 2004 and 2009, I’m getting an idea), nor what happened between him and Premier – but neither do you. so quit acting like you do (“you” as in random blogger, not you, Phillip Mlynar).

(PS.: please excuse my bad english – obviously I am not a native speaker – but I hope y’all get my point)

Comment by mihau 05.10.10 @

On point. More fire. Unkut strikes again!

Comment by Classic Was The Day 05.10.10 @

Gravy was an idiot.

Comment by Thizzlingading 05.10.10 @

This wasn’t written by Robbie. It was written by Phillip Mlynar. The link to his site is at the top of the post.

Comment by jesse 05.11.10 @

While the general tone and points you make are correct in terms of Rap perhaps you haven’t seen how other musicians are treated in death in different genre’s.
Here is a hint.. EXACTLY THE SAME.

While I am not completely on the fuck Solar bandwagon, I question the statements that Guru, laid up in a hospital, would say he didn’t want to acknowledge his lasting legacy. Not to even mention how his family was cut off from having information and access.
Should the family and we as fans been there throughout.. sure. Was Solar there and is openly seen as the person he trusted late in life… You bet. But a letter goes out when the medical records indicate Guru was in a coma that makes Solar out to be a Godsend and more trusted than anyone else he knows, and we are supposed to just trust that without question. Fuck Outta Here.

Comment by Belve 05.11.10 @

On point piece.

Two things, though: the past decade has seen more MCs/DJs go down from illness than bullets, it seems to me. That’s not something to celebrate in itself, but there’s less pointless buck whylin going on.

Also it seems like the past couple of years has seen more respect for the old school–not just the endless (and boring as fuck) celebration of the 90s style but cats showing love for KRS-ONE (for example) and even, bless their little baseball hats, realizing that Chuck D still makes records.

But yeah, posting rapidshare links to an artist’s entire catalog is a really, really fucktarded way of honoring them.

Comment by elmattic 05.11.10 @

The main point in this piece that resonates with me is the reference to “tributes”. Last I checked CNN have a new album coming out that they’d like to promote. So what do they do? Each Capone and Nore make their own “tribute” track with lyrics that just so happens to include their album’s release date. My question — when was the last time Guru collaboed with either Capone or Noreaga or CNN the group? Um, that would be never. Then Mister Cee does his mix of Gang Starr (not Guru) songs live on the radio. We all know Guru’s solo catalog alone would allow a DJ to spin for at least 5 straight hours. Whether we believe his “last words” or not, why not honor the wishes of celebrating him and not Gang Starr? Now wer have some RIP GURU t-shirts being hocked on hypebeast.com. Was Guru even down with Hypebeast? Who gets the proceeds of those sales?

I hate to say it but you know Solar has TONS of Guru material on stash. If he’s reading this I advise you to go straight to the best Hiphop producers and ask them to remix it and release the album with proceeds going to Guru’s charity of choice. That is probably the one thing that could endear you to Hiphop fans.

Comment by bctw 05.11.10 @

Great article. Thank you. Definatly thought provoking.

Comment by Crisis 05.11.10 @

“But yeah, posting rapidshare links to an artist’s entire catalog is a really, really fucktarded way of honoring them.”

^^ agree

Comment by Dan S 05.11.10 @

Dead rapper cash-ins are foul. Respect the architects – not pimp ‘em.

Comment by Mr Bang In 05.11.10 @

It’s all solid evidence to me. Rap violence is still where it’s always been – only difference now is that, rappers have been snitchin on themselves in lyrics so long that the police are targeting them. T.I., Prodigy, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Plies, etc.

I agree with rap eating its elders as well. It’s almost as if the youth are wishing they’d die so they wouldn’t have to hear about em anymore. Like, “hurry up and croak, I’d be better in your spot!”

As far as bootleggers & file-sharing… the one thing you will see less of in the years to come is, people paying for music. Good article.

Comment by Kid Captain Coolout 05.11.10 @

yeah, i geuss we do listen to a lot of pretty violent songs! *goes off to put the roc marcy album on for the third time today*

Comment by Hi-Fee 05.11.10 @

Rap is no more violent than the blues….do ur homework. matta of fact u dont have to go that far back…hey joe…shotgun….just two overtly violent HIT RECORDS from the 60’s…America is violent so are music is too.

Comment by mercilesz 05.11.10 @

RIP Guru true legend

Comment by Mr Bang In 05.11.10 @

Country music (the good stuff) used to be (and probably still is) full of violent imagery. It actually has the highest suicide rate (amongst listeners) than any other music. Mercilesz had it right, America demands blood because it is one of the most identifiable aspects of life, and don’t act like the rest of the world isn’t on the take.
Also : usually when someone takes the much used “5 things (or if you’re going all out, 10 things) about things” mold they try to make sure they actually have the required number of things.

Comment by lair 05.12.10 @

Ha, country music is pussy music compared to rap.

RIP Guru, Gang Starr Foundation forever!

Comment by Big Hay Jay 05.14.10 @

It appears that Lair’s job is to post comments on Money Mlynar articles questioning his use of the ‘5/10 things’ template. Bloody hell, man, get a life.

Comment by Drew Huge 05.20.10 @



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