Are Weak Hooks Ruining Rap?
Tuesday August 17th 2010,
Filed under: Features,Shots Fired,The Unkut Opinion
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One of the many notable moments from the 2nd episode of The Combat Jack Radio Show was when the topic of ‘Verse of the Year’ came up. Dallas declared that Black Thought was the current holder of that title thanks to his rousing performance on ‘Walk Alone’ from How I Got Over. Despite being aware of the fact that DP has been known to carry weed for Philly’s Finest on occassion, I thought maybe I should check the album out again after having initially dismissed it as a ‘snooze-fest’. Turns out that Black Thought murders shit over some rich, moody compositions. But there’s something not quite right – the majority of the choruses are fuckin’ horrible. I’m not sure if it’s the choice of vocalists or the words, but the hooks on this record completely kill the vibe for me. To be honest, The Roots have a pretty poor track-record in this area. ‘Dat Skat’, anybody? But I’m not trying to make an example of the Hardest Working Band In Hip-Hop, because this problem is an epidemic right now.

At what point did scratching become played-out on the hook? Obviously, not every song can have cuts on the chorus. especially since most new acts don’t even have a DJ! Nothing wrong with a chanted or rhymed hook when executed properly, but everyone has to have singing now? Not quality singing from a professional either – ‘ironic’, off-key warbling’s from MC’s or strep-throat caterwauls from some dame that they met at the club last week seem to be the flavor of the month. Some rapper’s might feel that scratch hooks are the exclusive domain of DJ Premier and his broken cross-fader signature style, but a recent glance at DJ Revolution‘s resume will reveal that in the hands of a master, this sweet science is anything but obsolete.

Scratch hooks aren’t for the faint of heart, though. Not any old hump can source the right mix of vocal snippets and sew them together into catchy bridge between verses. But there are alternatives – even just throwing a phrase in to the sampler and repeating it over and over like a 1986 Marley Marl joint is preferable to the aural cluster-fucks that some of these douche-hammers are trying to pass off as anthems. And if you insist on having some Rap & Bullshit on there, at least sample some good singing (Kanye’s original ‘All Falls Down’ comes to mind) or save up for a Mary J. Blige guest spot if Rhianna‘s management won’t return your calls. As for screaming your hook on some 1993 shit? You ain’t Onyx, fuckers! I know these type-emotional Leader of the N00b School dudes want to sing about broken hearts and being depressed, but don’t fear the scratch. It might even make people forget those weak-ass bars you just mumbled!


33 Comments so far
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wooooooord up!

Comment by swordfish 08.17.10 @

Some of us still put out bangers with scratch hooks! AWKWORD x PaceWon x Block McCloud = “Before” (produced/cuts by White Shadow of Norway): http://bit.ly/Before_mp3

Comment by Lewis Hegeman 08.17.10 @

“Carry weed”, LMAO! Yall gon’ make me start using that term. Black Thought does go in on that LP when he’s rhyming. The hooks didn’t bother me nearly as much as the MC features. Just wasn’t wanting to hear that many on a Roots album.

You’re right about the weak hooks, i’ve had a few of em here and there but, not everything turns out as dope as you planned. I used to always use scratches until the new wave of DJ’s came. A lot of em don’t even cut anymore, they just wanna dress better and see who can play the same shit the best. The ones who do still cut, be wantin to throw 15 records into an 8-bar hook! Can’t tell you how many cats get in the lab talkin bout, “gimme another track.” We need to go back to 2-inch tape…

Comment by Kid Captain Coolout 08.17.10 @

nah the roots album was solid all the way through, easily album of the year. hooks helped more than hurt, Dice Raw got a great voice and a talent for writing good hooks.

Comment by claaa7 08.17.10 @

I deserve that weedcarrier shot because I do stan inordinately hard for the Roots.

Album of the year is still Marcberg however.

Patiently waiting for new KanYe West album…

The return of rhyming to pop music rap

Comment by Dallas 08.17.10 @

You’re way off imo. The Roots should be applauded for not going the obvious route and understanding anything vaguely rock isn’t just Nickelback and Ozzy (Im lookin at you Royce)…not a hook I don’t like on there

Big Boi’s album however has that hook by Vonnegut that’s TURRRRIBLE…the one low point on there for me

Comment by Jeffluv 08.17.10 @

i hate hooks. scratched hooks great. no hooks are great. id rather listen to mixtapes sometimes just so i dont have to hear shitty hooks.

Comment by iLLa 08.17.10 @

I think the hooks on the Roots album are dope save for 2 tracks – Hustla & the first joint with Blu.

Comment by LEX 08.17.10 @

Roots album is great. Every time they drop I think, this is going to be garbage, they’re old and gonna finally sell out completely. But they step it up each time.

Minus that first piece of doo-doo “Organox” every album is classic imo.

Pun did murder Black Thought on “Super Lyrical” though.

Comment by Ridiculous Fish 08.17.10 @

Black Thought is an amazing MC, but the Roots latest album was terribly boring.

Comment by hl 08.17.10 @

Radio hip hop looks for lame looks I swear.
Like my iPods stuck on replay?
Call me mr flinstone…?
It never ends. Lame hooks disease 2010 in full defect….

Comment by The snow donkey 08.17.10 @

Look no further than Dilated Peoples. That’s how to scratch a hook “Make your ear drums pop, pop, pop”. Nice. Singing was never supposed to be on hip hop (Although TJ Swan could just pull it off). This is a man’s game. I blame Latifah!!!!

Comment by Dan E Fresh 08.18.10 @

YO ROBBIE I WAS SURE U MENTIONNED THE ROOTS. INDEED DEM HOOKS RUIN DEM SKILLS THEY’VE MASTERED… ID SAY THE “DO IT AGAIN” JOINT STILL GOT IT ALRIGHT THO…

Comment by DONALESKI 08.18.10 @

SCRATCH HOOKS SUX SOMETIMES TOO, ITS OFTEN OVERLOADED, OVER COMPLICATED SHIT… THERES A THIN LINE BETWEEN DAT REAL FLUID HIP HOP FEEL & DEM UNSENSIBLE STARVIN FO HOOKS FILLA ARTISTS, TRUTH… ID RATHER GET A SIMPLE GHETTO DWELLAS HOOK WITH A WOMAN SINGIN THAN AN OVERLOADED CELPH TITLED TRACK W/ EVEN BUCKWILD ON THA TRACK…

Comment by DONALESKI 08.18.10 @

SCRATCH HOOKS ARE USUALLY FOR DEM PEOPLE WHO DONT KNOW HOW TO HOOK – SUBSTITUTION…

Comment by DONALESKI 08.18.10 @

I MIGH HAVE MISTTAKEN ON BUCKWILD & CELPH…

Comment by DONALESKI 08.18.10 @

DEM MOBB DEEP HOOKS BAK THEN WERE DOPE!

Comment by DONALESKI 08.18.10 @

It’s good to have a balance of scratched, sampled and singing/rhymed hooks on a joint, when all are executed properly of course. If I had my choice of one out the four, traditionalist that I am, I’ll run with the cuts. Of course, these days you gotta find an old school cat with skills and knowledge of all eras of Hip-Hop to do it (translation: get on Premo’s waiting list.) Before, the thing was dope hooks/weak verses. Now it’s wack verses/even wacker hooks. Cue up Ice Cube: turn off the radio.

Comment by oskamadison 08.18.10 @

Stoupe The Enemy of Mankind (of Jedi Mind Tricks fame) uses scratch hooks for chorus’ all the time, and it always worked great.

Comment by pballoon 08.18.10 @

“Leader of the N00b School dudes”

Ha ha!

Comment by End Level Boss 08.18.10 @

cos most new rap producers havent come up on scratching and doubling up breaks or instrumentals, its not in their knowledge. Scratching isnt ‘cool’ right now. Cos theres hardly cuts in most prominent new tunes people just follow trends and copy.
Well thats what i think anyway.

Comment by tareq 08.18.10 @

^Exactly

Lack of skillz the main reason.

Comment by Plain Rap Medski 08.18.10 @

Also the term ‘Douche Hammer’ needs to be trademarked if it isn’t already.

Comment by Plain Rap Medski 08.18.10 @

I fuckin HATE most singing hooks… Only some here and there are cool or alright. I’ve never understood why the “scratched hook” has faded away for so many people. Thank god cats like Primo, Revolution, JS-1, etc. are still doing it.

I really like the new Roots album, but yeah, some of the singing is just whatever, but I don’t hate it. And how could someone call the first Roots album ORGANIX doo-do? Wow!! That album was so raw…

Comment by Shaun D. aka Wicked 08.19.10 @

Scratch hooks ONLY , all day, every day. Peace.

Comment by CrateDigga78 08.19.10 @

Here in the midwest, I think a lot of acts think about the DJ last. Everybody else is rhymin’ over DAT and they just don’t realize how boring and amateur that looks and feels. The audience doesn’t seem to either. It’s weird. Some of these acts around here wouldn’t be half bad if they added that element from the jump. Lyrically and production-wise they get it. But for many of them it’s too late. Nah, it’s never too late.

Comment by Apex 08.19.10 @

Know what? Damn a hook. Dudes should just take it back to them Sugarhill records and just go in for 15 minutes straight. Just imagine a 15 minute version of that display of top-notch lyricism that is Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag”?

Comment by oskamadison 08.19.10 @

As much as I love a scratched hook, the outcome definitely does depend on the DJ’s skills – for example, the scratches on Elzhi’s Brag Swag sound terrible; mixed poorly and amateurish.

Scratch hook doesn’t always = victory,
which I’m sure we’re all aware of.

Comment by A.S. 08.19.10 @

yall take this purist shit too far sometimes. that roots plays nice over and over. gotta love a good scratch hook but damn you gotta be willing to be entertained

Comment by stevep 08.20.10 @

oh yeah and album of the year so far is that Big Krit tape, roc marc, roots in the convo too

Comment by stevep 08.20.10 @

that’s a good call – shitty hooks killed a lot of that roots album. took all the heat out of black thought’s verses.
scientifically, bad scratch chorus – beats bad hook – beats bad r n b chorus

Comment by djbosscrewwrecka 08.22.10 @

are weak hooks ruining rap?
no. they’ve been ruining rap for a long time. it’s not a new phenomenon.

Comment by djbosscrewwrecka 08.22.10 @

I usually can’t stand an R&B hook on a rap song. That always makes me change tracks like it was a reflex. Cuts and scratches are great. I hate it when 80-90% of tracks are pure choruses, that shit is just lazy.

Comment by gstatty 08.27.10 @



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