Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Time.com - Why You Can't Ignore Kanye

Time takes on hip-hop with a package that includes an in-depth cover story on Kanye West and a history of the roots of rap. Springboarding from Damon Dash's assertion that Kanye blends the sensibility of politically conscious rap with a more modern bling bling bravado, Time points out:

"That the 'urban demographic' needs 'superficialness' could be read as two euphemisms away from racism. But Dash, an African American who thinks exclusively in shades of green, is merely letting the world in on what's accepted as social fact by much of the record industry.

Hip-hop was born in the '70s as party music and evolved in the '80s into that rarest of pleasures--socially relevant party music. But in the mid-'90s, the genre came to be dominated by people like Snoop Dogg (sample track: Murder Was the Case), the Notorious B.I.G. (Ten Crack Commandments) and Jay-Z (Rap Game/Crack Game)--excellent rappers with a shrewd eye for journalistic detail but, to put it bluntly, ex--drug dealers.

'Rap changed a lot in the last few years,' notes comedian and hip-hop fan Chris Rock, who says he listens to The College Dropout while he writes jokes. 'In the early days, the best rappers weren't necessarily from the hood. Run-D.M.C. was from Hollis [Queens, N.Y.]. Eric B and Rakim were from Long Island. They lived next to the hood.'When the hard stuff sold well (hard stuff, in any medium, always does), the record labels, never bastions of original thought, asked for more. Soon rappers who had never got a speeding ticket were referring to themselves as pimps and hustlas, and what had started as ghetto reporting with a touch of caricature metastasized into caricature with no tether to reality. The result was a torrent of albums about the joys of acquisitiveness (bling, if you must), consequence-free violence and compliant women."