If there's one thing that baffles me about hipsters' tastebuds, it's the seemingly hands-off approach with hip-hop and R&B. Meaning, records by Wilco and Pelican get overanalyzed and scrutinized, while records by Lil Wayne and Kanye West get a free pass and overpraised. (Here's some proof, more proof, some more proof, and even more proof.) I don't think Pitchfork or certain MP3s bloggers are to blame for this. It's just a reflection of what's going on.
At first, I thought this was some cruel, cynical joke, but apparently, hipsters actually like a lot of music made to make you bounce and groove. As it was put to me by a friend who's done a lot of DJing around town in the last couple of years: drunk hipsters like to listen to this stuff late at night.
I'm not putting hip-hop and R&B down here. But think about it: do you really listen and respond to Explosions in the Sky's music the same way you listen and respond to R. Kelly's music? I don't. The feeling I get from "I'm a Flirt" is much different than "The Birth and Death of the Day." I bop and sway to R. Kelly's beats, but don't feel a deep connection to the music as I do with Explosions' music.
If I were to reframe this angle to a different time, picture this: What if Creem Magazine ripped apart a Television record while the latest Giorgio Moroder disco production is heralded as a hands-down, modern classic? I thought music created to make you dance on the dancefloor was something critics were born to trash. Music not created for the dancefloor was fair game and some could be the second coming.
Maybe I'm missing the point here. Those who write about modern hip-hop and R&B probably grew up on a steady diet of that when they were young. Hearing new, fresh approaches to the genre sound like it should be praised. It's kind of like my appreciation of certain modern metal bands. I've heard plenty of crappy metal bands, so when I hear bands actually doing something fresh, I'm more inclined to talk them up. But again, it seems like modern hip-hop and R&B never does anything wrong. Hence the continued feeling of being baffled.