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Thursday, May 05, 2011

99 Problems

As people posted their thoughts on national security late Sunday night on Facebook, I decided to break things up with a little humor.

"Breaking news: Jay-Z is now in my music library. For those that know me, this is momentous."

If you're keeping score, thinking I've backpedaled and have joined the League of Meh, well, this isn't the case.

I'm still in the dark as to why people (read, people my age who have and will never deal with inner-city life conditions, hustling, or racial discrimination) with incredibly particular views on albums by Wilco, the Arcade Fire, and Spoon choose to go into a verbal lovefest with almost every kind of hip-hop out there. Something doesn't sound right when a final mix on a Wilco record means it should be torn apart critically while some rapper who sings about oral sex using various metaphors is called a "genius."

In other words, yeah, I still don't get it.

But as a drummer who has loved to play funky beats when not playing straightforward rock beats, the roots of hip-hop have been with me since I was a teenager. I've enjoyed the more pop friendly hip-hop I've heard since the early '90s because of the melodies. And whenever a hip-hop artist performed live with a real band on MTV, I almost always wanted to watch. Usually, the drummer would deliver feels and beats that no drum machine could ever accomplish.

I also credit my recent of reading Dan Charnas' excellent book on the history of hip-hop as a business, The Big Payback. Even though it's more about the business than the music, he mentions the thought process behind the trailblazers who saw hip-hop as much more than a novelty. Without going on endless diatribes, he explains how someone like Rick Rubin could love making hip-hop classics while also working on Slayer's Reign in Blood.

Keeping this fresh in my mind, I can't lie about how much I've always liked the hooks to "Big Pimpin'," "Empire State of Mind," and "Hard Knock Life." That's why I had no hesitation over the weekend to pick up a copy of Jay-Z's greatest hits compilation.

I still don't buy into the braggadocio found in a lot of hip-hop (including Jay-Z's music), but hip-hop is something I think I have a clearer understanding of now. But don't be placing any bets on when I'll be praising Lil Wayne.

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