"Hip Hop is Dead"
says the T-shirt Bushwick Bill is wearing in photographs from a recent issue of The Source. Now, maybe one of the reasons it's dead is because a magazine like The Source can't even manage to spell the word "Colombian" correctly, even though their editor-in-chief is a Latina. The writing in that magazine long ago stopped being insightful in any way. Their piece on ODB, in the same issue, is pretty weak. The New York Times, strangely enough, had two extensive and intelligent pieces about ODB soon after his death. The Source seems to be insisting on semi-literacy as something to be proud of. I remember when their writing was much more substantial. But that was more than a decade ago.
Greg Tate has an excellent essay on 30 years of hip-hop in the new Village Voice:
"Consider, if you will, this "as above, so below" doomsday scenario: Twenty years from now we'll be able to tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren how we witnessed cultural genocide: the systematic destruction of a people's folkways.
We'll tell them how fools thought they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of hiphop the year Bush came back with a gangbang, when they were really presiding over a funeral. We'll tell them how once upon a time there was this marvelous art form where the Negro could finally say in public whatever was on his or her mind in rhyme and how the Negro hiphop artist, staring down minimum wage slavery, Iraq, or the freedom of the incarcerated chose to take his emancipated motor mouth and stuck it up a stripper's ass because it turned out there really was gold in them thar hills."
A few pages later, Tate also reviews the new Nas album, Street's Disciple, which I won't be buying, even if Illmatic is on my top ten list of best LPs ever. So much of rap music nowdays is tired. Listening to most hip-hop stations (in Miami, Boston, NY, Tampa, etc.) is a painful experience. And yet, I can think of no other musical form at this moment that offers more.
One gem I came across recently is a song from Aesop Rock's forthcoming EP, Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives (Definitive Jux, 2005), which was included in The Wire magazine's December issue (their annual CD anthology).