Props to Nahright on letting me know about the story, but heres my take.
A small controversy turned into something major when Lupe Fiasco, performed in honor of A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) recently at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors award show. In Lupe's cover of Electric Relaxation
, Lupe messed up 2 bars of one of the verses. This only became a somewhat big deal because weeks prior to the awards show Lupe made it known that he wasnt a big fan of ATCQ growing up and wasnt familiar with it.
Well after the slip up, he defended himself by saying, rather obnoxiously, that he only did it because he was asked to by Q-Tip, the group's lead rapper. He also added in, that he still hadn't heard the Midnight Marauders album (which is considered by many to be ATCQ's best work, and one of the best hip hop albums of all time). Not only that, but ATCQ is held in nearly mythical status and is widely believed to be the second greatest hip hop group of all times (behind Wu-Tang). AND unfortunately for Lupe, his fanbase overlaps heavily with his because his music is so similar in so many ways to the kind of music ATCQ made, albeit much more ordinary, imho.
You can read more about the details of this whole saga here
What this got me thinking about was this is why hip hop sucks. Lupe Fiasco, who is so obviously operating in a space that wase created by ATCQ (regardless of whether he was personally influenced by them or not), is in essence refusing to listen to their work. This is a huge part of why Hip Hop in general and emceeing in particular is not growing. Lupe is not alone in thhis regard. Multi-Platinum selling artist The Game
clumsily stumbled his way through a debut album name dropping albums, artists, executives, and their personal assistants, when he erroneously said this:
I woke up from a Coma in 2001/
the same time Dre dropped 2001/
The problem is, Dr. Dre didnt drop 2001
in 2001, he dropped it in 1999. And the problem with that is, The Game is from Los Angeles and this is DR. DRE we are talking about!! Whenever Dre drops an album, the earth stops spinning and the fighters in the middle east take a 2 week break from suicide bombs and straffing civilian buildings so they can digest the album Dre has put together. This is an album that sold 10 million copies worldwide, and he was put out on Dr. Dre's label for crying out loud!!!! This isn't so much an affront to Dre as it is an affront to the artform itself. An affront that no one but me and a few other purists care about. I take my craft seriously, and it bothers me that others, particularly those fortunate enough to be making a living from it, care very little about the art form.
Is there a Jazz Saxophonist of any stature who hasn't heard nearly every single note that Charlie Parker ever played? I doubt it. Why? Because Jazz is an art form where artists take their craft seriously and so do its listeners. Hip Hop is an art form, where all too often neither the artist, nor the teenage fans they are trying to win over, takes the art form seriously. These are problems inherent in the demographic that most hip hop targets and its also a problem in terms of what purpose hip hop is trying to serve. Jazz musicians want to be artists and want to make music that is respected as art. Rappers want to be rich and want to make music that makes them rich.
Did I mention that these labels and this industry seems wholly divorced from any understanding of what hip hop could be? I mean do all black people really sell crack or love Louis Vitton? I'm just saying. But most of these new 'artists' are not 'artists' at all, they are products, not even original products, just an old product with a new package and a new shape. I can't wait to take over hip hop.
Labels: A Tribe Called Quest, Art Form, Hip Hop, Jazz, Lupe Fiasco