New Rule: If Rob the Music Ed can write about producers, I can write about rappers. Rappers are no longer off limits on this blog.
I feel like there aren’t enough rappers out there who treat the art form of rapping as a serious skill. I mean, artists who rap for the simple act of impressing other MCs. I know there are a few who rap thinking they’re impressing people, and that’s a totally different thing altogether. 3rd party perspective is very underrated in a business of “yes” men.
I’ve heard TI called a lyricist. I’ve heard Game called a lyricist. I’ve heard a whole bunch of rappers who are anything but lyricists, thrown into that group.
There really are only a few acts in mainstream hip-hop who we can call lyricists. Wayne, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Common, (to some extent or another). I might even throw Kanye in there, he’s not great but he’s a pretty witty guy. Again, I’m not necessarily ranking anyone, just trying to point out that there aren’t many artists out there who actually rhyme like it’s competitive sport.
Most artists today just try to make the “club record,” the “radio record,” the “chick record,” the “south” record, the up-tempo “pop record,” the R&B “crossover” record.
When anyone brings up lyricists to me, I use Big Pun as a reference point. To me, he was one of the last dudes to become a huge star and make popular records without sacrificing his lyrics. He was always nice with it, even when he was making the “club” record.
When was the last time you heard someone, on a single no less, spit something as tongue-twisting as:
“dead in the middle of little italy, little did we know that we riddled some middle men who didn’t do diddly.”
Probably been a while. Although something like “A Milli,” for example, was the closest we’ve been to it in many years. Which is saying something.
People like Lil Wayne because he’s a Southern rapper who spits like a New Yorker. He’s got the NO drawl, but the lyrical content and flow of an East Coast dude.
But what are the prospects for lyricists moving forward? See, Wayne’s success made everyone step their game up across the board. I think the most noticeable example was Jeezy. He went from a shit rapper with a dynamic voice to a pretty darned good one overnight. He had to step it up, or else he’d be irrelevant, like every other d-boy rapper.
I’ve heard people say the XXL Freshman 10 was a group of cats who were bringing lyricism back. Everyone on that cover was pretty skilled as rappers, but hardcore lyricists? I think not. Maybe one or two. But not everyone.
Probably the best case for lyricism was made by Ludacris, with his Theater of the Mind LP. Talk about a guy who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Who else is out there who can bring lyricism back on a mainstream level? Anyone?