Down and Out
For years now Hip-Hop has been stereotyped as moneyed music. It’s all about making it rain, cars, clothes and clubs. But some of our most treasured tracks, the ones that DJs play at 3am to get the whole club off the wall, are the songs about the losers played over a danceable beat.
The best example is “Juicy,” Biggie’s ode to the average guy trying to make a buck. I cannot think of a song that is more universally loved in Hip-Hop. It’s relatable to all: money problems, trying to feed the family and childhood dreams deferred all put to that Mtume sample that is anything but down and out.
Tied for second has got to be “T.R.O.Y.” (They Reminisce Over You) and “Passin’ Me By.” Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s opus, inspired by the death of “Trouble” T. Roy is one of the best beats ever, with lyrics that describe real life, talking about real problems like babies having babies and alcoholism in the family. “Passin’ Me By” the gem from Bizzare Ride II The Pharcyde definitely covers a lighter subject matter but still talks about losing instead of winning. Unlike the rappers of today who seem to be able to get any girl they want, the Pharcyde told us about all the ladies they wanted so bad and could never have. Heartache is something everyone knows, crazy orgies with groupies notsomuch.
The bouncy beat of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” by Naughty By Nature is another example of Hip-Hop saying life sucks but you have to deal with it. You were a ghetto bastard, you couldn’t get a job, you got clowned everyday but you still have to press on.
Even more recent tracks like Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life,” follow the same down-trodden theme but throw it over a happy-go-lucky beat and you got a hit. In the same vein, “Bad Day” from Asher Roth’s new album talks about a shitty day in the life of a traveling rap star. The message in all these songs is that life is hard and you can sit down and whine about it or, as the beats suggest, get up and dance and see what tomorrow brings.- MikeD