The Art of Storytelling
What up XXL Mag, back at it for day 2, it’s your man SK from the 718. For the second entry, I wanna go deeper into the convo of the album that I started, but I wanna take it to a certain spectrum of it. When writing my album, I did what came natural to me. No forced songs, no checklist of types of records I “had” to make (ie; a “club song”, a “hood song”, a “posse song”, etc), I just wrote what I know. So whatever you hear on the album really happened. As a writer though (I’ve been once since 2nd grade, before I made the words rhyme), I was always attracted to story telling. To me, when the right story is told it lasts forever, so when you’re able to convey that same essence to a beat and make it make sense (a lot of people try but don’t), the rest is a cakewalk.
Storytelling seems like a lost art in hip hop. Being able to create (or re-create) a world for listeners was something you fought to prove as an emcee. Before I go any further, I’m not one to wanna “bring back the 80’s and 90’s (contrary to popular belief) or anything like that, I’m all for elevation and the tomorrow being today as far as the music, but regardless, telling stories is what the genre started with. Knowing how to bring someone into whatever picture you’re painting, whatever scene you’re drawing, whatever points you’re trying to get across, to me, is one of the most important parts of being able to call yourself a writer, of any sorts.
Most people in hip hop get storytelling confused. Obviously, the majority of the best storytellers told stories that included characters, places, dates, play by play details, etc. It all makes for great visuals, and thus making it easier for the listener to get the point being given. For example, Nas, one of the dopest storytellers to ever talk to a beat, regularly created an entire world with records like “Blaze A 50,” “Undying Love,” and even took it a step further by becoming a non human object in records like “I Gave You Power,” easily seating him in the front row of the class amongst the likes of Scarface, Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, Ice Cube, etc. Along with the Biggies and Nas’ of the world exists another type of storyteller who isn’t as literal in their approach, but ironically made it that much more literal.
When thinking of storytellers, a lot of people don’t include the ones who tell stories without the characters, dates, places, etc. Take for instance Jay-Z. When the convo of storytellers is brought up, Jay is pretty much never included, due to the fact that he has maybe 2 songs involving full characters and play by play events (one being “Meet The Parents” 5/5 stars by far IMO). Really though, Jay has told more stories throughout the years than most of the rappers who get labeled as storytellers. His approach is more so recalling what really happened in his life, as opposed to creating a world of new characters who may reflect true events. When writing from that perspective, it most likely will always get looked at as just “rapping about your everyday and never gets interpreted as storytelling. In actuality though, ALL of that is telling stories. Records like “Can I Live,” “Never Change,” “Rhyme No More (the 2nd half of “A Million & One Questions” for those kinda lost),” “Coming Of Age,” “No Hook,” the list goes on. All of those are stories, point blank. When they’re told in first person though, they get lost in the shuffle and ultimately go over people’s heads.
With all of that being said, a good 99% of “The Salvation” is storytelling; some of it told in first person, some of it with characters and locations to bring you into another world, but it’s pretty much all stories. I feel as though you as a listener will definitely be able to relate to my stories by them being told as just ME. The content and approach of it all is something I know you’ll be in touch with once you get it. Records like “Metal Hearts”, “The Shooter’s Soundtrack,” “My Interpretation” and “For What It’s Worth” are just a few examples of what’s to be expected (I know you haven’t heard those yet, but just so you know what records keep an eye on). Even “The Beautiful Decay” is a story, in the most non literal sense of them all: “O.D. with the pen on the low key/and I become the backdrop when you tripping it O.T./the theme music for peddlers, call me what you want/but I leave room for measures, I’m on it from the jump/ and them, they cloud scoping, hoping the clouds open/I pen both sides, the poetry’s now motioned/pray to God that the car ain’t halted/beautiful decay is what we call it.” That 8 bars is all storytelling. Some parts clear as day, others tucked away underneath the lines.
My goal with my album is to tell my story, and in turn, tell yours, which in turn may hopefully inspire the rebirth of storytelling in hip hop. Not saying every song one writes has to be a story, but I’d definitely like to see it included a little more often (speaking of, shouts to Fab for getting his story game popping with “Loso’s Way,” especially the “I Miss My Love” joint. Good shit, go cop that).
Signing off, I’ll see y’all here tomorrow in day 3 of my guest blogging. Holla