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Monday, August 08, 2022

Singer or emcee, Holt’s got nothing but love

I'm sitting here in my homie's dorm room listening to The Blueprint and thinking about some of the things that passed through my mind over the course of the summer. It's amazing how hip-hop has gone from what was supposed to be a fad that ended in less than five years to one of the United States' most lucrative money-making machines. The music is only 25 or 30 years old, depending on who you ask. Nowadays, your music isn't pop unless you have visible elements of hip-hop in it. A truly gifted hip-hop artist can make it into constant rotation on the mutually owned MTV or BET, and 'true hip-hoppers' refuse to give respect to the artist. Even worse, they refuse to respect the music. What's that? Comedy, that's what that is. Another thing, what's the deal with all the emcees and rappers we are losing to R&B and soul? As you can see, my mind wandered a lot this summer. So let's talk about some of this. 




Let's start with the last item on the list. Remember when rappers were rappers and singers were singers? Hip-hop has lost some of its most gifted emcees and successful rappers forever. They are no longer married to the rhythmatically spoken word. Lauryn Hill, one of the most gifted writers many of us have ever heard, no longer emcees. She is a singer. It took me months to accept her album for the masterpiece it is. It only had one rap song on it. What a shame.  




After seeing Mos Def at the Chicago House of Blues in '99, I am thoroughly convinced that he is a singer that just happens to have an extremely sick flow and lyrics. Throughout his show, he only did material from his solo album. He did no Black Star material and nothing from the days of Medina Green. He had a band made up of respected rock and jazz musicians. He is a singer; he will never make another album with the amount of pure hip-hop that Black on Both Sides contains. You heard it here first.  




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Some people still don't know that Erykah Badu started as an emcee, and what the hell happened to super emcee Cee-Lo of the G.MoB.? He's a church singer now. Even the loudest little thug out there, Ja-Rule, sings. Who's next'Scarface? Could you imagine him singing some syrupy love song? Of course not, but who would have thought that Mr. Murda Inc. would sing to women more than Alfalfa did? What's more, who would have thought Scarface could sing? 




So as the keepers of hip-hop, where does that leave us? It's like a Superbowl team being dismantled through free agency. The neo-soul movement or whatever people call it, attracts talent from hip-hop for some reason. Maybe these singers just saw hip-hop as the genre closest to their true hearts, until the hybridization of hip-hop and soul. Don't get it twisted; I enjoy hearing most of these folks sing. It just stings to think that I will never hear Lauryn Hill rap an entire song again.  




On the other hand, what about those emcees that we would like to hear sing more, just not all the time. Red and Meth should do a short blues album. There are reasons why those two are not that stable; they should tell some of those stories in greater depth. The funny thing is that both of those dudes can really sing; they just don't like to admit it. Why can't KRS do a dancehall album? There must be one rule, though. Mad Lion must be featured on three songs including the remix of 'Shoot to Kill.' Black Thought and Andre from Outkast should get together with their respective musical families to create an album'imagine that. 




If any of the aforementioned scenarios plays themselves out, would the artists loose all of their 'true hip-hop' fans? If a Red and Meth 'Blowed and Blue' blues album was released, would it hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts simply because they are possibly the most popular duo out there? Would they make it simply because hip-hop music is the definition of pop music now? What about those kids wearing backpacks and four layers?? of clothing walking to school with their walkmans and big headphones? Will they feel forsaken by their grimy brethren or will they recognize that hip-hop is essentially the blues? How many people out there hate Jay-Z because he's mainstream? It's funny how someone's financial success can upset a total stranger. Shouldn't people be happy that an artist like Jay-Z, a formerly poor hustler, can eat whatever he wants whenever he wants? That's one less starving person to worry about in a dark alley.  




I fail to understand the nature of the hate that many 'true hip-hoppers' have for the successful members of the game. If the artist totally changed his character or his music (L.L., Cube, Nas), it would be easier to understand. In many cases (Jay-Z, Eminem, Xzibit, Scarface) though, the music being made is still of the highest quality. All you have to do is listen with an open mind and ask yourself, 'Can I do that with words'? To invalidate an artist's authenticity because he or she goes platinum, or 10 times that, simply because of the record sales, is a reason to seriously doubt your own authenticity. Please remember that.  




Derrick Holt is a senior majoring in real estate and finance. Derrick may be contacted via e-mail at 




Look for Derrick's column to run Wednesday's on the Arts page for the rest of the semester.

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