Blog Archive

Monday, August 18, 2008

Complaining about VH1's Hip Hop Honors or Monday Music

It's become a yearly thing to complain about VH1's Hip Hop Honorees. I mean who the fuck is VH1 to honor hip hop anyway? Remember when it was all easy listening all the time? Do they think because they put Flavor Flav in some shows that it gives them a right to canonize hip hop artists?

So the nominees are...Cypress Hill, Slick Rick, Too Short, De La Soul and Naughty by Nature....What no female rappers? I guess Hillary Clinton was wrong about there being 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.

Look, I hate these types of shows. I only watched a few years ago because they honored the greatest rap group of all time, The Wu-Tang Clan...Years before I only watched because they honored Public Enemy--a group that can do no wrong in my eyes (All those post There's A Poison Going On CDs never happened....oh an' Muse Sick -n-Hour Message definitely never happened). I decided that I'd swear off of the Hip Hop Honors after last year's show...I mean after honoring the greatest rap group of all time, what can you do for an encore? I'm actually going to watch this year though. They decided to go an' honor Cypress Hill and I love Cypress Hill....those weedhead experimentalists are completely underrated and can also do no wrong in my eyes (all those post Temples of Boom albums never happened)....I really like groups that show an intelligence behind their setup. It's not just two guys rapping over a beat. B-real is the high pitched lead, while Sen Dog, the sidekick, provides a bass rebuttal. These guys turned Public Enemy on its head. Cypress Hill, at their best, create a mood. In your darkest periods, throw on Temples of Boom. It won't make you feel better, but it'll help you to realize that your blackest emotions aren't relegated to you, but something that every human feels....Something people aren't easily reminded of when they're feeling down and narcissistic....Shit, I've made it sound like their music is no fun....We all remember "Insane in the Brain" and check out how B-real ethers Ice Cube on "No Rest for the Wicked."

But the other honorees...De La Soul? Didn't Tupac kill their careers with an ad lib? I hope they don't go up there looking like Larry Holmes, flabby and sick. OK....I kid (sort of). Personally, I don't give a damn about De La Soul. I liked their early music and was a fanatic about Stakes is High back in 1997, but other than that I'm like, Who cares about De La Soul? But I see that they have a following and they've maintained their integrity over the years. That's admirable, I guess. I probably won't be watching too closely when they're on. I recently got my hands on Stakes is High to see if it stands the test of time. Predictably it doesn't, but there are still some pretty good songs on it.

I mean let's face it, the disciples of De La are perhaps some of the corniest rappers out. I recently made a list of rappers that I'm through with....all people who I was a big, HUGE fan of at some point and guess what, they are all descendants of De La Soul....That list includes: Mos Def[1], Talib Kweli[2], The Roots[3] and Common[4]....they all are arrested in a state of prolonged corniness and self-righteousness.....*update* Let me clarify my De La Soul position....I can appreciate their importance to hip hop and the Native Tongues Movement. I acknowledge their following and their influence (though the people they've influenced are a They also brought skits to hip hop and most skits just mess up good albums. Word to the College Dropout.) I also don't mean to suggest that they shouldn't be honored. Lord knows they've honored less worthy people over the past four years (Snoop Dogg? Missy?). De La's music is often preachy and just not that fun. Their music reminds me of books like Djuna Barnes' Nightwood or Hermann Broch's Sleepwalkers (how's that for pretentious references). I can appreciate the technical mastery, but don't find the music much of a joy to listen to (or read in the case of the books)....which makes me not give a damn about De La. If I want to hear fun self-righteous music I'll listen to Jeru's The Wrath of the Math or KRS-1's early post BDP music.

Naughty by Nature...They would be on my Can Do No Wrong List, but they made that song with 3LW. Completely unforgivable.

It's funny that people tend to think of them as these happy party anthem guys. They made some of the most gangsta music the east coast has ever seen (OK, that's an exaggeration....let's just say of that period)....I loved it even though I didn't live right around the corner from West Hell or two blocks from South Shit....

Slick Rick....That dude can do no wrong....even when he shot his cousin and a bystander, man he could do that because he's Slick Rick.....

Then there's Too Short....Too Short sucks.....

OK, enough of's the honorees' finest moments:

Cypress Hill

De La Soul

Naughty by Nature

Too Short..... uh...yeah.....

Slick Rick


Abdel Shakur said...

Hold up, man. I think you've gone to far here. This Too Short-shorting is too much. Now I'll admit that Todd Shaw is not the most talented rapper (ahem), but he doesn't get enough credit for blazing some serious funk trails in hip hop. Case in point, listen to the funky bass that dominates his Cocktails album. We may have to disagree, but that's classic.

Rion Amilcar Scott said...

abdel, you're praising too short for some baselines? He produced one song on that album and co-produced another. If his baselines are so classic, his producers should be up on that stage receiving the hip hop honor...

Abdel Shakur said...

Touche. The credit for a lot of those funky bass lines has to go to Ant Banks and Shorty B, but there's something that makes his voice perfect for this music. It's hard to quantify because Too Short doesn't fit the traditional mold of an MC, but nobody else could make the music he made in his prime.
(And I'm not even going to get into how much of an impact his pimp game had on hip-hop culture because: 1. Influence isn't always a good thing. 2. I think pimping is mainly some bullshit.)
I hate to be sacrilegious, but I think sometimes we get a little too hung up on lyricism when we talk about hip-hop music. Just because someone can write a dope rhyme, that doesn't mean that I necessarily am going to be engaged by their music (see Talib Kweli). There's a performative aspect to the music that sometimes gets overrated by the general public (see Soldier Boy, Nelly, etc.), but it can also get underrated by the real hip-hop heads. That performative aspect is harder to quantify, which makes it perhaps less attractive to discuss.

Take Ol' Dirty for instance:

What the hell is he talking about? I have no clue, but his first album is a classic.

ODB is, of course, on a different level than Too Short in terms of artistic ambition, but what he's able to accomplish in his music is similarly more complex than it appears and a lot of that complexity has to do with his performance.

And all that aside, I'm from Oakland, so I can't let you ride on my boy like that without saying something. It's a pride thing.

MistaMoon said...

Number one: Wu-Tang the greatest group of all time HA, The best rap group of their time (Dated as crap)

Two: De La Soul are the founders of non-boastful rap they didnt care if people thought they were cool or not

Three: Cypress Hill had one or two(really being generous)good songs

Rion Amilcar Scott said...

Abdel: You're making my argument for me. Too Short's lyrics are simple dirty nursery rhymes. And everything he brought to hip hop is negative. There are plenty Bay Area rappers (The Coup, Hiero, even E-40) who combine lyricism with performative brilliance much better than Short Dawg the pimp. He's respected, I'll give that to him, but I cram to understand why.

Mista Moon: Wu-Tang is the greatest...I would accept arguments for Public Enemy or OutKast (longshot), but listen to Cuban Linx or Liquid Swords....brilliant beats and lyrics with multilayered meanings. They really elevated the 5 percent style that Rakim created to a level that hasn't been duplicated yet.

All that I-don't-care-if-you-like me-crap from De La is a put on. It's as phony as Rick Ross' or Akon's gangsta/criminal personas.

Cypress Hill is not about individual songs. They are about a mood that can only be achieved through albums. You're so into beats, I've always been surprised that you never checked for DJ Muggs.