Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of rap. While I’ve often disparaged the brand of hip hop favoured by clubs and commercial radio, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of incredible rappers out there right now, some of whom are wildly under-appreciated or viewed as being “cliché” or old and tired:
Lupe Fiasco: Great delivery, catchy beats, but most of all, behind his lyrics there’s a distinct absence of violence, foul language, and shock value. He’s a devout Muslim, and he’s hellbent on changing the face of rap as we know it. His lyrics are intelligent, political, and inspiring. There are no drugs, no complaints about bitches or niggas — just heartfelt narratives with solid morals and an optimistic aura, and above all, a clear feeling that Lupe Fiasco knows exactly who he is both as a rapper and an individual. Tracks to check out: “The Interlude,” “Words I Never Said,” “Kick, Push II.”
Kanye West: Go ahead, say it: Kanye’s overrated. I thought so too, until I heard his newest record, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And god, is this album flawless. Granted, there are a lot of guest artists on this CD, including Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, Bon Iver, John Legend, and Jay-Z, but it all melds together beautifully. His choices of songs to sample are brilliant. I’ve never cared for Kanye up until now, but there’s something so honest and so epic about this release that I can’t help but reevaluate any opinion I’d ever had of him. Tracks to check out: “Gorgeous,” “All of the Lights,” “Monster,” and “Lost in the World.”
Eminem: I will defend Eminem til the death. I have loved him for a very, very long time, and most people who dislike him have not been introduced to his early work, namely The Marshall Mathers LP and The Slim Shady LP. His earlier work, while rife with violence, drug use, and profanity, has unparalleled creativity, and his delivery, is, in my opinion, the best of any rapper out there. There’s a passion you can hear in his voice; a sincerity, even through the fictional stories he tells. And most of his earlier lyrics, up until around The Eminem Show incorporated characters he’d created, or stories that may have happened in some way but were clearly exaggerated — such as “Stan,” for instance, one of his best known songs. Although he’s gone through some rough patches recently, Recovery is heading in the right direction after the misstep that was Relapse. Tracks to check out (excluding the obvious singles): “Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” “Guilty Conscience,” “Lose Yourself,” “Brain Damage,” “Cleaning Out My Closet,” and “Role Model.”
Kid Cudi: He’s the hipster of the rap world, but that’s okay. He has a deceptively calm delivery — something that’s a little like a mixture between Snoop Dogg and Kanye, which I think is interesting. He chooses really interesting songs to sample in his music, working over artists like Vampire Weekend and Ratatat. He’s currently working on concept albums, which, on the whole, I’m not terribly thrilled with, but his individual songs are rather good, and he’s hopefully bringing melodic rap back to the table. Tracks to check out: “Alive,” “Day N’ Nite,” “Mr. Rager,” “Scott Mescudi vs. The World,” “MANIAC,” “Trapped in My Mind,” “Cudderisback.”
The person I’m excited to check out next is Nicki Minaj — and she’s changing rap, too. Her verse in “Monster” by Kanye West is extremely memorable, and intrigues me very, very much. So when I check that out I’ll let you know my thoughts.