& Sweaters: Why Hip-Hop Needs DMX Back
In the last few of years, it's become passé to make aggressive street music. Gone are the days when all you needed to make it in hip-hop was a stock thug persona and a song about how gangsta you are. 2010 marks the culmination of a slow, methodical softening of hip-hop by the infiltration of R&B, techno, and indie rock. Baggy jeans and oversized hoodies have been replaced with skinny jeans and cardigan sweaters. The era we came to know and love is over.
Hip-hop is supposed to make people uncomfortable, and it's always had an air of anti-authoritarianism embedded in the culture. So how exactly did we go from "Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nothin' To Fuck With" to Drake's cotton-soft "Find Your Love"? Rap music needs the anger back; it needs the unpredictability back; it needs DMX.
Why DMX? As far as mainstream artists are concerned, he's been one of the only rappers in recent memory who was able to retain street cred in the face of commercial success. DMX doesn't schmooze, he doesn't sell himself in GAP commercials, and he's always made hood music. The current landscape mirrors the late '90s, when hip-hop was knee-deep in the bling era and a young, fiery DMX hit the scene like a ton of bricks. Rather than reject DMX because he different than the music that ruled the airwaves, fans embraced and championed him for taking hip-hop back to its essence.
You can question the parallels between today's rap world and the bling era - which is routinely regarded as the dark ages - but I'm not the only one arguing: Jay-Z has been saying the same thing for the last year. Hov's been one of our main cultural icons for the better part of the last decade, and the gradual shift toward "sensitive" rap music hasn't been lost on him. His recent song "D.O.A." served as a call to arms for hip-hop to toughen up its act. When Jay rapped "Get somebody from BMF to talk on it, give this to a blood, let a crip walk on it", it wasn't simply an opportunity to name drop street crews. It was a 40-year-old man reminding younger artists what rap is supposed to represent. The current issue of Rolling Stone magazine features a Jay-Z interview in which he speaks candidly about hip-hop losing it's edge.
"I love the energy coming out of indie rock right now," he says, name-checking Grizzly Bear. "It has this rebellion thing that hip-hop is missing now, the thing that made hip-hop hip-hop."
But even if this were all true, could DMX possibly make a difference? These days, he's discussed more as a crack addict than a musician, and he hasn't put out a decent album in seven years. Up until a few months ago, I probably would have agreed with such an assessment, but after seeing Eminem kick a drug addiction and turn in Recovery this month, it's not out of the realm of possibility that DMX could also turn it around.
In fact, DMX is enrolled in a drug treatment facility as we speak and is reportedly doing well. Eminem and DMX's music suffered similarly as their addictions grew, so perhaps their artistic resurrections could mirror each other. Whether or not DMX manages to rid himself of his demons and make a return to hip-hop, someone needs to match his passion, energy, and raw emotion. We need "the idea" of DMX. Whether or not we get it from Earl Simmons or not has yet to be determined.
Many will question whether or not hip-hop needs to "take a step back" to a hyper-masculine, senselessly violent, morally bankrupt style of music. That's a fair debate, and to be honest I'd love to see some hip-hop artists continue down that path. But, at the same time, none of the softer artists of today speak for the hood. Rap music has always been a voice for the inner city, and I fear that the legacy will be left behind if lovey-dovey hip-hop artists like Kid Cudi, Drake, and B.O.B take a permanent spot in rap's forefront.
This isn't a call for the triumphant return of senseless thuggery
in music; it's a plea for hip-hop to re-grow the balls that
shriveled up and died in skinny jeans. Just imagine a music world
where we don't have to depend on Nas to ruffle everyone's
feathers and remind us why we love this. Hip-hop would be an
amazing place if there were 10 different artists following in
Nas' footsteps making albums dedicated to Africa, declaring
"hip-hop is dead", and collectively scaring the stiffs at
Universal Records with controversial titles. But in the meantime
let's continue to hold hands, talk about our emotions, and listen
to auto-tuned songs about girls we have crushes on.
By Dell Frost (MOG)
I was nominated [to be honored at the "Dirty South" VH1 Hip Hop Honors] but I declined to accept because I don't wanna be classified as just “Dirty South.” I'm Hip Hop, man. I’m not going because I feel slighted. Even though it was a nice gesture, I feel like it’s just a pacifier. They’re like, “Let’s give these n***as down there a pacifier so they can stop feeling left out. We’ll make Luke and all these n***as down here look funny,” you know? “Let’s put a plate of fried chicken and some watermelon and let’s just do some n***a-ass s**t.” (laughs) Quote, end quote. "Some n***a-ass s**t." Fried chicken and watermelon. "s**t, the faster we get this over with, the better."
Honoring [Uncle] Luke and James [Prince] and [Master] P and Timbaland and JD and Dungeon Family is a good thing. I don't wanna f**k their Honors up. They helped lay the foundation. More power to 'em. I respect what they do and I respect what they've done for Hip Hop, but to put us in a category is disrespectful. Why would you categorize us as "Dirty South"? Why can't you just honor some muthaf**kers from down here and leave it like that? You ain't gotta make us look extra country. We know where we're from and we know where you're from. We know where Hip Hop came from, man. We're cool with that. I'm proud to be from Houston but don't make a mockery of my accomplishments. We're not "dirty" down here in the South anyway. This s**t down here probably cleaner than the rest of the country, cause we got grandmas down here. Our grandmas don't play that s**t.
I was a part of the Slick Rick and De La Soul and Too $hort and Public Enemy [Hip Hop Honors]. I felt good about being a part of that. I went [to Hip Hop Honors] when they honored Def Jam because I wanted to be a part of that. I felt honored that they would even call me to do it. But this year, I totally disagree with how they're trying to categorize us. You know how they make us look on TV? Like we live on the front porch with flies and s**t flying around us, with our stomachs all big eating watermelon rinds? That ain't us, man. Don't f**kin' make a mockery of us because we come from down here and you have no f**kin' idea what it looks like. They're gonna try to put us with some cows and just make us look f**ked up, man, like we don't know what the f**k we doin' down here. We're smart, man. Our life is slowed down so we don't miss nothing. When s**t gets moving too fast you miss everything. s**t's slowed down here so we see it all.
I come from the era when New York and L.A. had the only Hip Hop, and they weren’t f**kin’ with us, at all. If you think I'm lyin', check the history of Hip Hop. Try to pull up some footage from the 1989/1990 New Music Seminar. That's what I base my whole f**kin' life on: the New Music Seminar 1989/1990. They was NOT f**kin' with us. We sold records all over the f**kin' country and New York made a mockery of it. They f**kin' booed the Geto Boys in New York. They sure did.
Back when Luke had Skywalker Records and J had Rap-A-Lot Records, they weren’t tryin’ to do no South s**t. “It didn’t come from New York, son, so f**k that.” That was their attitude. Just because a TV was made in Japan, is it a Japanese TV? Or is it just a f**king TV? If a lightbulb was made in China is it a Chinese lightbulb?
It was hard breaking through. It was hard getting respect from the East Coast. We didn't get no f**kin' love from nobody. Fab Five Freddy came down here early in our career to see what we were really about, and I respected and appreciated that. But we been having money down here. We been rollin' f**kin' Bentleys and Ferraris down here since the 80s. Muthaf**kers ain't just started rockin' gold and platinum chains. We had that s**t in high school. s**t, we just now started running out of money. (laughs) That's how long we been had money down here.
Eventually New York came around and started f**kin' with us. But for an East Coast-based show to call themselves showing some f**kin' love by making a Southern watered-down version of what the show is supposed to be or what Hip Hop really is, man, I feel f**ked up about that s**t. Because we fought harder than a muthaf**ker. When [Ice] Cube was on Hip Hop Honors, it wasn't the "Hip Hop West Coast Honors." Every part of the ghetto is the same mu'f**kin' story. Hip Hop is one machine, regardless if you come from New York or Bareback, Africa. It's f**kin' Hip Hop.
But that's just [my opinion], and f**k me. I don't mean nothing. I'm just a n***a who fought harder than a muthaf**ker to get our records played in New York and on the East Coast period. And now all a n***a needs to do is fart on a record and it gets played. So it's fine by me. I'm cool with that. I'm not mad about it, I just feel disrespected. Whoever goes [to Hip Hop Honors], it's fine and dandy by me. But if you wanted to do a Southern-based show you shoulda got a n***a DOWN SOUTH to do it in the South.