Wednesday, January 28, 2009

When Rappers Stop Rapping

As a die hard hip hop fan, (by Bush Babee's original definition.) I'm not gonna front, I get frustrated when my favorite spitter decides out of the blue to start either singing or going a different route with their music. Although the artist in me totally understands, the fan in me hates it.

the reason why the fan in me hates it is becuz with the current direction hip hop is going, it sucks already to having to deal with the noise pollution of a Souljah Boi & oversaturation of T-Pain & Lil' Wayne 24/7.

But to have rappers that I could always count on to give me hope for the radio (Kanye West) to go from conscious hip hop or dope lyricism (Common) to singing on autotunes & party records, it's forced me to accept the fact that I'm old & flick my radio to the oldies station where they play "Brick House" & "Flashlight" all day & having to embark on Tom Joyner & his legion of anti-rap hating bammas in the morning... since there's no station for neither old school nor underground hip hop in GA (outside of ATL that I know of.)

I'm in no way bashing my bruthas, b/c honestly I do like Kanye's album & I respect Common's need to experiment. But I'd be lying if I said I played Com's UMC album as repetitively as I did his previouses (except Electric Circus). Or that Heartbreak by Kanye gives me the same goosebumps I felt the first time I heard, "Can't Tell Me Nothing." or "Flashing Lights."

Kanye & Common aren't the first to do this, & I shouldn't even include Com, since at least he still raps. But there have been other artists that have stepped outside their hip hop thrones & got their feet wet in other unique music. And I do have to give it up to some that truly impressed me with their transitions.

1. Mos Def - Umi Say
The first time I heard this, I instantly fell in love with it & forgot I was actually listening to a hip hop CD. Mos has one of those voices that makes you think of a civil rights fighter with the wit of a spoken word poet. There's a lot of power in his voice & doesn't matter whether he's singing or rapping. He's truly a gifted brutha.

2. Queen Latifah - Weekend Love
Before Hollywood & 2 jazz albums, Latifah was one of the best femcees to bless a mic. But one thing that separated her from the rest (males or females), was she actually sung as well. And one of my favorites was "Weekend Love" (another was "Gimme Your Love" from her 2nd album) because of the feel good Caribbean vibe. This is one of her few songs where she didn't overdo it or come across as a rapper tryna sing. But instead a woman happily waiting on her weekend fling.

3. Phonte of Little Brother - Foreign Exchange
This brutha has to be the male equivalent of Lauryn Hill. The first time I listened to him with Nicolay on the debut of FE, "Connected", I actually forgot that I was listening to the same brutha that was dropping some of the hottest bars on all of Little Brother's albums. And FE recently released their sophomore effort, where Phonte is singing on 95% of the album, & I'm not even sweating it, b/c it's a masterpiece.

4. Lauryn Hill - Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
This woman deserves all the accolades she gets. Her talent is so overwhelming that you'd be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't been yearning for her to return with another album after an over decade hiatus (7 years including the Live Unplugged album.) I still miss L. Boogie the emcee, so I'm hoping her next album be a double album (one singing/another spitting.)

5. Andre 3 Stacks of Outkast
I've been an Outkast fan from day one (1993 - Player's Ball). So my first response to Andre's "Hey Ya'" joint was a little disappointing for the same reason I did Kanye 2008. But eventually, after seeing the artistry in the video & actually listening to the album, I actually started liking it more than I did Big Boi's album (which was total rapping with more of an Outkast original feel.) Then with Idlewild & the songs he was doing on his Cartoon Network show, I truly have a lot more respect for him as an artist. And funny thing, the rhymes he started coming with afterwards actually got tighter (as if they weren't tight before).

6. CeeLo of Goodie Mob - Gnarls Barkley
From his own solo joints post GM, cameo performances & hooking up with Dangermouse to form Gnarls Barkley, definitely can't sleep on him.

7. Q-Tip - Kamaal the Abstract:
this album was never officially released becuz his label didn't know how to market it & didn't think it would sell, since Tip wasn't spitting on it. But if you love Mos' style of singing, you'll love this one.

8. Wyclef Jean - post-Fugees
With all the reggae albums he's done, it seems I haven't heard Clef spit a verse since the 90's. He's very underrated as an emcee, b/c so much emphasis was on Lauryn when the Fugees were hot.

Joints I Remember
Lil' Kim - Lighter's Up
Snoop Dogg - Sexual Seduction
Heavy D - Don't You Know

Joints I Wanna Forget
Salt-n-Pepa - Start Me Up (Was on some TLC shit)
Biz Markie - Let Me Turn U On (Tried to hard to repeat "Just A Friend")
Big Daddy Kane feat. Barry White (no comment)


Muhammad the Harlem Sk8rboi said...

I too feel lukewarm when rappers decide to venture into singing after some time. Some do it very well. In the case of Lauryn Hill she was a singer first. I remember the time she appeared of Amateur Night at the Apollo & she did alright. I miss L-Boogie like crazy though. I was most upset with Queen Latifah b/c she hasn't even ventured back into Hip Hop since that album she put out in 1998. Andre is an interesting case b/c he evolved on so many levels. When he started to sing, he was also starting to show unique taste in clothes & he became a better producer. It culminate with him getting nicer spitting (like that song "Millionaire" on Kelis' Tasty album). I didn't even know Phonte sings now, and he sounds tight. I loved that "Minstrel Show" album, but I could use some more FE in my life. Wyclef rhymed sparsely in his albums since his debut album in 1997, but once again he grew in multiple areas. He produced for various artists, wrote songs for them, and managed some (City High). I guess that changing paths was inevitable for him. I actually appreciate Cee-Lo more as a singer. His rhyming was okay with the Dungeon Family, but with Danger Mouse & solo he's the man when he sings. I even like the song he did with Lauryn Hill (who ripped the track) on Carlos Santana's album "Supernatural." Again this is why I love Jay-Z. After all these years my man still RHYMES & very few do it better or at even kilter.

Phellah G said...

What up Muhammad. I got good news though. Latifah's suppose to drop a rap album this year. I'm curious to see how she brings it. I just hope she don't jump on the autotune or party/club bandwagon to appease 106 & Park fans. Should take pointers from Q-Tip, b/c his first album in 11 years is straight fire.

I don't I've heard "Millionaire" before. I need to go back & hear that. BUt I agree, Cee-Lo at his artistic best came about when he left Goodie Mob. Even though I was a huge fan, he was never a favorite of mine out the 4 (although he stood out more with the singy flow & weird clothes). They tried to incorporate his unique artistry on their last album together (World Party) & was a total disaster. I definitely became a bigger of fan of Cee as a singer & he & Dangermouse are a perfect pair.

I didn't even believe it was Phonte singing on Foreign Exchange's first album connected, becuz it was kinda split some rapping/some singing. And I thought maybe it was Nicolay. But it was actually "Minstrel Show" where I realized, "Damn, brutha really can sing." Even though the song was a spoof making fun of modern R&B songs. But he's truly a force in both arenas (like my girl L).