There was a time, not too long ago, when all the cool kids played guitar and had a rock band.
They hung out in basements or abandoned warehouses, grew their hair long and (gasp!) feathered them. If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you knew at least one kid in your school who had a band or played the guitar and got all the chicks.
Rap, in the 80s, was still emerging from the underground. Its unfortunate that what did emerge from the underground int he late 80s was kiddie rap like MC Hammer.
Then came the 90s with Nirvana and the avalanche of alternative rock it brought along with it. Alternative rock, for all its worth, really gave a huge fillip to hip-hop’s mainstreaming with the emergence of some really awesome rappers (nod to Public Enemy), and some really shitty rock bands (here’s looking at you, Fred Durst). Result: rappers suddenly became the new ‘edgy’ mainstream, while all rockers could sing about was their sad, sad, misfortune at not being able to steal their elder sister’s black mascara.
You had some awesome rappers come out during this time: Jay-Z, Snoop, Nelly (oh, well!), and company. But most importantly, you also had a white rapper who was actually good (no, its not Vanilla Ice).
Prove me if I’m wrong, but Eminem’s arrival really set the stage for the way hip-hop completely exploded rock off the charts. You might hate him but you can’t deny that the guy can make up a mean rhyme. But more importantly, he was plenty controversial and had a style that was more accessible to non-rap listeners (read ‘white people’).
Of course, rap then entered its douchy, money grabbing, oversized gold medallion wearing phase. But rock at this stage was still reeling from the 90s and there was no major single band that could command the kind of attention that rappers like Eminem or Jay-Z could (at least no band not in their 40s). The 2000s also saw rock becoming excessively wimpy with indie-rock and its hippie stepchildren becoming more and more popular. Any competition that could throw rap off its popular perch (no, we won’t consider pop music as a competitor) went along the flower trail.
My point: its amazing to see how cool and mainstream rap has become. You can say that that’s the fate of anything that started underground. But you just can’t help feel that there’s a certain ‘edginess’ lacking in the rappers of today. Clearly, most of them still haven’t gotten over the gold plated Cadillac phase. There was a historic even in black history this year with Obama being elected El Presidente, but it was really disheartening to see any really good politically charged rap songs. I would’ve loved to hear Public Enemy of the 80s come out and sing about Obama. But all that I could get was Will.I.Am and his idiot moniker on a stage.
But hey, all the cool kids still rap!