Good rap, bad rap

Rap is many things: funny, serious, creative, poetic, clever, political; it’s playing with words and rhyme and rhythm and metre, linguistic trickery where language flexes its muscles and turns tricks, dazzles you with its sheer audacity and triple toe-loops, with its pirouettes and leaps. It’s poetry from the street, an urban poetic form that confronts sociological issues head-on and laughs while it does so. The music gleefully and irreverently plunders anything and everything, from The Shadows and James Brown to sampled sounds and political speeches, whirling it all together with drum-loops and percussion to create a complex, multi-layered soundworld of sometimes impish impunity.It does all these things brilliantly: which is why lazy or talentless rap is so damned infuriating.

De La Soul’s trip-hoppy Three Feet High and Rising is a wonderfully creative record: an album as a game-show ? Brilliant. And the tracks ‘Three Is The Magic Number’ and ‘Me, Myself and I’ never date.

Acid jazz group Galliano’s ‘Totally Together’ from A Joyful Noise Unto the Creator is a brilliantly funny track, where the clueless one who hasn’t been paying attention always provides the last word that doesn’t rhyme and is soundly castigated by the other band-members, even though he tries desperately to explain his unfortunate choice of word.

It’s a great album: inventive, lively, full of variety and the creative fizz that acid jazz and rap were bubbling with at the time. There’s a fierce energy to ‘New World Order,’ some simmering drumming and funky keyboards punctuating the jazz-drenched textures. 

Which is why the moronic mumblings by major artists like 50 Cent is so bloody annoying and tiresome: going on about pimps and ho’s and guns and bling and chicks and cars. Rap can do so much more: it deserves better. 50 Cent really is rap with a missing ‘c.’

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