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lyrics versus anthems

During some conversations at the hip hop arts club recently, quite a few of the blokes I was chatting with about hip hop lyrics were quite nostalgic and sentimental about the ol' lyricists:
the KRS-Ones, Chuck Ds, Rakims, Bustas, Biggies, Jean Graes, Kwelis, Nas, Black Thoughts and Kendricks.

And, of course, I love those peeps; it's why I put the damn workshop on.

They have ways of telling stories, painting pictures of our lives, our words, our worlds - even if the only attachement to those lives/worlds is through a feeling, a reminiscence.

They're master craftsmen. They can flex their vocabulary, their wordsmithery, their technique - virtuosity is impressive and we awe at their skills. Hip Hop Legends.

But in the club or at carnival, even in the cars cranking past, the music that goes live is not the lyrical or poetic.

It's the anthemic.

It's what lifts the whole damn room. And that's the kind of stuff that makes your day sometimes. The whole crowd going up.

To the bass lines, trap beats, the cheap shots and ear candy.

Chief Keef, A$ap Rocky, Odd Future, YG, Young Jeezy - all those kush, money, cash money kids.
Just like the one-liners in art - the sight gag, the cheap shot and irony crew (most of Frieze 2013), tacky TV, most musical theatre,  'entertainment'.

They lift people quickly, unite them simply, like a smile or a round of sweets.

And whilst I wouldn't want that as a staple in my diet, it's not 'bad', per se.

But have the fortune of being quite clear about it: it is about balance.

The depth of songs with lyrics at their core are full of metaphor, form, subtext and a depth of meaning. They are an excellent platorm for being able to listen to and imagine a story deeply. To understand complexity - mostly the complexity of the (ultimately flawed) human condition. They contribute to my character.

Same goes for similar kinds of art - lots of painting, post-war sculpture, durational performance, theatre, dance - a way to talk about difficult things* and often it's not easy to digest.

And it's often super SERIOUS.

But who wants to just have fiber all day? You gots to have ice cream once in a while.
You have to just let things be a bit fucked and just have a good time with what you got. Sometimes, you just have to let a smile lift you, even though you know it's not really the deepest or the kind of message you want in your life all the time. They contribute to my lightness.

Of course, the slightly disturbing aspect is when they're the only message you hear, or when you base your whole life on Bang! When all you see are cheap shots at the money and simplistic talk a dem hoes.
And when all the money in various industries goes that way.

I don't think it's helpful to just say 'all that crap is crap' because it sets it up as the ONLY option that's available to people. I think it's about foregrounding what is amazing and knowing that candy dissolves eventually over time.

*(which i think is going to be the name of my next business or novel or full-length mixtape).


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