The Word or The Beat?


A recent article in the New Yorker digs into the state of hip hop through the lens of DJ Rosenberg, a white guy born and bred on hip hop and touted as a 'purist' by radio and rappers (such as Busta Rhymes) alike.  The author, Andrew Marantz, states, "It has become a commonplace among rap snobs that kids these days don’t appreciate complex lyrics. Rosenberg frequently aligns himself with the purists, defending old-school craftsmanship against the encroachment of pop hooks and lowest-common-denominator rhymes."  An example of his purist policing: Rosenberg threw shade at Nicki Manaj for selling out and going pop with her dance-pop/rap tracks.

Which got me thinking: what about those of us that go deep into elements of rap other than the purity of lyric? I get that early rap had simple beats, complex lyrics, and today, it's all about complex beats, simple lyrics. The rap purists equate this to be the disintegration of rap's integrity, but I would beg to differ. It seems to be a question of what you value in rap, and I think you can be just as much of a purist about the instrumentals and rhythm-- which may not be what rap was originally about, but it has evolved to be as such. I really don't give much of a flying mic about the lyrical content. You could be going off about your best Sunday shoes or your girlfriend in the trunk (thanks, Eminem circa 2001), and I wouldn't care a cent.  I listen to hip hop for the instrumentals. The beat, the samples, the way the music complements the rhythm of the rap (but really, I don't care much if there's a rap layered on top).  I may be an extreme case in the fuck-lyrics direction, but this is just what I happen to appreciate about hip-hop, BECAUSE I LIKE TO DANCE TO IT.   Without being too presumptuous, I hope others do as well.  Can we be purists as well, but instrumentalist purists? Because I am damn picky about what it sounds like. I find the article's definition--a common definition, clearly--of 'rap purist' to be quite limited and limiting.  What do you think?  Are you an old school fool attached to the depth and complexity of rhyme? Or do you just want to ride a beat and find that just as authentically hip hop?

I leave you with a track appreciated for its beats:


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