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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Rappers: Show, Don't Tell

As we drift into writing a little about movies, books, and music along with TV, one of us must confess an extreme genre bias against rap music. This blogger doesn’t know a lot about it, but why would you want to find out more with the big bunch of shallow babies making it these days? First of all, most of it these days it autotuned and not at all poetic. It’s one thing to like a little Tupac, Eminem, Mr. J. Medeiros, or Kanye. At least those have some honesty, even if two of them are flocking toward self-flagellation lately to show that they are raw. Good rappers are good poets, period.

We’re probably not the first to notice this, because it’s obvious: Most of the time, rappers just rap about how great they are. This isn’t as disgusting to us as you would think, because false humility is pretty gross. But lately every song has these ingredients: 1) I’m awesome, because I have lots of sex with hot people. 2) I can dance/I have some sort of physical prowess. 3) I have lots of money and a cool car. 4) I’m gangster in some way, because I grew up in a neighborhood of unintelligent, violent people. 5) My rapping is really good and no one had better mess with me.

The most recent offender is Nicki Minaj. These bloggers like Nicki Minaj’s rapping style, because it goes from sweet to harsh in about five seconds, it’s interesting, and it’s catchy. But her cd, Pink Friday, is mostly about how much better she is than her competitors. Who? Lil' Kim, according to the news. But Lil' Kim hasn’t been making music lately. Why is Lil' Kim competition? While feuds might be good for the rap industry, because they get attention, this feud seems pretty insignificant. First of all, what are they going to do? Talk nasty. That’s it. Second of all, Lil' Kim has more “street cred” than Nicki anyway, and that should be no question. She was one of Notorious B.I.G.’s people, her raps are more disgusting (that’s a good thing in this genre), and her rap is actually hip/hop. We like Nicki, but she is more pop with a little rap. Like Ke$ha.

As inconsequential as this “competition” for glory is, since only one of them is making music, Nicki Minaj spends almost her entire album talking trash about her peers and maintaining that she is the best. (Other blogger's note: Lil' Kim started this feud, probably because she's become pretty irrelevant these days. Yes, this blogger likes Nicki Minaj)

The first track is called “I’m the Best,” and the chorus goes: “I hope they comin' for me because the top is lonely. What the **** they gon' say. I'm the best bitch doin' it, doin'. I'm the best, best, best, best. I'm the best.”

Ok, maybe so. We can’t really think of a better female M.C. right now. Point taken. But THEN she talks about it again in her song with Eminem ("Roman’s Revenge" - Seriously though,this song is awesome). Then there is a song about how she pooped on the competition ("Did It On ‘Em"). If you listen to the whole deluxe version album, there are only a few songs that don’t completely focus on Nicki Minaj and literally trying to convince us that she’s a good M.C. by talking about how much better she is than the other saddos making this “music.” You’re no Beethoven, sweetheart. And you’re no gangster, unless we are seriously misinformed about your past in The Matrix or something.

Where Nicki shines is where she puts off the posturing. "Dear Old Nicki" talks about the person she was before the fame, "Super Bass" is a funny little song about a crush, and "Last Chance" is cute and positive. Those are our favorite songs. "Roman’s Revenge" would have been good by itself, but in the context of the entire album, the theme just got old, so it killed that song (other blogger's note: no it didn't. That song is awesome).

Nicki, if you were really that great, you would make raps about life, rather than having to tell us how great you are. Spending your entire album trashing competition just makes us think that your competitors really are threats. The reason you are better as a guest star is that, although you sound good, when you make your own music, you have nothing to say.


  1. First of all, holy cleavage! Or should I say, unholy.

    Second, I agree with most of what you said here. I'm not a huge connoisseur of rap music, but I do like a few artists and a few songs here and there. Most of it is garbage. I really wonder how these people become famous and wealthy. They have seriously no musical talent whatsoever. And they are HORRIBLE role models for today's younguns. I can't believe parents actually allow their kids to listen to this trash... I mean, I would probably let my kids listen to it, but I would DEFINITELY force them to have thoughtful conversations with me about morality and good decision making, and the bad ideas and bad lifestyles that these lyrics promote.

    I'm not at all familiar with Nicki Minaj but some of the rap artists that I do like are M.I.A, Kanye West(yes, yes, I know, but he does have actual talent... and he likes fish sticks), Timbaland, and a lot of the old school early 90's rappers. Most of the rap artists on the iTunes top 50 are utter crap.

    Now on the other hand, there is a LOT of good R&B out there.

  2. Rap music annoys me with its messages, but the music itself is catchy, fun, and generally enjoyable. I listen to it a lot, buy some of it on iTunes, and learn every word as I dance and sing along in my car with it as high as my radio will go.

    Nicki Minaj drives me crazy. She thinks she's cuter than cupcakes and clever to boot, but I think she's tacky and lame. I don't like her and I don't like most of the messages rap sends. Instead of supporting the less-than-ideal happenings on "the streets", how about setting some positive role models? Instead of talking about how great getting drunk is, how about you talk about how important education is?

    I'm not blaming all of society's problems on rap. I don't give it nearly that much power. I just think they should recognize they are only around for entertainment and quit pretending like they're important just because they can string some words together about having sex, drinking, and using violence.

  3. Mrs. P- Your tactics are exactly what one of our parents did with us. After about 13, we were allowed to listen to what we wanted, but we had to discuss it, and that ruined it. One of us has a secret love for Kanye, and we totally forgot about M.I.A., but yeah, she's good.

    CG- It's hard for one of us to enjoy the beat if the lyrics are hideous. It must be part of being extremely verbal. Nicki's style is pretty tacky. We are ready for her to drop the whole Rap Barbie thing. "I'm not blaming all of society's problems on rap. I don't give it nearly that much power." Loved that line. Too true.

  4. You say "and that ruined it" - in hindsight, do you think it was a good thing? Do you wish they had done something differently?

    About six months ago, I found a Kanye West t-shirt at Goodwill and snatched it up.

  5. Definitely like (in hindsight) that Mom ruined the bad music by forcing the kids to actually think about what music says. It helps with thinking and dissecting in other areas too. We never find anything good at Goodwill!!! Lucky