Every once in awhile, I find I need to re-evaluate myself and my form of self-expression, whether or not I'm doing this for nothing, why I'm doing it. I have to ask myself if I am contributing to the problem or if I'm part of the solution...
I'm referring, of course, to the whole hip-hop/rap issue. This morning, one of the pioneers in hip-hop culture, Melle Mel of The Furious Five, posted:“At Some Point in the near future you are gonna have to seperate Hip Hop from Rap (sic)”. I thought of this quote from a KRS-ONE song: “Yall don't really know/hip-hop ain't rap”, and posted that. But then I got curious as to how other people saw this. So I Googled, and found a whole buncha shxt on the subject. I posted this underneath what I said:
“Out of curiosity I googled "difference between hip-hop and rap". The first article it came back w/was pretty interesting. Most think hip-hop is the lifestyle/culture, while rap is one of its mediums. Still others think hip-hop is the purest form you can offer as an emcee, all its positives w/quality lyrics, and rap is what's mainstream right now. And others think rap is the real shxt and hip-hop is the bullshxt. Some say the scratching and djs are what is hip-hop, anything done on machines, samples, or over other types of music like rock or r+b could never be called hip-hop. I'd offer my opinion, but I'm just gonna leave it at this, lol”
It really did get me thinking. When I first started, about a thousand years ago, LOL... I was influenced by the likes of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and anybody that came before them, because that's what I grew up on. I was also determined and felt duty bound to incorporate all four of the elements, because that was what I knew by default. I rapped, I was a locker, I tried to dj, and I was infamous for tagging. Later, my influences included salt & Pepa, Sparky D, Kane, Beasties, the Native Tongues, Latifah, Serch; still later, Digital Underground, Cypress Hill, and Eminem. I consider what all these artists do genuine parts of the hip-hop culture and rap-as-a-medium spectrum. They are all different, but they all are emcees employing what rap is about: storytelling, getting the party started (which is what it started out as, before we discovered it could be socially conscious with “The Message”. Then, we discovered you could say almost anything), showing off your skills, etc. Some have managed to do all three.
With the introduction of the songs just to jump on the bandwagon (like that whole Roxanne thing, and even how Salt and Pepa got started, dissing Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick with “Showstoppas” under the name Supernature), and MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice/the migration of rap to the West Coast, where, at first, they totally fxcked it up (my East Coast bias is showing! LOL, but even Coolio and a few others admitted the 1st W.C. emcees were whack until they got it together), as it got bigger and eventually exploded to the forefront, rap (and the rest of the hip-hop culture, come to that) got severely diluted. And it seemed that the more that it spread, and the more the big boxes got hold of it and tried to(like everything else) make it more palatable for the masses, the worse it got... finally reaching new lows with the introduction of the so-called “Dirty South” sound. This, now, is what people think hip-hop is. Granted, I don't include quite a few Southern artists in this category-- just the ones who aren't that talented/original/innovative...we know who they are. And, since I am a part of the culture—whether people think so or not because of what my particular sound is-- I will defend that shxt till I die, because that is what you do for your family. But I won't hesitate to tell my family that their shxt is bootleg, either. Like I said once, you may not like or get along with your family but you should stick together if you can.
Now, by the above thinking-- “ the scratching and djs are what is hip-hop, anything done on machines, samples, or over other types of music like rock or r+b could never be called hip-hop”-- those who think that are cutting out a TON of the innovators and pioneers. I call bullshxt. Bullshxt perpetuated by hip-hop purists who just say shxt like that to keep the newbies out. Run-DMC broke a lot of ground rhyming over guitars. Joey may not have dug on it, but he did it and “Rock Box” and “King Of Rock” were huge hits BEFORE “Walk This Way” was even considered being covered. They were still just using the beat to rhyme over, and fxck the rest of the song. “Raising Hell” was the top album before being outsold by “License to Ill”. By that thinking, there would never have been any other forms of hip-hop; by that thinking, nobody would have felt the need to explore and experiment with sound.
I also think about the content of people's songs. Hip-hop used to be about getting the party started and having a good time before telling stories and spreading messages about what really is going on in our communities. Every artist was known for their different points of view and specialties. Somewhere that got lost. Now, it's all about the same shxt, and all the videos look the same. Frankly, I can't even blame that on the West Coast that much. Some, but not all. I blame Sean Puff Daddy Puffy P. Diddy Coombs. It's mainly his fault, along with Biggie, Lil Kim, and the Junior Mafia, or whatever they called themselves that this era of decadence and ballin' and spending money and all that shxt became the norm, the model from which all commercial-selling rap is based. That and Jay-Z, Foxy Brown and their visuals, and pimp crap. Whatever. “Oh, we keepin' it real.” Really. Jay, when were you a fxcking pimp?
Anyway...where does ThaGataNegrra fit into all this, and what does she think?
Well... I don't fit into all this, I'm afraid. I don't fit anywhere, and I don't really expect to. I can't say the stuff I have so far is a straight-up hip-hop sound. Stuff I did back in the day, yes. This, no. However, I am still a hip-hop artist. I'm just combining all my influences. ALL of them, including my new-wave, rock, dance, EBM, and punk influences—with a few pop culture things and nerdy things thrown in. A lot of people don't get that. And a lot of people don't know that right now I'm working on exploring my roots and getting back to that Golden Era sound, along w/making stuff that sounds more palatable to the hip-hop masses. Simply put, I am doing me, and I am being genuine.
As far as my content...I tell stories. I rhyme about having a good time, I rhyme over bouncy beats, cuz I love dancing and it's part of who I am. I express frustration, I tell about my struggles with sanity. Everything I write is true to me. It may not be Shakespeare, but I'm not trying to write Shakespeare. I am focused on the fun right now, but who's to say I won't get serious? People have no idea what's in my head or in the vaults. You'd be surprised.
By that reasoning, I am still a hip-hop artist...and I am not perpetuating the problem. I don't plan on making the generic at-the-club-by-the-pool-on-a-yacht video. I won't bombard our children and teens w/images of asses wiggling in the camera and excess bling and grillz and cars I don't own, let alone plan to drive. I won't brag to you about what I got. I will tell you what I think and believe, I will try to get you to dance, I will let you inside my head and let you see what it's like in there when it's dark and when it's light. I will show you what it's like in my corner of the universe. I will incorporate all four elements, cuz nobody seems to anymore. That is my job as an artist and storyteller, as an emcee and daughter of the hip-hop culture.
As an artist it is also my right to express myself as I see fit...but I also have the power to influence...so I will evaluate myself and adjust accordingly. If I don't, I am a part of the problem.
So, I am living in my skin, and like it that way. I'm not manufactured or put together, and it's prolly why I hadn't got ahead before as fast as I have now (besides the fact I spent years in a group that was never gonna happen anyway)--because I refused to be “packaged”. What you see is what you fxcking get. This is really me.
I am prepared to stay indie. I stopped looking for a label a long time ago. Nobody is going to change me. You can make suggestions, and I might consider them, but ultimately, it's my choice. I might write something I know will be a commercial success, and then I might write something that only one or two people will ever get. But as long as someone is listening, that's all that matters to me. As long as I get to share it with you. Big ass bonus if I can make a living at it, and gigantic fxcking bonus if I get wealthy. Either way, I know that I am being true to me and the cultures that influenced me. It's in that aspect that yes, I am the real deal.