So then the nineties brought intellectually based hip-hop that sought to provoke social questioning about culture. Hip-hop is distinctly American. It's one of the latest in a long line of American musical innovations. Most music historians will say that it was born from East Coast DJ/club environments. The DJ kept the vinyl screaming on the turntables, and the MC kept the dialogue going, and the call and response bits made party people yell back and cue up what was next on the song list. Early hip-hop people had the "DJ", or the "MC" in front of their names, to show which side they came from. DJ's made beats happen, and MC's developed their onstage verbs and nouns into long flowing gymnastics. How organic an art form? It came right from the people. Hip-hop was a full cultural movement with it's own fashion, attitude towards everything, and all important musical style.
The eighties into the nineties turned party time into gangster rap. I could write an entire article in itself of the relevance contained in these different rap styles. The point is, though, that party time turned into seriousness, and intellectual rap gave way to the mid nineties to the 2000's version of Rap. Hip-Hop and Rap's values changed from provoking thought to thoughtless promotion of materialism. Anyone can feel free to argue this with me, but it's what I myself, observed. I got used to watching DIY (do it yourself) style rappers who created their own fashions, and scraped money together to go in a studio and cut mix tapes they sold me from the back of their car...to corporate backed superstars who toss dollar bills everywhere, and drop the names of fashion designers they are wearing. HUH? I have always compared Punk Rock to Rap, in that both movements started as a defiance of formula. Punk was thumbing it's nose at glam rock. Lambasting the rich and politically connected. Painting portraits of gritty street living and maintaining credibility. Punk Rock adopted the leather jackets and torn jeans of the counterculture and set out to LOUDLY wake audiences up to a reality based definition. Sound familiar? Hip-Hop did this too, at first. But like Punk Rock, it got purchased by corporate interests, and began to lose it's novelty. For me, at a certain point, Hip-Hop lost it all together and ended up just cycling the same boring message. Just like a commercial on TV that you tire of watching. I get it already. I began to tune a lot of it out.
So here we are in '11, and I would be tempted to say that Hip-Hop is reclining comfortably in a coffin with corporate logos on the side, but alas, I must take pause. It was flatlining for a time, but a few hiccups and a breath, and we've got vitals. Underground Hip-Hop is once again ladling up some chunky stews. The last CD I bought, sadly, and thought it was good, was Outkast's Speakerboxx/The love below, some years back. In the long lag up to today, we had Gym Class Heroes, and some other acts rising in the underground. Recently, though, my ears experienced what I believe could be the future. The aptly named OddFuture.
The beats that accompany the flows are most times, spared down, but fully effective bedrock for the quick, shuffling verse that rests upon them. It analyticallly sounds more akin to East Coast style beat construction, yet the ambience is West Coast. The person putting beats together is female, which is already a rarity in Hip-Hop. She folds together aural landscapes built from anything and everything, shimmering drum loops, scratchy piano vamps, echoes and thumps, washes of sound and noise, all of which sound refreshingly new. The ripcurls of words that surf on the top of her beats are raw and visual, lacking restraint, and making the show that any subject is fair game. Very little formula exists, and a stream of consciousness vibe emerges that colors the sound vividly. The abstract is acheived easily here, and the tracks unwind with a decidely artistic edge that's been missing in Hip-Hop for quite some time. Tyler the Creator in particular, fashions his verses from unusual territory...blending imagery of pathos, with interpreted sarcasm and stark randomness. It is something that has to be heard to be believed, and don't judge it from a one time listen. It took me several listens to various tracks before I caught on to what was taking place. Oddfuture injects the dramatic into the output. It's like reading Shakespeare's plays...it takes study to encounter the motives under the words that spin the tale. Some lyrics are bound to attract a frown from the sensitive, but as I always say about censorship, watching horror movies does not make one a serial killer. If it's anything Hip-Hop needs right now, it's exploration. Oddfuture sits all the way on the other side of the room, far from the safe, corporatized masturbation that record companies seem to think is cutting the edge. If Oddfuture was going to rein it in, they would have done it by now. They have released handfulls of tracks, and none of them have the truncated sound of polished edges. Some tracks grab me, and others don't, but it sounds like something that people will either love or hate...and that can spell success in the rap game. This is a must hear if you want to take a look at the ground clearance for the bricks of new Hip-Hop. It might be what you've waited for, it might not. I'm new to listening to Oddfuture, but I'm far from the first. The ball just got rolling. Youtube it, and get your ears acquainted with a few tracks. See if it makes you want to download it. We live together in this very digital age, so I don't need to tell you what to do...you already know. Click. Click. Click.