Saturday, August 02, 2008

Still Ill
Great hip-hop top 10 over at Expressway, complete with MP3s. The particularly interesting thing about this list is that, although it's presented as an all-time best-of, the albums are drawn exclusively from the early-to-mid '90s. A few years ago, if one were to suggest that this period happened to be rap music's real golden age, one would inevitably be greeted with looks of blank incomprehension. Take it from one who knows.

Seems that my personal favourite era of music (hip-hop or otherwise) is undergoing quite the critical rehabilitation. Even post-Oval electronica appears to be back in fashion, with glitch diehards like Pita and alva noto (not to mention their associated labels) receiving praise from the most unlikely of quarters. Go '90s!

9 comments:

Mark E. Rich said...

I guess that critics, writers, fans etc. tend to call the flourishing early-mid 90s hip-hop scene the second golden age. Seems reasonable, but I find that the 90s material has dated much, much better and should be considered the real golden age. Listening to the classic albums from the late 80s, though being integral to the second golden age, I have found them to be a little dated and primitive. I prefer Eric B and Rakim's "Don't Sweat the Technique" to "Paid In Full", De La Soul's "Buhloone Mindstate" to "3 Feet High", Tribe's "Midnight Marauders" to "Instinctive Travels." Perhaps growing up with early-mid 90s hip-hop has skewed my view, but I still would like to think that that period of hip-hop has held up the best, and that they used the advancements of the past, along with new techniques, to help create timeless music.

In hindsight, it appears that the "second golden age" was also the last golden age of hip-hop, as there have been minimal advancements in the genre, and there have also been meager amounts of great records released each successive year since. Great records from that era are constantly being unearthed, and I don't think that this will happen ten years from now with our current state of hip-hop. We'll always have the 90s...

Biggie Samuels said...

There are lots of Generalist music fans/critics who still write off 90s rap, preferring Old Skool or the more recent R&B-rap. I think that this is mostly because the earlier and later stuff can be enjoyed and interpreted in the same way as other genres (pop, rock, electronic dance music). By contrast, the '90s was when rap sounded most like itself and of all genres in western popular music, I think that rap has the most esoteric musical language. Therefore, you can only really dig '90s rap if you really understand how hip-hop works in terms of lyrics, beats, harmony and texture. By the same token, what I personally like about '90s rap is that it is simultaneously the most musical and the most stridently avant garde era of hip-hop.

Mark E. Rich said...

I would have to agree with everything up until yr last 7 words...

"most stridently avant garde era of hip-hop."

I would have to say that that would be more befitting to the late 90s early 00's (ie. Anticon, Dalek, Anti-Pop Consortium etc)than the early/mid 90s.

Biggie Samuels said...

True enough but is that stuff really hip-hop? I always thought Anticon's cheeky coining of the term "post-rap" was pretty apt. Mind you, whether it's post- or not, Antipop Consortium's Arrhythmia would probably rank as my favourite rap record of all time.

Mark E. Rich said...

That stuff is definitely hip-hop. The basic elements are there: Beats and rhymes, no matter how twisted either one becomes. I never really embraced the post-rap tag. The term came too soon.

Arrhythmia? Wow. I was always more of a Tragic Epilogue guy myself.

Biggie Samuels said...

"The basic elements are there: Beats and rhymes... I never really embraced the post-rap tag. The term came too soon."

Hmm... There's a lot of stuff you could say that about, much of which is absolutely terrible and distinctly not hip hop. The basic elements of rap music have found there way into just about everything but I tend to think there's still a very definite "real thing", usually defined by its strong grounding in hip-hop culture. It's a hard thing to tie down but you know it when you hear it.

I think "post-rap" is a perfect term for the early-noughties wave of indie hip-hop. Anticon etc. had that firm grounding in hip-hop culture but they were hell-bent on breaking out of its confines, usually due to some vague progressive agenda.

Simon Reynolds' original definition of post-rock was "bands using rock means for non-rock ends". In light of the indie rappers' grounding in real hip-hop and their strong desire to break-on-through, then, I think the term "post-rap" was extremely timely.

Of course, what post-rap often amounted to, in practice, was kids who grew up listening to Mobb Deep making terrible indie rock and IDM.

Mark E. Rich said...

I just don't think that late 20th century/early 21st hip-hop has strayed that far from it's roots. If your average person hears Deep Puddle Dynamics, Anti-Pop etc, my guess is that they wouldn't have to think twice about it being rap. Whereas with a group like Toroise, Cul De Sac, Seefeel or Disco Inferno, my guess is that rock is not the first thing that would come to their minds.

Biggie Samuels said...

Fair enough but what would a Li'l Wayne fan make of cLOUDEAD or Restiform Bodies?

Mark E. Rich said...

I wouldn't expect yr average Lil Wayne fan to think of much of anything. cLOUDEAD and Restiform are exceptions in that era of hip-hop. The supposed "post-rap" genre just doesn;t reach out to enough groups to be considered a full-blown genre, imo.