Beats, you're the only one in my life now. I was out in the streets on you, doing you dirty, spending late nights behind your back with rap lyrics. But I'm back home now, baby. They didn't mean a thing. It was always you.
I was meditating the other day, watching my thoughts drift by like kids floating down a creek on donut shaped intertubes, when a disturbing thought crept up. Am I done with hip hop lyrics?
I've always been betrothed to production. From day one, I've been infatuated with notes and sounds and chords. But as a writer, a person captivated by cleverly entwined words and phrases, I've always loved lyrics too.
But I'm a grown man now. And things have changed. And you know what? I'm bored a shit with the lyrics I hear today. And, more importantly, I'm sick of hearing rappers gloat on the myriad of ways they imagine killing other black men.
A brief examination of the killing:
- Peeling whigs back.
- Peeling muffin caps (what the hell is a muffin cap anyway?)
- Leaving rappers holier than Jamaican shirts.
- Popping black heads like a tweezer
- Opening skulls like sun roofs
- Spilling blood over ladies like Jackie Onassis
I could fill up this blog post with so many references to killing other rappers (black men) that you could scroll until your index finger cramped up. When you open your mind and soak in the reality of the troubles facing the black community—the poverty, the crime, the incarceration, the fatherless homes, the education, the high school dropout rate—it's difficult to absorb the very lyrics you grew up hearing. No longer am I that young dude astonished by clever metaphors of death and drug slinging. I don't need to hear another method to cook crack. Foreman grills, hibachi grills, microwaves - isn't the stove good enough? As an aware adult, this shit matters now. Lyrics for me are no longer lilting words that evaporate once the song is over. Now, they're real. They linger. They sting. And I just don't want to hear it anymore.
What's bananas is that you'll hear the very rappers who've spent a career spitting the million ways they could murder another rapper say at some random concert, "We gotta stop the violence out here. It's getting crazy." It's getting crazy? Are you nuts? Now you want to be Ghandi?
But, I've still got the beats. My dependable, trusty beats. No matter how old I get, how in tune I become with the plight of my people, the beats are still a comfortable, welcoming loveseat I can sink into after a long day. Yes, I know what you may be thinking, the beat is just a canvass upon which a mediocre MC eventually paints pictures of death. Maybe. But I'll take the beat, the unloaded glock, and leave the lyrics, the bullets, behind. That arrangement works for me.
I'm swimming in the relaxing pool of instrumental music now more than ever, enjoying joints by Flying Lotus, Fat Jon, Ta-Ku, 14KT, and other kings of wordless art. With the current landscape becoming devoid of Nas's, and Jay's, and Kendrick's, as lyrical MC's go extinct like they're the victims of deforestation, and with more MC's choosing the easy way, denying the poetry behind hip hop lyricism, I'm going to be one instrumental listening mofo.
"But Chris, even the greatest MC's of all spat vivid tales of murder and drugs." Yes, you're right. I'm Big, Jay, and Nas to the core - all verbal murderers and dealers. But you know what, if I've got to hear it, at least let it come from the lips of a poet. I'll stomach that at the very least.
For now, I'll enjoy the meager crumbs of good lyrical content left for purists like myself, crumbs that seem to grow more meager by each Tuesday release. Joints from the likes of Jay Electronica (when he actually releases something), Phonte, Pharoahe Monch, Black Thought, Action Bronson and other last poets (Bronson is absurd, but he's a poet).
Lyrics, we had some good ass times, baby. In the 90's, I couldn't keep my hands off you. I used to sit up late nights with you, peeling off your layers, discovering your poetical treats beneath. I used to debate about you, about who slung you the best. I think those days are done. I'm back home with the beats. If you pick it back up again, maybe I'll meet you at a bar late at night and see what you have in store.
Image via Raised From The Grave