It’s Not About Lyrics Anymore
Eminem gets straight to the point in Syllables. The song starts out with Eminem saying “It is not about lyrics anymore! It’s about a hot beat and a catchy hook!” Later Jay-Z complains “All we know is the chorus because the chorus repeats the same four words for us.”
The group takes no prisoners in the wide-ranging, if unexpected, song. The beat is deliberate and slow, but at the same time the group make their point about the state of today’s hip-hop. It’s possible that the artists are losing their ability to relate to the incoming hip-hop audience, who has little in common with artists who have done and seen it all for the past two decades.
Is there more to a great hip-hop record than the beat? The biggest hits are “club-friendly,” which means they have a lot of synthesized sound and a hard beat. Lyrics don’t mean a lot because audiences don’t go to the club to sing or ponder the meaning of life; they go to the clubs to dance. And dancing doesn’t require much thought.
Is there a place for the hard-core hip-hop artist today? If Eminem and Jay-Z’s monster sellout “Home and Home” Tour is any indication, these guys have nothing to worry about just yet. They can still reach the audiences who value more than a hot beat and a catchy hook.
Most of these artists do more than make hip-hop music. In fact, few make hip-hop their primary passion. Eminem is most likely to be considered a “pure” hip-hop artist, and he’s been making the rounds on just about every album these days. Jay-Z has much more going on than making his own music, as do Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. (Anyone remember 50 Cent’s shocking weight loss for the film “Things Fall Apart?”
In some ways, inattention to the genre by its primary artists has played a major role in the evolution of hip-hop music. Rap beats are undeniably part of the program, but the mice will play when the major artists are away. Do these heavy hitters plan a major hip-hop revival? Dr. Dre says his current album will be his last. Eminem is coming down off of a monster success with Recovery. Jay-Z always has a million things going on.
If someone is planning to revive hip-hop in a way that would make its founders proud, someone’s going to have to step up to the mic. Will it be you?
Photo Credit: believekevin, via Flickr