Hip-hop, You Saved Me
I have a confession to make: I love hip-hop. I love underground rap. I love turntablism. A few weeks ago I went to a Lupe Fiasco concert at the House of Blues Houston (for those of you didn’t get the reference, the title of this blog post comes from his song “Hip Hop Saved My Life”), where B.o.B. was the surprise opening act. Last week I went to see duo God-des and She at the Lips Lounge in El Paso. I love recognizing phrases from fJ5, QN5, Rhymesayers, Quannum Projects, A Piece of Strange, Invisible Scratch Pickles. You say “wu-tang” I say “killer bees on the swarm.” I’m working on putting together an all female DJ set featuring rappers from Jean Grae to NickiMinaj to Amanda Blank to Queen Latifah.
I’m not saying this simply to name-drop. For the past few years I’ve been trying to reconcile my love for hip-hop with my love for new music. The two are practically like oil and water, nearly impossible to mix. Hip-hop is almost entirely about repetition of a steady beat, which approximately 80% of the time will consist of a 4/4 time signature with snare hits on 2 and 4. If you sit down and transcribe the rhythms of your favorite hip-hop songs, generally you’ll end up bored and disillusioned. What sounds cool is never half as cool on paper. Sometimes I feel like there’s a switchboard in my brain and whenever I listen to new music I turn about five switches on and three switches off, but when I change to rap I turn off those five switches and on the other three.
I fully recognize I’m not the only one with this problem. One of my peers at Rice recently attempted a piece for full orchestra and rapper. Last week my composition professor recommended I check out Gene Pritsker and Sound Liberation. This past Wednesday there was a NewMusicBox article on beatboxer Shodekeh. And last semester Project Trio stopped by and played a show at the Shepherd School of Music. Then why should I be nervous, for example, about inviting a local rapper to join in on a composition of mine for a small chamber ensemble?
I’d like to hear your thoughts on hip-hop and new music. Do you see a possibility of them influencing each other in the near future, or is it best that they stay two separate worlds? Can you recommend any artists who you feel are breaking down the walls?