Five Artists I Like (In a Genre I Hate)

Everybody who knows me knows how I feel about hip-hop, rap, and R&B. I dislike it immensely. I think that the subculture surrounding it is misogynistic, narcissistic, chauvinistic, and excessive. I dislike most topics touched upon in modern rap, and think it adds nothing at all to us, as a people, or as a culture.

That being said, there is no denying that the influence of hip-hop is spreading, not just in locales across the world, not just from the ghetto to spoiled rich white boys, and not just from one musical genre to another. There is little doubt that a lot of performers in the genre are talented, and it is no surprise, given how rock and roll became mainstream in America and worldwide, that rap is being transformed and made universal. On of my guilty pleasures still is nu-metal music and bands that use fusions of the genres of metal and hip-hop. Some notable bands that spring to mind are Maximize the Hormone, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and others.

Despite my personal feelings about the genre and subculture as a whole, there are absolutely some notable individuals who I am impressed with as artists, in terms of performance or songwriting, or in just their specific subtleties. These are those artists:

1) EMINEM – Marshal Mathers, or Eminem, as he goes by on stage, or when rolling with his crew in Shady Records (or whoever he playEminems out with these days), impresses me. Not because he is a white rapper, plenty before and since have been. Not because he writes silly songs and has funny videos, you get that all over the place. Not because he is particularly fast, or even great as a rapper – don’t get me wrong, he IS good, but I wouldn’t count him as a great. He impresses me because he is one thing: An incredible storyteller. Listen to some of his older stuff, like off of the 8 Mile soundtrack (he’s an awful actor), particularly Rabbit Run or Lose Yourself. In those three to four minute pieces, he manages to tell whole stories, about successes and failures and trials and triumphs. Good stories, good messages, in meaningful and moving songs. In Stan, he tells the story of a sick and obsessive fan, portraying both himself and the titular character. This guy is just plain good.

2) Outkast – I may have mentioned these fine fellows before. Truth is, I only actually like half of Outkast, mostly, Andre Benjamin. His partner is generally one of the sorts i would lump into the degenerate rapper category, but Benjamin on his own, or with his partner, as a unit, is one of my favorite performers. The songs performed and written by Benjamin are interesting. Fun to listen to, filled with energy, the videos are filled with flashy imagery, and rarely is there too much of a ganstalicious type reference. B.O.B. is one of my favorite songs of all time. Hey Ya is a fun song that makes me feel good when I listen to it, and I’m Sorry Miss Jackson brings me back to my years as a youth back in North Florida, wondering why my dad wasn’t as good to me as he swore to Miss Jackson he was gonna be to his kid.  Then there’s the fact that this guy dresses pretty slick, or silly, as the mood fits him. And while he is not much of a better actor than Eminem, Andre Benjamin does have the distinction of acting in a film I actually like – with fellow rapper, Marky Mark Wahlburg…

3) Weird Al Yankovic – Yea, yea. He’s not a rapper. Not really. Well, not specifically. But his parodies, and his handful of original rap songs actually are very good. Amish Paradise started probably his only big rapper ‘beef’ with original song progenitor Coolio, his White & Nerdy is much more fun to listen to than Ridin’ Dirty, Trapped in the Drive Thru is just absolutely classic. All about the Pentiums…. well, really, everybody knows Al and his band are pretty shit hot, and to be parodied by him means you made it, really.  Al is pure talent. His originals to me aren’t all that funny, but whenever you mix nerdy white boy stuff into gangsta rap sounds, you get comedy gold… and the music isn’t bad, either.

4) Macy Gray – I’ve been forced to listen to R&B artists before, artists like R. Kelly and Usher, and really didn’t care for them much. Their stuff bored me (R, Kelly’s 12 Play disgusted me). I’ve been forced to listen to female artists, like Janet Jackson and Cher and others, and I didn’t really care for their stuff much either. It also bored me. So, what is it about Macy Gray, who is both an R&B artist and a female artist, that makes me like her so much? Well, I don’t know for sure. Her voice is unique amongst female singers, and I like it. Her songs are well written, her music sounds good, the songs soulful and full of emotion, she’s a very pretty woman, and to top it all off, she was in Spider-Man. Help Me is a great song, and it got picked for a promo for my favorite dramedy, House M.D.. Everybody remembers I Try from the mid ninties, and Time of My Life makes me feel good when I hear it.

5) Mac Lethal – It’s hard to say what I like about this guy. He’s not huge, as far as I know, he isn’t signed to any major labels, but he has a couple albums out, and like most rappers, a million and one demos, EPs, and mix tapes released. About a quarter of his songs are in the trash bin as far as I am concerned, but the rest are great. His skill is amazing, very talented as a lyricist and rapper, and what he writes about tends to strike a chord with me. His biggest boost in popularity came relatively recently, when a YouTube video of his went viral. He has posted a ton of videos to YouTube. Most of them are home filmed type stuff, a lot of them are barely blog-worthy in quality, but some – some are really high quality productions. I recommend that you take a look at some of his portfolio which I personally am a big fan of: Happy to Be Living, Something I Can Heart, and quite possibly my favorite, Calm Down Baby. He has many more, and I recommend checking them all out… you can spend hours digging through his videos… I have. Enjoy your fucking breakfast, I’ll whoop your mama’s ass.

Skully

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~ by whatscene on December 8, 2011.

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