T Nation

Prof X - Suggestions Please

Prof X,

I’m interested in hearing some of the hip hop and rap tunes you referenced in the MAG-10 Troll thread. Would you mind listing some of the bands/artists you had in mind? I’m deep into the underground electro and industrial scene but would like to hear some non-mainstream hip hop and rap.

Thank

la’
Redsol1

-Talib Kwali
-Mos Def (he also has an HBO poetry gig that he does from time to time…I am into new soul and the rap artists associated with it)

-Common
-Kanye West (more hype but his lyrics are deeper than “I pulled up in my Escalade with my Bling Bling…”)
-The Roots
-Nas

Those are just some of the rap artists I listen to. My taste in music is broad as I write music and was recording and pursuing a record deal until I graduated. This usually leads to people thinking I rap. I don’t.

As far as vocalists:
-Jill Scott
-Erykah Badu
-John Legend (new artist that has one of the first cd’s I can put in the player and let run through the whole thing. The last I could do that with was D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar)
-Mario (his new CD shows he is more than average talent “Let me Love you” as the title track)

Other than that, in my MP3 player, I have Snoop Dogg, Mario, John Legend, DMX, 50 Cent, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Kenye West, Sean Paul, Usher and Young Buck.

I listen to more than that, but that is what I lift to right now. I am beginning to like Linkin Park whereas I thought they were pretty “fake” at first.

Prof X,

Actually, I really appreciate the recommendations too. The only Kanye West I have in my iPod is “Jesus Walks” which I like for the same reasons you mention - it’s not all Cris poppin’ and bling bling (which I find so incredibly tiresome). I might need to look into getting some more.

What is Talib Kwali’s music like? Cannot say I’ve heard it. But overall, it’s good to know there is some hip-hop variety out there I’ve not looked into yet. I was beginning to get discouraged for a while because after listening to rap for about… ohh… 23 years, I felt like it was not getting enough fresh ideas in it. Mea culpa for listening to the radio stuff too much.

Thanks again.

Kuz

[quote]Professor X wrote:
-Talib Kwali
-Mos Def (he also has an HBO poetry gig that he does from time to time…I am into new soul and the rap artists associated with it)

-Common
-Kanye West (more hype but his lyrics are deeper than “I pulled up in my Escalade with my Bling Bling…”)
-The Roots
-Nas

Those are just some of the rap artists I listen to. My taste in music is broad as I write music and was recording and pursuing a record deal until I graduated. This usually leads to people thinking I rap. I don’t.

As far as vocalists:
-Jill Scott
-Erykah Badu
-John Legend (new artist that has one of the first cd’s I can put in the player and let run through the whole thing. The last I could do that with was D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar)
-Mario (his new CD shows he is more than average talent “Let me Love you” as the title track)

Other than that, in my MP3 player, I have Snoop Dogg, Mario, John Legend, DMX, 50 Cent, Linkin Park, Jay-Z, Kenye West, Sean Paul, Usher and Young Buck.

I listen to more than that, but that is what I lift to right now. I am beginning to like Linkin Park whereas I thought they were pretty “fake” at first.[/quote]

You’re speaking of Def Jam poetry, some of the most talented literature and verse i’ve ever read or heard in my lifetime. The poetry they write speaks straight to the soul. I highly suggest everyone goes out and buys the DVD for season 1.

Talib is a bad motherfucker, for those who don’t know.

Kuz, you’d be surprised w/ some of the music coming from Kanye West. I know I was. Definitely more deep than other mainstream. Tupac still remains my favorite rapper though.

Professor X,

Have you ever heard of the artist Musiq? He is another vocalist that has been around for a few years now, but not a lot of people have heard his music. His name used to be Musiq Soulchild if that helps at all.

bandgeek wrote:
I am, however, a fan of interesting harmony (i.e. chord progressions), and melody. These important components of music are nonexistent in rap.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
This is false. I wrote those particular artists for a reason. The Roots are a BAND. They make their own beats and have their own drummer. I have no doubt that your exposure to rap is limited to Pop charts and whatever you might catch grazing through MTV or quickly passing through BET.[/quote]

First of all, I neither have nor want cable TV, therefore no MTV or BET for little old me. However, if your statement that an Ignint McNugget cracker like me can reach generalized conclusions like I made by accessing only those sources in only those doses is true, that would seem to indicate that the gang-bangin, Gat-totin, cop killin, ho-slappin, one-chord, no-melody product of which I speak is the POPULAR stuff, right? I would be sincerely interested in hearing the deeply artistic and soulful side of the genre that you prefer. Like you (apparently), most of the music I have ever listened to or been influenced by would never be played on the radio.

Never saw it. I guess I have to now.

Please. Are you trying to educate me or silence me? Yes, my exposure in limited, but I reiterate, if the aforementioned are my sources, that must be what people are buyin’. Please provide some suggestions. I’m serious.

You are guilty of that of which you accuse me! I have a master’s degree in music. As such, I have spent countless hours listening to, analyzing, writing about, transcribing, learning, studying, and performing more types of music, from across at least nine centuries, than can be put in this space. Not to mention the endless hours of practicing it takes to become proficient on a musical instrument! P.S. I also know that this does NOT qualify me to know every single artist in every single style out there.

That is exactly what I might say about the dreck that you hear on the radio, yes. Please understand my comments in their context. In other words, the best, most interesting music, of any style, is not likely to be heard on the radio. That also doesn’t mean that I can’t listen to, and enjoy, music that might be less “artistically interesting”. There are 1 or 2 Britney tunes I like, for example. I imagine that would make more that one person on this site question my T-levels.

I think you sometimes get offended a little too easily. I opened my comments with observations about certain aspects of the music, to the extent that I am aware of it, that INTEREST me. In any case I am very open minded about music. Gee, I have only been doing it for 30 years. I am not so simple as to think that Jay-Z represents an entire genre, but every time I go to the gym, there he is on the radio. I have always respected you, Prof. I hope we find that we can get along.

I put this reply in the new thread because I too would be interested in discussing music, and in hearing about artists that I don’t know about. See, that clone and his MAG-10 thread may have led to something productive after all.

[quote]Kuz wrote:

What is Talib Kwali’s music like? Cannot say I’ve heard it. But overall, it’s good to know there is some hip-hop variety out there I’ve not looked into yet. I was beginning to get discouraged for a while because after listening to rap for about… ohh… 23 years, I felt like it was not getting enough fresh ideas in it. Mea culpa for listening to the radio stuff too much.

Thanks again.

Kuz[/quote]

Talib Kwali is more socially conscious…to the point that some of his stuff might be over the heads of the average teenager. “Just to get By” was one of the last hits he had out using Nina Simone loops in the track. What caught my attention was the use of Nina Simone who most people don’t know much about unless they are truly into music at a deeper level than what pops up on the radio first.

[quote]bandgeek wrote:
However, if your statement that an Ignint McNugget cracker like me can reach generalized conclusions like I made by accessing only those sources in only those doses is true, that would seem to indicate that the gang-bangin, Gat-totin, cop killin, ho-slappin, one-chord, no-melody product of which I speak is the POPULAR stuff, right? I would be sincerely interested in hearing the deeply artistic and soulful side of the genre that you prefer. Like you (apparently), most of the music I have ever listened to or been influenced by would never be played on the radio.
[/quote]

I will steer clear of much of the rest of your post as I believe this was the “core” of it. Yes, what hits your radio waves as of late is usually a Neptune produced track by either Snoop, G-Unit, or Lil’ Flip with basically the same message that is hot right now. If you want kids to buy your shit, you rap about the hot topics…weed, clothes, cars, sex, bitches, and the occasional reference to a gun. What many are being awoken to is the growing number of “studio gangstas” that have been pushed into record companies the world over. This is why New Soul is a growing influence and why artists who have actually been shot at (like 50 Cent) are trying hard to hold onto any token of being hardcore in the current industry.

Artists like Kanye West, Talib Kwali and Mos Def focus on a more socially conscious flow of words. This is in stark contrast to what has been pimped on the radio for the last decade or two. Its influence is growing as more and more are realizing that the Ja Rules of the industry or more hype than hard. Add to that the many of us who grew up with Hip Hop but have continued to GROW UP, and you get a growing need for a deeper flow of jargon.

I picked out what you wrote before because you are stuck on old views of rap music. It was as if Bill O’Reilly had written those words and he has about as much of a foothold in the “real world” as most recording artists do.

If you want to understand what people are truly listening to, then open your ears to more than what is simply on the radio. I rarely just listen to the radio anymore. While it used to be a larger part of my life growing up, the ads and re-played…and replayed…and replayed pop tunes have forced me into downloads and my own CD choices. I doubt I am alone which makes your concept of radio in relation to society a little skewed. Understand? I sure as hell hope so.

Talib Kweli gets a shout out on a Kanye West song. Actually its a little more than a shout out since he’s a “feat.” on the track. But thats beside the point…

I have to say that rap is changing. It’s evolved a lot in the last few years, similar to how rock has changed. I think its quite impressive.

Though I think Kanye West has an Eminem appeal in that he doesn’t rap about bitches, blunts, and 40s. He raps about well… pretty random stuff. It’s way different from a lot of the stuff you see.

Prof X, you hear any Tech 9ine, Mr. Bigg, Tha Dogg Pound, Daz?

[quote]Garrett W. wrote:
Though I think Kanye West has an Eminem appeal in that he doesn’t rap about bitches, blunts, and 40s. He raps about well… pretty random stuff. It’s way different from a lot of the stuff you see.
[/quote]

Interesting point on Eminem - I think that is precisely why I like (most) of his music, because even if some of it is incredibly f-ed up, there’s a great flow and it’s just different from a lyrics perspective.

Also, to what Professor X wrote, I think it is dead on - I’m someone who grew up listening to hip-hop (from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Run-DMC and Public Enemy) and it’s funny to think that a lot of hip-hop has failed to keep pace. Sure, I like some of the more mindless songs too, but after a while, they leave me wanting something with more substance.

Anyway, off to iTunes. Professor X, thanks much. I am going to look into some of your suggestions right now.

Kuz

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Artists like Kanye West, Talib Kwali and Mos Def focus on a more socially conscious flow of words. This is in stark contrast to what has been pimped on the radio for the last decade or two. Its influence is growing as more and more are realizing that the Ja Rules of the industry or more hype than hard. Add to that the many of us who grew up with Hip Hop but have continued to GROW UP, and you get a growing need for a deeper flow of jargon.[/quote]

All right then. We have something tangible to work with. What is it about the harmonic and/or melodic qualities that in your mind set it apart from the crowd, so to speak?

I can’t stand Bill O’Reilly, not that it’s relevant.

I think I mentioned that the majority of the music I was and am influenced by was NOT from the radio. I also admit that it is next to impossible keep up with, let alone care about, everything that is going on in the pop culture when you are an adult working 50-60 hour weeks (and we thought we were busy in college). Isn’t it great that we have a forum where we can share ideas and discuss these things?

Please stop acting so angry. Geez. I am trying to learn something from you, and you just keep turning it into a pissing contest.

[quote]bandgeek wrote:

All right then. We have something tangible to work with. What is it about the harmonic and/or melodic qualities that in your mind set it apart from the crowd, so to speak?
[/quote]

This is hip-hop, not Bach or Beethoven. Exactly what are you relating the music to and why are you looking for simply the melodies involved when the music is surrounded by rhythm and lyrics? You first have to understand the base of the music before you try to pick it apart. If you want melodic structure, then focus in on the Roots method of infusing fast soul beats over hip-hop tracks. This music is based on how the lyrics flow in time with the rhythm (an art based largely in cultural styles). You are trying to bypass this to focus in on melody alone. You are clearly looking for Rhythm and Blues yet searching in the wrong place while criticizing a style music that doesn’t even have that intent to begin with. Understand the focus of your analysis. That is the only way you will ever have a respect for it. If your goal is to avoid any respect for it, then simply say so and quit playing games.

By the way, me writing this way does not equate to a pissing contest. I am trying to understand your intent.

Thanks Professor X! i’ll check some of that out

La’
Redsol1

[quote]Professor X wrote:
This is hip-hop, not Bach or Beethoven. Exactly what are you relating the music to and why are you looking for simply the melodies involved when the music is surrounded by rhythm and lyrics? You first have to understand the base of the music before you try to pick it apart. If you want melodic structure, then focus in on the Roots method of infusing fast soul beats over hip-hop tracks. This music is based on how the lyrics flow in time with the rhythm (an art based largely in cultural styles). You are trying to bypass this to focus in on melody alone. You are clearly looking for Rhythm and Blues yet searching in the wrong place while criticizing a style music that doesn’t even have that intent to begin with. Understand the focus of your analysis. That is the only way you will ever have a respect for it. If your goal is to avoid any respect for it, then simply say so and quit playing games.

By the way, me writing this way does not equate to a pissing contest. I am trying to understand your intent.
[/quote]

An analysis by definition starts with asking questions. If I am asking the wrong questions, I will realize it soon enough. The reason I brought up melody and harmony specifically is because you emphatically stated that my observation that rap does not emphasize these elements was false. So, which is it? If it isn’t the chord progressions and melodies that give the music its character, then what does? Now you are saying it is all about rhythm and phrasing. Do you remember, way back when, I said that the rhythmic flow and phrasing structure of the words is the thing that I find INTERESTING about the music?

ALL music fits into a socio-historical context. It is therefore impossible to “bypass” the cultural element. So what ARE the influences? What music came before it? Miles Davis didn’t happen in a vacuum. There is a long progression of influences and culture that led to his amazing work. I am trying to show respect for you and for the music you love by understanding it from your perspective. My interest is genuine; if there is great music out there, I want to hear it, OK? I do intend to check out the Roots or whoever else you might recommend as examples. I read that you are a fellow musician. I would think we could have an interesting discussion.

Well for those who are interested in hearing a DJ at work , smoothly combining hip-hop / rap and rock , check out : http://www.gradri.hr/~dbukvic/vladow/

You might be pleasantly surprised .

I think it’s important to keep an open perspective when talking about music . Professor X , have you ever listened to John Coltrane - My favourite things , Miles Davis’ - Kind of Blue , … ?

I think when where talking differences between soul/rap/hip-hop and jazz IMHO it’s pretty obvious . The first puts a heavier emphasis on the vocal part whereas the second (jazz) puts more emphasis on the music , improvisation and such (not saying that improv is not possible with soul/rap/hip-hop either)

Just 0,02$

[quote]bandgeek wrote:
An analysis by definition starts with asking questions. If I am asking the wrong questions, I will realize it soon enough. The reason I brought up melody and harmony specifically is because you emphatically stated that my observation that rap does not emphasize these elements was false. So, which is it? If it isn’t the chord progressions and melodies that give the music its character, then what does? Now you are saying it is all about rhythm and phrasing. Do you remember, way back when, I said that the rhythmic flow and phrasing structure of the words is the thing that I find INTERESTING about the music? [/quote]

I am stunned. Seriously. I have never met the person who didn’t understand the concept of rap music. I have never met the person who tried to block out what drives it to only focus in on melodies. Simply put, a rap artist could release a song with no music at all, simply a beat and his voice. It has been done before and it is still Hip Hop.

Hip Hop uses chords and melodies, but not as a function in and of themselves. They are used to create the mood for the message. The music is about the message. If you are simply looking for melodies, you need to listen to music surrounded by that as its goal and purpose. I honestly can’t believe you don’t understand the difference between listening to Boys II Men for the harmony and then turning to Mos Def for the message and the rhythm. You have to be the most in the dark person in this generation about an entire culture. I hung around musicians all of the way through college…many of which are now music instructors at colleges and high schools. Not one of them needed this to be explained to them.

Many of the greats of soul, R&B and blues have influenced much of the music today, including Hip Hop. Nas released a track combining Blues and Hip Hop just recently. He performed with his father who is a blues musician. You are confusing two completely different styles of music while only giving credit to one.

If you are still in the dark after this has been explained to you twice about what the music is driven by, then there is no point in furthering the discussion. Hopefully you will open your mind to understanding that Miles Davis is one of the greats…that his influence is widely accepted…and that it has even influenced Hip Hop…but that Hip Hop is a great musical tradition itself with its own ground breaking artists and great performers.

[quote]CrouchingTiger wrote:
Well for those who are interested in hearing a DJ at work , smoothly combining hip-hop / rap and rock , check out : http://www.gradri.hr/~dbukvic/vladow/

You might be pleasantly surprised .

I think it’s important to keep an open perspective when talking about music . Professor X , have you ever listened to John Coltrane - My favourite things , Miles Davis’ - Kind of Blue , … ?

I think when where talking differences between soul/rap/hip-hop and jazz IMHO it’s pretty obvious . The first puts a heavier emphasis on the vocal part whereas the second (jazz) puts more emphasis on the music , improvisation and such (not saying that improv is not possible with soul/rap/hip-hop either)

Just 0,02$
[/quote]

I listened to Miles Davis all of the way through college. I have Ray Charles playing in my Cd player right now. I was hooked on Aretha Franklin as a kid and know nearly every James Brown tune. I love music for music. I listen to it all and couldn’t believe what Al Green has left behind. What confuses me is that I am actually having a conversation with someone above who doesn’t understand the unique difference bewteen Dizzy Gillespie and Diggable Planet.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
I am stunned. Seriously. I have never met the person who didn’t understand the concept of rap music. I have never met the person who tried to block out what drives it to only focus in on melodies. Simply put, a rap artist could release a song with no music at all, simply a beat and his voice. It has been done before and it is still Hip Hop.
[/quote]

But isn’t that just synchopated poetry? A dramatic reading with percussion?

Trying to find the ‘music’ value in Rap is a noble endeavor because I don’t think it exists - you just said as much . I’m not slamming the art form, but if you make a recording void of music, is it music?

It’s not the concept of rap music that difficult to understand. What doesn’t make sense is its classification as music.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
in my MP3 player, I have Sean Paul[/quote]

I was with you all the way until you mentioned this guy! IMO he’s useless - The guy couldn’t write his own lyrics if the world depended on it and how many times can one man mention his own name!!

Has that got anything to do with the Jay-Z collaboration? I was surprised how much I liked some of that stuff.