Wednesday, April 18, 2007

As I have surfed around hundreds of hip-hop websites, blogs and forums over the years, one of the most common and heated discussions that appears is rappers that sing on their records, and why we love or hate them for it! Is it genius or just down right annoying? I have decided to give my 9.5 cents on the subject today in hopes of getting some personal resolution for myself actually. Personally, I am indifferent about it? I guess it would be a fair statement to say that when a fan purchases or downloads a hip-hop album, they are expecting to hear the artist(s) rapping and not singing, right? When most people think of hip-hop, what automatically comes to mind is an emcee spitting hot verses over a hot beat with a DJ by their side. That image of hip-hop has been blurred in the recent years because of its intermingling with several other music genres. Whether you agree with it or not, rap music has evolved. The truth is singing has been a part of rap music since the 1980s. Groups like U.T.F.O and Whodini were singing the hooks on their records way back then. Remember, the classic Whodini track "Friends" many of us have them...ones you can depend on dammit! If you don't, shame on you! Fast forwarding to the late 90s, Ja Rule delivered his own brand of harmonizing on the hooks of many hot records during that time. Even though most hip-hop headz won't admit it in 2007 that they actually liked some of Ja Rule's music back in the day, either way you spin it he definitely made his mark in the game. Some folks feel that the rapper 50 Cent pulled a classic okie-doke move on Ja Rule by tricking him into changing his singing style up, only to emulate it later on several records of his own? 50 Cent incorporates singing into almost every track that he's on now-a-days, but many of his loyal fans seem to have become bothered by it? Calling him names such as "Love Balladeer" and "Female Background Vocalist" while his albums are referred to as "straight R&B." No matter how you flip it, 50 Cent knows how to make a hit record. The most disappointing part about this hip-hop transition is no matter how much some rappers want to sing on their records, most of them couldn't hold a note if it were written on a piece of loose-leaf paper!

Here is a very short list of the rappers that I feel should just stick to rappin' on a full-time basis, and some of them need to quit that too! This list is in no particular order:

T-Pain: This dude is T-Pain in my azz with those almost Roger from Zapp sound effects he uses to hide the fact that he really can't sing! I knew when I heard his first record he couldn't sang dammit! Maybe this rappa turnt sanga can turn back? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chamillionaire: This dude is literally tone def for sure! If you have the stomach for it, put your ears on the "Grown and Sexy" track that he did on his 2005 debut! Get your earplugs ready though...

Nelly: Those rumored use of steroids did nothing for his vocal cords at all. He does one rap/country song and now he thinks he's Dolly Parton. Stop the madness!------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ -
DMX: I don't know which one I dislike more, his acting or his singing? His growl is actually better than his singing. I'll give him a couple of points for style, but as far as holding a note he gets a wrist breaking 2 thumbs down!

Okay, that's enough of the bad. Now, let's move on to the good! Even though I hate many of the rappers that try to become crooners, there are a few that I actually enjoy listening to when they decide to soften things up a little. The top of my list would definitely have to be Dwele! I know most of you are probably thinking..."Dwele is not a rapper he's a neo-soul singer!" That statement is correct, but way back in the day Dwele used to rap. He was actually pretty good, but because he sang so well he friends convinced him to be a singer instead. If you are one of the lucky ones that has been privileged enough to hear some of his rare early work, you have probably heard him spit a 16 bars. That last time I saw Dwele in concert back in the Fall of 2006, Yahzarah and Darien Brockington provided a vocal hooks while he kicked a fresh freestyle! I must say Dwele is a multi-talented kat that can pretty much do it all! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Next up is one of hip-hop's best kept secrets when it comes to whole rapper vs. singer steelo! Phonte a.k.a Percy Miracles of Little Brother is definitely a great vocalist. The most impressive part to me is that he is definitely in the top 5 amongst the best emcees doing it right now! The boy is vicious on the microphone, but he has the ability to do a solid R&B joint as well. He'll even do some pop/rock for you too and sound good while doing it. Before Darien Brockington joined the Justus League, Phontiga handled the majority of the vocal duties for the crew. What I like about the most is that Phonte really doesn't brag about his singing abilities that much. He seems to have fun singing and with his obvious sense of humor I think it's hard for many to really take his abilities seriously? At one point he had created an alter-ego named Percy Miracles who was basically an old school singer from back in the day that seemed to have a mixture of Otis Redding and James Brown all rolled into one person. Percy loved the ladies! He'd drop a love ballet on a woman in a hot minute. As you can see on the photo showing on the left, Mr. Miracles was a pretty snazzy dresser too! I use the word "was" because Phonte has chosen not to perform as Percy Miracles anymore. Phonte felt like at this time in music when the envelope has not only been pushed the limits, but ripped to shreds that his character may not be properly understood in the end. Instead of contributing the ignorance that has saturated the industry, he has decided to axe Percy for the time being. Hopefully, one day Percy's permed wig and lime green, shark-skinned suit will bless us once again? Until then we'll have to be happy hearing Phonte harmonize on the upcoming Foreign Exchange project and the upcoming Little Brother album!

As much as I enjoy the group Outkast, I am a bigger fan of Andre 3000! Andre has always been pretty complex on the mic, but his ability to tell stories is almost amazing! It's like putting pieces together in a puzzle, but you never really get the full picture until the story is finished. Even though he is a great emcee, over the last few years some fans have been left wondering when Andre will actually start rapping full-time again? Personally, I dig his singing, but I miss his rapping. I still remember how excited fans were when Outkast dropped that double album a few years ago. Realizing that we had a whole solo album of Andre 3000 tracks seemed like heaven to any true hip-hop head? Instead of a hip-hop album full of tight beats and rhymes, we got a funk-soul album full of deep rooted cosmic love songs. Even though I taken back initially, I found myself enjoying the journey that Andre was taking my ears on. Before I knew it I was singing along to most of the tracks. In the end, I enjoyed Andre's disc better than I enjoyed Big Boi's. Andre had pulled it off! He had reinvented himself into a singer that even the hardcore fans could enjoy. Not many can do that, but now we are ready for the old Dre to bless us with some of that Southernplayalistic Aquemini type lyricism again dammit! Recently, Andre has been spitting something serious while guest appearing on tracks with Devin The Dude, UGK and Lloyd! The boy hasn't lost a step either, if you were wondering? -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When I think of true multi-talented emcees in the game, Mos Definitely is usually at the top of the list. Mos is one of those types of katz that may leave you wondering why he decided to rap in the first place? He is such a deep brother with so many talents, he could have probably gone in any of life's directions and been successful! This dude is a great rapper, actor and host, plus he's a solid singer as well. When I purchased his debut album, one of the tracks the stood out immediately was "Umi Say." The passion of the vocals and lyrics in that record were undeniable in my opinion. At that time I didn't no if the singing bug was just a one shot deal or something that he would indulge in even further later. Now, I realize that Umi Say was just the tip of the iceberg for Mos Def. When he dropped his second album "The New Danger" he gave his fans a full taste of his evolved sound? Some loved the album while many others hated it. I enjoyed the album better when I accepted the fact that it was more like an artistic endeavor. Going against the grain can be costly sometimes, but I think every artist has to make an album for themselves. Whether the fans like it or not, it's their free forum of expression. Instead of becoming a bitter fan about it, I try to understand what they are trying to convey through the music. Chances are I will never totally figure it out, but I didn't hold that against them. The reality is that Mos Def at his worst is better than many other rappers at their best!

Last, but definitely not least is Lauryn Hill a.k.a. L-Boogie of The Fugees. Ms. Hill has always been pretty clever with her wordplay on the microphone, so she already had a following as part of The Fugees. Being such a multi-talented artist, it's hard to put Lauryn into just one box. The best adjective that I can come up with to describe this young lady is BEAUTIFUL! I think that word captures her mind, body and soul. The Fugees were a force to be reckoned with, but when Lauryn dropped her debut solo album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" she literally changed the game. Even though I was aware that she was a great singer, I had no clue that her debut album as a solo artist would have such an undeniable impact. I don't think there was one person that has not heard that album? Even today Lauryn Hill and her music is still idolized like it was only yesterday. She left the music scene abruptly right at the time she seemed to be peeking as a solo artist. Obviously, the turmoils in her personal life had her mentally trapped, and she seemed to be unable to break free from her inner demons and insecurities? On the brink of what many felt was a nervous breakdown, Lauryn vanished from the spotlight for many years. Selfishly, I felt cheated! I wanted more of her music, but deep down inside I knew that I wasn't going to get any for along time. I was just like many other fans that were left rewinding the tracks from her personal memoirs on her Miseducation album. In recent years Lauryn has come out of hiding to bless us with a glimpse of once was, but she still seemed a little apprehensive about being in front of her fans once again? I think everyone was pleased to hear her voice once again regardless of what actually came out of her mouth? Honestly, no matter how long it takes for Ms. Hill to recover the pieces of her personal life, fans will be waiting with open arms to welcome her back. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In conclusion, I feel that rap singers deserve to have a place in hip-hop music. Without these types of artists in place I think rap music could get pretty stale and boring? Diversity is essential if we has fans want the hip-hop genre of music to substain its place amongst the others. Even though the so-called defined line of hip-hop becomes blurry at times, as long as the end result is quality music I'm all for it!

1 comment:

Babylonsista said...

Andre 3000, Mos Def, L Boogie, no words to describe all that talent...until I read this post, that is. Word up!! I'm an OutKast fan from way back but "The Love Below" was in my rotation for a year and I'm about to put it back and I'll dig in the crates for "miseducation" too. Peace.