You know, there was a time in the early 90's when I really really liked hip-hop. During the time, hip-hop was fun, it had a rebellious attitude and it brought a pop sensibility to the sometimes frowned-upon genre that made it accessible and universally recognized and loved. Shoot, if it wasn't for hip-hop, we would have never had the "explicit lyrics" sticker now would we?!
Perhaps the sounds of Heavy D, Kris Kross, TLC, Bel Biv DeVoe, Young MC and Tone Loc were albeit a bit "softer" than let's say 2 Live Crew's lyrical nastiness, but nevertheless it was hip-hop and the late 80's and early 90's gave us some mega classic hip-hop anthems. We had amazing tunes like "The Humpty Dance" by the Digital Underground, the craziness of "Jump Around" by House Of Pain and everyone's favorite, "O.P.P" by Naughty By Nature which had every one singing "Hip Hop Hooray" at one time or another. And summer wasn't summer unless there was a Will Smith / Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff song on everyone's mixtape which sat nicely alongside early "electronic-pop" acts like C+C Music Factory, Blackbox and Cathy Dennis. And for us gays, let's be honest, LL Cool J does and still remains quite shagalicious in my opinion…
But something happened which ruined the whole thing for me.
As time went on, hip-hop got jaded. You had this whole east coast versus west coast rivalry bullshit going on and the lyrics just got more and more hateful and were sometimes homophobic – it's no wonder that I didn't like the genre then, it excluded me. Artists even actually got murdered in the name of music – talented individuals like Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur all me their demise in return for their tremendous talents and by that time, the joy that hip-hop music brought to me musically, died alongside it.
Now I know what you are thinking – how could a guy like me who LOVES electronic and pop music ever be into hip-hop? How does KRS One sit well beside Pet Shop Boys? How do The Beastie Boys get along with the likes of Erasure? Well, growing up in small-town rural America, you really couldn't avoid it – hip-hop was everywhere and all over the radio in the days of pre-internet. I think I might surprise a few of you by telling you that I even own a few country music CDs in my collection – shoot, I love me some Randy Travis and Dolly Parton when their is a blue moon blazing…but getting back on topic, the death of hip-hop for me was a sad affair and I pretty much shunned it all through the noughties.
That is, until recently.
There seems to be a new breed of hip-hop emerging in the here and now and I quite like what I am hearing. Brilliant new hip-hop acts like Tinie Tempah (who just went to number one here in the UK), Lazee and Chiddy Bang are all sounding rather amazing and it's bringing back that pop sensibility to hip-hop that I feel in love with initially back in the early 90s. They all have little electronica and dance samples blended in too and as you know, I really can't quite ignore anything that gives mad love to the keyboard now can I?
I'm keeping an open mind about it all and I'm starting to like the new breed of hip-hop that is being produced. Perhaps it's all just a 90's revival and hey that's fine by me too. I do hope that as human beings though, we've risen above all the hatred, jealousy and general nonsense that came along with hip-hop back in the day. I hope that hip-hop will come back into the spotlight and be celebrated again and that it will get along ever so nicely with the other genres like pop, electronica and even country music.
The only thing we have to focus on now is keeping Kanye's mouth shut at awards ceremonies and to get Perez Hilton and Will.I.Am in a room together to hug it out. But hey, it's a start…