Two Sides of the Commercial Hip Hop Coin

danieltalsky | Albums,Reviews | Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Both of these brand new rap albums are good in their own way.

When some people listen to new rap albums, they're paying primarily to the music and the rhythms to hear if it's good or worth listening to.  I don't.

To me, a rapper needs to have something to say.  Seriously.  You're just talking, motherfucker, and it's 2010.  Do you have something to say, or are you just filling space?  Are you going to tell me something about your personal struggle… honestly, so I can compare my experience to yours and see if I can learn anything, even from your mistakes?  Or, are you just going to brag about the same animal shit that a dog rapper would rap about if he could talk?

So, here's two rappers who, to some extent, have something to say about what they're going through (and manage to place it well alongside some solid, striking music).

Drake, is a Lil' Wayne protege, and talks like he's a made man.  He bitches about why he's only known the people who surround him for less than a year, and then at the same time wonders why his old friends are complaining he doesn't have time for them.  He brags about how great his life is, but then at the same time, childishly bitches about the plastic feeling it creates.  The funny thing is his original raps were about fame before he was even famous.  He seems to able to create this weird mix of arrogance and yearning, and you can see how he created the beautiful and sterile world he created for himself.

I guess he must have been drawing on his previous fame experience as Jimmy in the Canadian Degrassi Jr. High sequel: The Next Generation.

Plus, he really knows how to craft a hook.

The Roots, on the other hand, have been making albums for 15 years.  They've gone through a few cycles of fame, even though none of them has really become a superstar.  They're amazing musical craftsmen, and could rap circles around Drake.  Instead of including a mega-star who's mentoring them, like Drake and Lil Wayne, they're hyping indie bands and singers like Joanna Newsom, M. Ward and the Monsters of Folk, and the girl singers of The Dirty Projectors.  The Joanna Newsom cut, with a slowed-down sample of "Right On" is particularly good.

So what do The Roots have to say?  They have a little more grown-up feeling.  They're not gonna talk about how famous they are.  They're almost talking about being regular grown-ups with regular problems.  Except, they are 15 years into a great career and trying to make sure they're the best they can be.  You hear regular frustration and humility, and… they actually play real drums.

The Roots I'll probably still be listening to next year, but I'm having no problem bumping Drake this summer.

Recommended listens for The Roots, on their myspace page: Dear God 2.0, Radio Daze, Right On.

Recommended listens for Drake, (unfortunately not on his myspace page): The Resistance, Fancy.

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