I was told about a rapper named Prohaize through an email from a PR company with a view to forming a few thoughts on his latest single ‘American Visa’ (which can be heard below) into a nice little feature for our blog. Usually, given the impersonal blanket emails, many PR messages are easy to ignore (not all, there are good guys/gals who know who they are). This particular PR set-up were personalised and polite, even following us up on Twitter to see if we liked the song in a non-pushy way. In other words, they successfully put a bit of pressure on me to actually listen to the music. I felt a need to help these people out, or at least be seen to make an effort to reciprocate their effort, and that should I ignore them then I would be the rude jerk. My problem? I know very little about rap or hip-hop. So, with my ignorance naked for all to see (and, as a critical academic would probably argue, some hugely significant racial/social/political factors ignored) I tried to write something.
The genres of rap and hip-hop have always been of great interest to me, especially considering my love for the indie rock leaning Why? and the manic word spewing of artists like Listener. To me, rap is some exotically enticing thing that I don’t know enough about to truly ‘get’ but have some appreciation for all the same. Something hidden behind the stereotypes of repetitive phrases about guns and women. Something that, should I ever manage to cut through the mainstream garbage and truly dive into the hardworking underbelly, would be greatly enjoyable and rewarding. After all, much of my enjoyment of music (as the interviews I have done with musicians perhaps annoyingly highlight) revolves around the lyrical side of things and how artists can condense coherent stories or messages into three-minute segments. Is there a class of music more tightly linked to words than rap?
I guess there is a range of quality and complexity in rap music that is based around mass appeal and radio suitability. I can see the popular end of the spectrum but admit to having no idea where the other extreme lies. With this lack of parameters there is no way I can calibrate my rap/hip-hop reviewing device and fairly compare X with Y. My naivety chronically limits the possibility of forming an opinion. I literally have no idea who is/was good and who really is/wasn’t. I’ve heard the odd songs from the real superstars, but if I based my whole musical opinion around this superficial exposure in the mainstream media then I guess I’d be listening to my Queen greatest hits album again this morning. The kids in school who liked Eminem and wore 2-Pac t-shirts (black ones covered in huge painted portraits that were usually peeling) were those that answered back to their parents and stayed up really late to count the number of swear words in South Park. I guess at that early age I associated rap with that little black and white Parental Advisory sign and supposed that the whole appeal was the presence of expletives and fire-arm references. I didn’t know if anything else existed beyond the presumed demographic of money and misogyny, and associated rap with naughty kids who sometimes didn’t bother going to school.
I’m not suggesting rap music causes this sort of behaviour. Either 1) ‘naughty’ kids are drawn to the little black and white sticker in a hope that it makes them appear more shrewd and streetwise and therefore tougher and cooler, or 2) my experience was just one thread in an almost stochastic distribution of music taste pattern that is based on a whole range of geographic and social factors, not to mention current trends/fads. Whatever the cause, my opinion of rap was coloured by my personal experiences in school, that is pretty much fact.
Anyway, back to Prohaize. The video below, ‘The Right Side Of My Brain’, is a promising argument for the presence of something more in rap music. He sounds like a man with something to say. A man with a talent to construct quickly intricate phrases and perfectly put them together in a frantic spiel about whatever he wants to say.
But then again I could be wrong.
If anyone wants to help me defeat this affliction and point me in the right direction with regards to rap and hip-hop then please drop us a line.