COMMENTARY: EVERYONE CAN’T RIDE THE HOV LANE – A NEW ARTIST’S STRUGGLE FOR SENSE OF SELF


I have a co-worker that is a true hip hop head and is strongly against anything WIZ KHALIFA, BIG SEAN, KID CUDI, and pretty much anyone signed to G.O.O.D. Music with the exception of MOS DEF and PUSHA T (COMMON was just signed to Warner Bros. Records); he’s into deep rap and listens to a lot of underground stuff, which is cool. I’m all for that because I like to hear something different more often than not.

I ask him what he has against the artists I listed off above and he says they have no lyrical skill or content whatsoever. He has a right to his opinion, so I respect it. I strongly disagree with it and we debate every day but I respect his opinion. Yesterday, we were getting ready to leave work when the intro to JAY-Z’s Blueprint 3 album began to play from our iPod dock. He says:

So you mean to tell me that all these new cats are messin’ with this guy right here?

I immediately yelled out NO! “When did I ever say that they were better than Jay-Z?” I asked him and he couldn’t give me an answer. I continued to say, “Nobody will ever be able to touch Jay-Z’s legacy because it’s his. If there were a bunch of Jay-Zs running around the industry, shit would be lackluster as shit.” People think that every rapper needs to be Jay-Z: have punchlines for days, good content, stellar beats, etc.,etc. That’s not the case.

Every rapper/singer/whatever needs to be the best at what THEY do. Cudi isn’t a punchline rapper, everybody knows that and he doesn’t claim himself to be one, so that’s not his lane. His lane is storytelling rapping; he tells his story the best way he knows how, which is with synthesizers and outrageous beats that nobody would ever think of. He sings his hooks with no shame and is uncensored with what he’s gone through.

THAT’S what makes him a dope rapper.

Big Sean is all about being a blue-collar rapper: he came by his deal somewhat easily but the real work came in proving himself to both Kanye and the executives at Def Jam by doing shows, releasing mixtapes, and grabbing every interview he could to promote himself. People caught on and saw this young man’s hustle and respected it; in turn, his rhymes got better to the point where other MCs openly bit his style (only DRAKE admitted he borrowed the flow on Sean’s ‘net track “Super Duper Lemonade” and gave him his props). His album is set to drop on Tuesday because of his hard work and unwavering love for the life he’s always wanted. He’s humble and that’s part of his appeal, but it isn’t an act. He has extreme potential to be a commercial success in hip-hop because he’s so marketable: he’s young, attractive and has a great sense of style.

Versatility is what makes him a dope rapper.

I could go on and on but my point is, not everyone can be identical to the biggest in their genre. I think the newer artists are doing their best to stay in their lane and do their own thing. Imitating your hero is cute but it’ll only get you dogged in the end for being a biter.

Jay-Z’s empire is one that a person could only dream of building for themselves but continuously comparing an artist to a legend’s standard is like beating a dead horse. We know he isn’t like him but who’s to say that he’ll never be on his level? Give these artists time to make this a possibility. Some artists don’t even want to get that big; they’re in it for the love of the art and do it to make themselves happy.

What’s so wrong with that?

It’s funny because this debate literally only happens in hip-hop and R&B; rock artists don’t go through this nearly as much nor do country artists. Pop may experience this a little more but the difference is the industry makes wiggle room, so everybody can eat. Hip-hop and R&B always pits artists against each other, forcing everything to be a competition so the fans do it as well. No one can coexist anymore, I suppose. It sucks because not everybody wants to be Jay-Z but no one understands how that can ever be true.

I personally don’t want a bunch of Jay-Zs in my iTunes, fuck that. God made one, so there can only be one.

photo credit: SOHH.COM

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