Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not Bad: NBA All Star Game Rap Battle

Recently enamored of Lydia Davis and her unique brand of short story/poetry (shoetry? hmmm, pronounced show-a-tree? ...forget it, ugh!) ) I've been thinking about rapping as a form of prose styling. Which fits in with a growing notion that hip hop's grand error is its creative cachet being tied to the musical arts and not the literary arts. The music was the conduit to commercial empowerment, but the lyrics are where all the cultural and intellectual DNA reside. So as smarts trumps capitalism, hip hop is losing inventory (mostly due to bad accounting in the past).

When seen as a form of lit stylizing, then the rhythms, cadence, dialect choices all conspire to signal artistry at work in a more tangible way. Per Samuel Beckett (via Lydia Davis interview):

"I am interested in the shape of ideas even if I do not believe in them. There is a wonderful sentence in Augustine. I wish I could remember the Latin. It is even finer in Latin than in English. 'Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.' That sentence has a wonderful shape. It is the shape that matters."

This is why the art of hip hop, of rapping, can/should be respected even if the content is about nonsense. Not that nonsense, especially of the lazy commercially-pandering variety, shouldn't be held as a demerit. But fact remains you can rap about the money, the cars, the hoes artfully. The heft of the craftsmanship in quality lyrics come from the person shaping their content/story/themes into proper "hip hop form" ...

of course that leads us into style vs. substance debates, amongst other tangents. but that's for another time. my point here was to set up this nba all star rap video, which i enjoyed as a stylizing of the "who's better: east or west?" conversation/debate most nba fans are engaging in to some degree during the All Star break.

so yeah, i mean hardcore sports fans are going to find the broad nature of this as substantively compelling as the latest black eyed peas joint (or whatever fluffy pop hip hop song is at odds with your intellectual sensibilities at the moment). but, like your average BEP song, it's mostly a fun aesthetic conceit. one that more and more people are finding accessible, if not fundamental. maybe soon rapping will be the equivalent of writing someone a note in thick permanent marker, as a sonnet or something. just having fun with language/communication! word, yo!

(also, i love the east coast production style, but think it makes the song a bit biased.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/19/2010

    "the art of hip hop, of rapping, can/should be respected even if the content is about nonsense."

    its happening all around us. its the musical equivalent of ikea furniture or h&m clothing. yes the quality might suck, but its art that is accessible to and directly made for the masses. i have the same problem with the nonsensical rapping as i do with the ikea furniture: its fun but at the end of the day, i just know that drawer is simply not going to open and i'll have to take a crobar to it to retrieve my belongings. um..where was i? its the impermanence of it. at some point, if we say its okay to make shit furniture or paper-thin clothing or music that is really just inane lyrics over samples and we will buy these things and be content with them, aren't we just placating that desire for greatness? when we expect an article of clothing to last 3 wearings or to forget our current favorite song as soon as the new autotuned hyped song is out, aren't we discouraging artists from making quality? can we even call them artists anymore?


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