Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ghostface and what makes a great emcee?

I Was privileged to catch Ghostface Killah live in Auckland, New Zealand the other night and found out how unfit I am after a load of jumping; along with my girlfriend throwing up W's. It was a great show with a lot of love shown from both views of the stage. At one point it made me think as Ghost stated his confusion within rap at the ridiculous proliferation of substance less music from rappers swamping the market with garbage pop rap. Listening to the classic verses and tracks Ghost smashed through in a great show, and his explanation of how a story rhyme might be constructed intricately over a matter of weeks, made me wonder about the exact composition of artists who truly excel in the field of hip hop. Here is my plea for you, if you love hip hop, to help go someway towards answering this question.

What makes a great emcee?

Rappers, emcees and hip hop artists are constantly being judged, analyzed, scandalized, derided, despised and idolized respectively depending on who you speak to. So what makes 'good' hip hop music? For many the negative aspects of hip hop are a major talking point. Why are hip hop lyrics often overwhelmingly violent, misogynist and nihilistic; is this having such a negative impact on society as some claim, or is it, as is often stated in rebuttal, a reflection of a harsh street life and environment that is apparently created around a group or individual by forces out of their control. Either way, does your opinion over such matters then get taken into consideration of the artistic skill of narratives by artists such as Mobb Deep. How does the music and beats affect how a rapper is rated what about the arrangement of hooks, bars, singing, scratches? How do live instruments, a DJ, beat boxers etc influence how heavy an emcee is, live or recorded. And from other artistic perspectives, what sort of categories could be made for the skills involved in rapping and does the 'image' of the particular emcee affect how relevant or artistic the lyrics are? Does the ultra complexity and advanced subject matter of Canibus make him a more intelligent rapper than Rakim? How does KRS One match up to Cannibul Ox, or Roots Manuva to Lil Wayne, Bahamdia to Fiddy Cent, Immortal Technique to Jay Z, Aesop Rock to Scarface, Biggie to Killah Priest or Big L to Eminem. Is Location, Political, Gender, Race or Religion specific rap or sub genres such as 'geek core' rap more or less important when talk of 'keeping it real or true to yourself' in light of many stereotype fulfilling fabricated characters? The debate could go on infedinitely. Hopefully it will, please join the debate add your comments here or on the Vocalswords discussion boards. Cheers!


Solocypher said...

Toe said
"Has to be good at profanity
Word play
Good at both topical interesting lyrics and also rapping about fuck all

This is a very wide subject try talk about. I like Joelle Ortiz (straight up hip hop) I like Durty Goodz (Grime)I like Guilty Simpson (thug) and I also like Slug (likes flowers) I like GURU (non expressive) and Ghostface (almost Crys sometimes)I like Nas and Jay-Z (rock solid flow) I like Vast Aire (all over the place with flows)

Solocypher said...

i the t said
"contrary to Craig G's declamation,
Hip Hop is not a science but an artform. Therefore, 'anything goes' lyrics-wise ('hip hop' itself is a nonsense scat phrase; "like a lemon to a lime, a lime to a lemon" an old skool rhyme that has arguably less artistic merit than any souljah boy foolishness)
there's no responsibility on the part of an artist to tell the truth, be moral or be real.
audience listen to who they like according to their own IQ level and mood they're in.
industry does dictate what is popular but is there really a need for any rapper to be popular?
hip hop doesn't need the industry for it to exist. it only needs the industry
for people to be successful but success is not a requisite for music to be made.
many blues artists achieved no success but still made music etc.
there's no need for any rapper to be a millionaire.

'art' is etymologically born of 'artifice'.

therefore the only way to keep it real is not to rap at all but to engage in non-artistic behavior.

Solocypher said...

Abiade said "this is gonna sound like a lot of babble but i'll try and keep it as succint as possible. for me like everyone, music is life, hip hop is one of the aspects of that life. What I look for in an emcee is the ability to make me connect with them. its all subjective at the end of the day because the things we all go through in life make certain emcees more accessible than others. I mean i had nothing in common with bone thugs and harmony/tupac/big/jay/ but that didnt stop me watching their every movement when i was younger and growing up. and the fact that I can relate more to man like Ty and roots manuva, doesnt make them any better than they are.

emcees to me have a duty to treat their music like its gonna be their last ever product. top notch beats, top notch hooks, bars, its all got to be in there. but also, taking full advantage of the abilities you do have and pushing the boat out is also qualities I like.

I get a bit irked when people talk about how hip hop has died and the state of hip hop blah blah blah, because some of these people are a bit bitter about things that have gone wrong for them, i f**kking love ghostface and his contribution to hip hop is unquestionable but no one should have to tell him how the music industry is these days, he lives it. you can either choose to adapt or accept that because you haven't, your music may not be as marketable as it once was. im not saying i agree with that just saying tis how things are.

any way. its differs for me cos i go to different emcees for different things but : a dope emcee should (as a standard) consist of: a combination of some sort of social commentary while being able to just pop witty and clever lyricism on more laid back/club orientated tracks also. a variety of different flows and patterns, a presence on the mic, a recognisable voice, a STAGE PRESENCE (probably the most important after lyricism) and although i hate use of the word, a certain swagger to what you do doesnt hurt either. I think its also very important to be able to adapt to the times, beats change, new producers become the hot s**t, trends come in (some good , some s**te), if you can adapt and gain fans of the new age, while not compromising the interests of the fans that knew you from the beginning, then thats good also...

....and then of course, a fit bird called beyonce, a clothing empire, his own condoms, his own water, his own bulletproof vests, his own ps3 game, his own vodka, his own nike trainers, his own louis vuitton franchise, his own basketball team.

standard s**t! ill be back biggrin.gif