Hip Hop: alive & kicking in 2009
In a remarkable article for The New Yorker, Sasha Frere Jones talks about how much the new Jay-Z album sucks, how the new Raekwon album is actually pretty good and how Freddie Gibbs might be the best thing in hip hop right now. The article is spot on; he could have mentioned Lil B or Z-Ro instead of Freddie Gibbs, but I agree that the latter has the most commercial potential.
Jones' version of the much heard "hip hop = dead" lamentation rests on the assumption that hip hop is losing its paradigmadic status for pop music by accepting influences from other genres - most of all by adapting to 4-to-the-floor-beats of contemporary club music:
The tempos and sonics of disco’s various children — techno, rave, whatever your particular neighborhood made of a four-on-the-floor thump — are slowly replacing hip-hop’s blues-based swing. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the rudimentary digital sound of New Orleans bounce or the crusty samples of New York hip-hop: this music wants to swing and syncopate. On major commercial releases, this impulse is giving way to a European pulse, simpler and faster and more explicitly designed for clubs.
Two minor corrections:
1. Some of the earliest rap music was disco-based and had straight beats. Also, a lot of the P-Funk and Synth-Funk that influenced West Coast hip hop had a palpable touch of disco 4-to-the-floor beats. As of lately, there is a whole new wave of incredibly funky and modern sounding hip hop with a distinct 4-to-the-floor feel (and I am NOT talking about Baltimore) that is feeding on those old school funk influences instead of the techno/club music of today. I will be covering some of that in the near future.
2. You could also turn the argument around. It is a misconception that club music has to have a 4-to-the-floor thump. In 1982 the world was introduced to a form of syncopated dance music that has continued to be relevant and vibrant to this day: electro.