Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lil Wayne is no Ice-T - A Brief History of Rappers Who Rock

So Lil Wayne's Rebirth is finally out in stores and sadly it has that dreadful "Prom Queen" single on it. It's been a year since i heard it and i still can't that ugly yell out of my head. The LA Times' hip-hop guru Jeff Weiss pretty much obliterated the album as being as bad as I thought it would be.

I heard a quote from Wayne that said this wasn't a typical rock album but what he thought rock should be. Great, so an occasionally talented rapper (when he's focused, he's solid) is going to change the sound of another genre? Riiiiiight.

Put it this way, if Weezy was a white rocker who said he wanted to rap, we'd call him a poseur. We'd laugh at him for trying to be something he's obviously not. So i'm flipping on Black dudes who are trying to be rockers but don't know jack about rock music. I've done this since the Shop Boyz (aka Party Like A Rock Star) said they had no idea who Kurt Cobain was.

About 20 years ago, another well-known rapper made the cross into rock. But unlike Wayne, he knew his history all the way to its Black origins. He knew he couldn't just do it for kicks because rock back then was starting to get harder. Groove metal was taking over and with Metallica and Guns' N Roses leading the way away from hair metal, he had to bring that same edge from rap into rock.

Enter Ice-T's heavy metal band Body Count. Unlike Wayne, Ice got credible Black musicians he went to high school with and they wrote fiery songs describing their surroundings as well as being Black artists in a predominantly White art form. It was pure Black rage and Ice was actually singing, not rapping (check this cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe")

It was hard, it was aggressive and it was a statement. Most people know about the uproar over "Cop Killer" but if you listen to "Born Dead" or "There Goes the Neighborhood", you can tell Ice wasn't playing. This was real - he went on Lollapalooza and got support. He did a song with Slayer on the Judgment Night soundtrack.

Wayne sounds like he's playing around with guitars, Ice was trying to have a true metal band and he got respect from rock heads just because he was doing it right. Not posing.

Here's some more tracks and artists who truly went "wild like rock stars who smash guitars" (c) Inspectah Deck

Public Enemy - When they linked up with Anthrax for "Bring The Noise" in 1991, it was historic. Chuck D and Flav already shouted them out in the original so it was a perfect blend. But the group already showed their rock chops with "She Watch Channel Zero" from Nation of Millions - they came with it over a classic Slayer track. They tour today with a full on band and still rock as hard as they did 20 years ago.

Run DMC - the fathers of this genre. DMC said that they weren't trying to be the best in hip-hop, they want to be the kings of rock so that's why they had songs were heavy on guitars. "Rock Box", "King of Rock", and of course "Walk This Way". The list goes on - you should already know their credentials.

The D.O.C. - "Beautiful But Deadly": I only heard this track when I finally got my hands on No One Can Do It Better, a gem of an album that lets you know how sad it was his voice was forever altered. Anyways, he goes hard over a riff from Funkadelic and does his own take on "Poison" before Bell Biv Devoe even thought of it.

Jay-Z "99 Problems" - yeah he borrowed the title and hook from Ice-T and he took the opening of the last verse from Bun-B. This was one of his finest songs and if you can't bang your head to this, stop reading and go enjoy some good music. Hard guitars, hard drums (c/o of "The Big Beat" - one of hip-hop's great samples).

Lil Jon "Stop F***in With Me" - another Rick Rubin production and another dope Slayer sample. Jon said he wanted to create a hip-hop version of Suicidal Tendencies "Institutionalized" and he did. To me, this is crunk as anything he's ever done. Listen while driving and it'll be hard to stay focused.

That's just a sample of how genres have crossed over well. Of course Rage Against the Machine is a perfect example too and they're one of my favorite bands but I wanted to keep this solely hip-hop to show you that these "hard rock" songs rappers do now lack the bite and the edge.

So a word of advice to Lil Wayne. Stick to your day job. You already released a great mixtape last year in No Ceilings. Get focused on make your next album better and stop trying to be a poseur. This could be one of the biggest flops in recent memory and if the label doesnt want it to fail, release Drop The World so they can hear Eminem murder the track and this album.

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