Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Oh Word?

Are you interested in 3400 word in depth articles on the significance, imagery and ideology of the Digable Planets throughout their careers? How about a line by line analysis of that skit you always skipped on Supreme Clientele? If so, you may be interested in OhWord.com, the most recent addition to a growing number of websites helmed by a new generation of Hiphop journalists whose dedication to the music seems to be only equaled by their desire to break down the science and styles behind it. With the downfall of mainstream rap journalism in recent years (The Source, XXL) and the growing cultural gap between the current underground scene (publications included) and that of yesteryears’, the internet has become the ideal place for rap scholars to wax historical and intellectual about the music they love. Indeed, while major corporations and Aesop Rock listening college students may not give 2 shits about the militaristic metaphors of the Boot Camp Clik, its safe to say that the people that were there at the time (as well as a growing audience of those who’ve been diggin through old crates, I ain’t frontin) haven’t lost interest in their rap heroes or the complex slang that they were kicking. Time and nostalgia have in fact served only to amplify the love for the classic New York Hiphop of the past and now that the kids who were intruiged by the drum of those old Wutang records have grown up and taken a few music history classes, it seems only right that they get their scribe-on about what defined them.

Of course, the joys of classic Hiphop have been spoken about online since Usenet and never really stopped. The amount of blogs uploading “random rap” to yousendit servers is a testament to that and as always, music is best heard rather than studied, but it’s nice to see some genuine efforts going into preserving a culture that could be crushed under the sheer weight of the commercial juggernaughts it spawned. After all, Graffiti is buffed over, breakdancing has been off the streets for years, Djing has been reduced to anal retentive competitions (though not in screw music!) and rapping…well it’s just not the same. The growing amount of books on storeshelves, pieces online and re-issues on the shelves can only help preserve (revive?) the classic New York element of the artform, hopefully without even intruding on the dope elements going on now.

Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. I’m automatically suspicious of how good intentions can turn into revisionist history: did Buckshot really have all of that in mind when he was writing his lyrics to the beat of Powerful Impak? Probably not and it’s a fine line between insightful interpretation and putting words in the artists mouth. I’m reminded of French Cinema Journalism in the mid 60’s when Françcois Truffaut began explaining a longwinded theory about the significance of the automn colors in a Hitchcock movie to the director. Hitch simply replied that it was filmed that way because that’s when they were ready/scheduled to shoot. Pretentiousness aside, Hiphop has been so dumbed down in the mainstream media that a dedicated souls dropping a lil science online is much appreciated.

All in all, 80’s and 90’s rap journalism? Sign me up, I’d definitely prefer to read a detailed breakdown on the inherent chaos within KMD’s final album (ya I can do that shit too mufucka) than hear another moron crap himself over Cage’s new emo-monstrosity of an album. Word.


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