Words by Patrick M.
I caught the Nas show at the Congress Theater in Chicago, and wanted to write a proper review on His Highness’ show, but was unable to get any good shots. Nas gave a great performance at a hot venue, but something that happened before the show captured an attitude in hip-hop that’s been around for a while and worth discussing further, so I want to expound for ya’ll.
The doors for this gig opened at 6:30 and Mr. Jones was supposed to go on at 8. Being as that I was on the run from work and had to stop by home for some thai food and holiday celebration, I got there as the show was supposed to start. Of course Nas was nowhere to be found, either because the promoters wanted to delay the show or he was fucking Kelis, or something. 8:30 turned to 9:00 and to quell an increasingly impatient crowd, L.E.S. came out and took the turntables for a spin. He played your standard “Rap City,” set drawing increasing boos at the beginning of each song for not being Nas/ mid 90s East Coast. Finally as he spun into MIMS’ “This is Why I’m Hot,” the booing didn’t subside. Some kid standing next to me where some classic 1992 half jeans-half shorts started screaming in my face asking for a quarters to throw at the stage. After about 30 seconds, L.E.S. the DJ behind probably one of my ten favorite songs ever (“Life’s A Bitch”) walked off stage.
Alright so maybe playing a DJ set of Mims and Rich Boy to a disgruntled crowd on a show called “Hip Hop is Dead,” was an ill-advised move. Shit maybe it was even a brilliant psychological ploy masterminded by Nasir to get the crowd fired up for some “real” hip-hop.
If so, Nas was tapping into an attitude that’s been around in hip-hop (and music) forever, that certain fans are “truer” or “better” than others and this is reflected in their taste in music. People who get caught up in this tend to be giant haters (I am by no means innocent of haterism) channeling their rage towards a certain song or artist. Meanwhile, “This is Why I’m Hot,” has blown up; crossed over in such a fashion that people who download between 5 and 10 hip-hop songs a year are putting it on their iPods. The song doesn’t have amazing lyrical content or expose us to groundbreaking production, but it’s got a catchy beat and an easily rappable chorus, which seem to be the main criteria for crossover songs.
Music can provide multiple outlets for the listener depending on what he/she is after. A hip-hop song can lead to deep introspection on the great subjects of life, (love and loss) or the ills of society. It can also be an excuse to shake your butt or bop your head in the car while driving through traffic on your way to work. Serious hip-hop fans tend to define their seriousness through valuing the first type of song over the other. They take the fact that it’s only the second kind of song that non hip-hop fans get exposed to as a premier sign thatâ€¦well Hip Hop is Dead.
I think as fans of music, we need to recognize hip-hop’s ability to do both, and that the fact that it can is a good thing. The diversity of hip-hop music, only increasing as more cities bring their own styles and more cultures influence the musical side, is a huge, huge plus for hip-hop and its future. There are certainly problems with how issues of control of the product and, (more importantly) the portrayal of hip-hop in the mainstream media, but the fault does not lie with an individual artist creating the songs or the DJs that spin them. As fans we have to respect these artists choices while choosing to support and listen to what WE want. And next time I hear Mims come on the radio, I’ll be bumping it. I’d hope that if, my boy in the sheans were there, he’d be bopping his head along with me.
50 Cent – Power of the Dollar
Prince Ali – I Miss 1994 EP
The Lox – Money, Power, and Repect
Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz – Kings of Crunk
Battlecat – Gumbo Roots