Posted tagged ‘rapper’

Tupac is the Worst Rapper of the Decade

December 14, 2008

Tupac Shakur, known to many as 2pac, and known to a few others a Makavelli, is the worst rapper of the decade. This will be surprising to most of you since you know Tupac as having been one of the two best rappers of the 1990’s. He went out on top, and by went out, I mean he was murdered in Las Vegas in a case that has never been solved. Tupac was a juggernaut, and even death couldn’t stop his commercial prowess in hip hop. Posthumous mixtape after mixtape and album after album have added millions to the tally of Tupac’s record sales. Ironically, that’s what caused him to Sammy Sosa out in this decade.

Tupac’s talent was undeniable. His writing was immaculate, but his delivery was awe-inspiring. His voice’s muscular ferocity on the Notorious B.I.G. diss “Hit ‘Em Up” was unyielding. That impeccable bravado made the compassion he offered in his performances on other songs seem contradictory. His honesty– or “realness”–allowed his audience to comfortably reconcile those two natures. Tupac’s legacy would have remained a polished diamond had he never released another album after 1996. Instead, he became a retirement plan for anyone with the ability to press a CD.

At first that wasn’t so bad. The production on the early posthumous work was still close to the quality and style featured on the albums in which he participated directly. As the years dragged on though, musical styles and tastes changed, but Tupac couldn’t. Let’s be honest, death presents a severe obstacle to one’s ability to remain relevant. Tupac’s work, this decade, makes that painfully apparent since death left him unable to comment on anything past the first Clinton administration. As scavengers continue to mine the vaults of his unreleased recordings, the disconnect becomes increasingly excruciating. I hear topics addressed in his forthcoming songs include his pondering whether or not to buy a cell phone, pleading with Ross and Rachel to get together, and worrying that he might be killed… in Resident Evil for the Playstation.

Tupac fans like to believe that he predicted his own death. Impossible. If he could’ve predicted his own death, then he could also have foreseen the decade of posthumous albums and songs that would bear his name, water down his legacy, and take all the fun out of yelling “Westside!” (Think about it: when was the last time you or anyone you know threw up the “W” and yelled out Westside?) And if he could have foreseen all of that, he would have moved to Ohio and become a rapping insurance agent. I can already hear his pitch! “When you need to provide for your loving wife/you might wanna consider… Thug Life!” Actually, the saving grace in all this is that I never have to hear anyone utter “thug life” again.

This man’s career that once attracted controversy and acclaim the way his torso attracted bullets is now an embarrassment of bargain bin compilation CDs. Through no fault of his own, that is how Tupac managed possibly to become this decade’s worst rapper.

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Mos Def Is The Worst Rapper of the Decade

December 8, 2008

I’ve been a fan of Mos Def since before I knew he rapped. I knew him as the quirky, young guy on Cosby Mysteries, which aired for about a heartbeat in the mid-nineties on NBC. I read, then, that he was into slam poetry and spoken word– remember when people used to say “spoken word” as if it were an actual thing? Well, following that blink of an eye, I completely forgot about Mos Def until he turned up on De La Soul’s album Stakes Is High. His voice was youthful, smart, fun… I couldn’t wait to hear more from him.

And then I did. Mos Def released Black on Both Sides toward the end of 1999. I’m sure there must have been a good song on the album, but I have no idea what it was. The yawn starts at track one and extends to track seventeen. It’s a yawn that you resent more than the second Bush term because you like Mos Def so much that you want to like his music.

Case in point: Mos Def followed his album with roles in several movies. He appeared in Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, Brown Sugar and The Italian Job. Not all of these are good movies, but he’s the best part of most of them. So he spends five years building up all this credit, and then he releases The New Danger in 2004.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t given The New Danger a complete listen, but that’s because I started hearing songs from the album and was instantly reminded that Mos Def bores me like daytime programming on TLC. It featured an eclectic collection of music styles. You know what that means? That means that Mos Def was embracing diversity as a way of boring different musical audiences. Actually, that means that Mos Def was probably high and listening to, say, a blues song, thinking “Hey, I wear a hipster brim, I bet I could pull off the blues.”

I just want to shake him and yell, “Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyy? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know we want to like you??” Apparently, it was around this time that he launched his plan for expanding his audience by having five children with four women. That’s nine people who won’t care that he’s mind-numbingly dull.

In 2006, Mos Def released an album, True Magic, with no cover art. None. Just a clear case. It also had zero promotion, which was apparently as Mos Def wished. To me, that sums up Mos Def– just sitting there, daring you not to be interested, when really there’s little to be interested in.

So here’s the argument for Mos Def as the worst rapper of the decade. It isn’t that he can’t rap. It isn’t that he isn’t smart. It’s that none of the charsima that Mos Def exudes off the microphone has ever been translated through the microphone into a memorable song, let alone a whole album. He is disappointment personified. If this decade were to be stricken from the record, not one record that he’s made would need to be stricken from your memory.

photo by Bouzardphoto