To understand the difference between what’s hip-hop and what’s simply rap, one must understand that there’s a difference between an MC and a rapper. As with everything music-related, everything is subjective here, but I like to consider myself an astute observer on the subject, so why not throw my two cents into the pot. My theory is simple: everyone who raps is a rapper, but not everyone who raps is an MC. In fact, I believe that very few rappers in the modern day can actually qualify as true MCs. Now don’t think from that I’m going to get into a KRS-One-inspired tirade about what is or isn’t “real hip-hop”. I just think that the culture has come to a point where there’s a fairly distinct line in the sand between who’s producing art and who’s simply a product churning out assembly line music for the masses.
The MC is an artist while the guy who’s simply a rapper is a product. The MC (and the artist of any medium) makes art because he has to. The money comes later or is considered after the work has been completed, if at all. The rapper goes into the studio with the directive that he must do X, Y and Z in order to get paid or create something that the label will be willing to back. It’s like comparing an original Charles Bibbs to one of those paintings you see hung up in the dentist’s office. On one hand, you’ve got a beautiful piece of art with heart and soul apparent throughout while on the other hand, you’ve got an image that all you can say about it is that it’s not offensive. One makes you want to stop and think of the inspiration behind it and what the artist was feeling while the other is just keeping you from being offended by negative space on a white wall while you wait for a teeth cleaning. It takes up the space it needs to for the time being. It isn’t timeless, nor will you remember it after leaving the room, let alone five years down the road. With hip-hop in 2013, it’s like the music you hear because you sought it out versus the music you were spoon-fed by your local urban radio station. Radio stations at one time employed taste-makers, but are now just cogs in a machine, keeping the same handfuls of schlock spinning in perpetuity. It keeps the party going, sure. But will you remember the feeling you had when you first heard it five years from now? Will you feel compelled to introduce your children to it when they are of age, regardless of how far down the road that will be?
It’s understandable that the music industry eats well off of rap and the Wal-Mart-ization of hip-hop culture. Something great was birthed in the late 70s and early 80s and the more influence it has acquired over the years, the more it will need to appeal to a larger audience. This is the way things work. However, it’s important to still be able to make the distinction between what’s organic and what’s been doused with pesticides and preservatives and packaged for mass consumption and, most importantly, purchase. Both can be appreciated, but held to different lights. Both the rapper and the MC need to eat, but keep in mind that the mainstream, artless packaged product brought to you by the industry is designed to get revenue, whether it’s a hip-hop fan buying it or whether it’s somebody who’s gonna shelve that disc right in between Ke$ha and the Black Eyed Peas. Know what you’re consuming and whether or not it’s art or just a marketing machine pandering to your pocketbook.
Too Many Rappers x Beastie Boys f. Nas