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RU - Rap been grown

Saw this quote this morning courtesy of @JohnGotty from a Murs interview for Vans, which spends a predictable amount of time talking about how awesome Vans are, but also includes the following bold statement: “Hip-hop has been an adolescent artform for 30 years, and that’s unacceptable.” I’ve discussed the whole Grown Man Rap thing previously, but is rap actually an juvenile artform that refuses to grow up?

Hardly. The “mature, sensible” hip-hop quotient is more than catered for these days, ranging from the world-weary musings of Ka, the elder-statesmen stance of Sadat X, the grumpy disdain of Sean Price, the high-concept, borderline pretentiousness of The Roots, the dreary spiritualism of Common and the “Hey guys, look I’m at an art gallery” posing of Jay (no hyphen) Z. Not to mention the legions of overly earnest, “everyman” rappers who plague the “underground” with stories about being late for their day job and missing the bus. Is that not “grown” enough?

Perhaps Murs had just watched the Fuckin’ Problems and No New Friends videos and was feeling particularly cynical that afternoon, but I can’t support any complaints about the ‘party’ element of rap. Hip-hop can be effective as protest music, but doesn’t mean it always has to be. Everything has its place. There’s no question that “big” radio only supports a certain type of hip-hop, and that has long been a source of frustration for those artists who aren’t in “the bubble”, but we’re currently in the era where the fans can choose what to plug into without being dictated by Clear Channel or Viacom. You don’t want to hear and Drake or Nicki? Don’t turn on Hot 97.

The White Mandingos demonstrated that a subversive concept album can still work with The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me, but only a select few are capable of pulling something like that off without alienating the listener or sounding corny. Juvenile club rap will always have a place when you’re tore-up at a party, as will lyrics that revolve around bragging and boasting and talking about buying private jets. Even if you’re over 30 and paying off a house, do you want to listen to dudes rap about interest rates and negative gearing? I recently discussed this with J-Zone, who attempted to give up music and “be an adult” only to discover that the “real world” is just as dysfunctional as the music industry, and twice as miserable.

So while I appreciate why Murs and others are frustrated by the childish “studio gangsta” mentality still prevalent in hip-hop, there’s no doubt that the artform has in fact matured to the point where MCs are now willing to present themselves as emotionally vulnerable without fear of being run out of town – something that was virtually unheard of in ’80s hip-hop, and a rarity even in the ’90s. That’s not to say that I recommend anybody actually listens to any of this new emo rap, but the fact that there’s even an audience for it proves that hip-hop has matured and branched-out in more ways than anybody could have imagined – for better or worse.

Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.