Way back in the day I was a big fan of grunge and alternative rock. At secondary school, I hung out with a large clique of similar minded gents, thus was the cultural behaviour of the times. You could have a completely different opinion on politics (something we didn’t give a fuck about), football, sexuality, films, everything, but musical taste was a unifying thing. Unlike most of my friends, I was always drawn to exploring music, I would see other sun-genres and be curious about what was good about it. The friends around me never liked to flirt with heavier music, if anything they preferred lighter things. I did like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, that was some heavy shit, but it wasn’t heavy metal, though it would be lumped in with the rest of them. I decided to pursue a journey of discovery into heavier music. In those days I would buy albums purely based on reviews, or because I’d seen a t-shirt, or heard about the band, and often never even heard one of their songs. I lived dangerously like that.
I started off with Fear Factory, then went on to buy Korn, Sepultura, Dearly Beheaded, Godflesh, White Zombie, Pantera, Neurosis, and Machine Head albums. And it didn’t take long for me to be really into it, and soon I was going to live shows, wearing t-shirts, and worshiping Satan on alternate weekends. Most of the boys in my clique didn’t like it, and didn’t even want to sample the heavy side, except for a couple of friends who would go onto becoming big fans of some of those bands I mentioned. The common critique from the nay-sayers was either “it’s aggressive” or more often “I can’t even understand the lyrics.” I didn’t care that some lyrics were in-audible, the energy, power, and expression got me every time. I loved it, and still fucking love it.
The same was for hip hop. My old best friend who put me onto music like Jeru Tha Damaja, Wu Tang, Pharcyde, and Nine, wasn’t too into the west coast groovy gangster gangster shit. But again, I was curious, and made a journey that introduced me to artists like Too Short. Then in the early 2000’s, having been into Goodie Mob, I wanted to discover more southern stuff, and this was still a time when it wasn’t considered cool in many circles of “heads”. I fell in love with Trick Daddy, Three 6 Mafia, David Banner, Lil Flip, and on and so on.
When I became of age where my chine was chiseled and I should of had a wife and kids, I found myself as an old head, hanging around with other old heads. I wanted to find out what was new and what people were into now (back then). At first it seemed I had become like many other old heads, and every beat and artist just sounded the same to me. It seemed un-inspiring and lacking in originality. But fuck it, I dove in deep, and because of the digital age, I could dive in deeper than ever before and still pay for adult things, like bills and shit. And I loved it. All of it. I discovered some of my favourite artists, Kevin Gates and Freddie Gibbs, and oddly, Future.
I remember hearing “Tony Montana” for the first time and thinking, “what the fuck is this all about?” But after listening to Monster and DS2, Future became one of my most played artists, I just fucking love Future. I remember hearing about Lil Yachty, I saw his hair, and I thought, let’s try that out. I was never a fan of his breakout song “One Night”, but that Lil Boat mixtape got me. It wasn’t brilliantly produced or put together, but it had some energy and hooks that just took me over. Then I discovered all the South Florida artists, XXX, Ski Mask, Bass Santana, Craig Zen, Denzel Curry, Lil Simmy, Rob Banks, and I found a whole scene that I feel has been one of the greatest of all time. Truly. Then there’s melodic rap, sing-rap if you like. You know, the stuff pioneered by Drake, the style of Post Malone, Lil Peep, and Juice Wrld. I love it, I absolutely love Juice Wrld, Death Race for Love is one of my top 10’s, it is flabby, but there’s enough great songs to be a shortened classic, no doubt.
But me as an old head loving all this music, I am a rarity. Because most old heads don’t want to know, or even experiment. They’d never be able to try and listen to Lil Bibby, Chief Keef, or Lil Uzi, it just hurts them too much. They like their rap like how I like my Bollinger, from the early nineties. It could be brand new artists, barely 17 years old, but their sound is so nineties, and therefore, that’s ok for them. I often tried to play some bangers, I’ve even played them Killstation, and every time there was reactions filled with disdain. I even have a friend who’d continuously accuse me of deliberately liking music they hate just to piss them off.
You’ve heard the complaints from the old heads.
“Look at how they dress, LOL”
“They’re pussies, rapping and singing about their feelings, LOL”
“This ain’t the real hip hop, real hip hop talks about the struggle. SMH”
“This mumble rap is shit, I can’t understand a word their saying, LOL”
I get it, you like old things, like the Amish. The argument about lyrics has always puzzled me though. You’re average hip hop fan isn’t living some kind of struggle, most of them lead quite regular lives and enjoy eating over priced pulled pork sandwiches with their hipster weirdo friends. But they can only relate to hip hop about the struggle (and come on, how long is this struggle supposed to go on for exactly?). But when they here Juice’s lyrics about all girls being the same, or Drake talking about drunk texting exes at 2am, apparently these people are too thugged out for such emotional honesty, whilst sipping a fruit cider at a Banksy exhibition wearing a ridiculous hat. But then there are “mumble” artists who are all about the streets and the struggle, but they don’t understand what they’re saying. Now I love a good lyric, quoting Snoop, Jada, Pusha, Cam, it’s great fun, especially Cam, you just can’t beat his lunacy. But who really gives a fuck. If the energy ain’t good and the beat is crap, I don’t really care for your witty entendres, metaphors and punchlines. And neither does the majority of planet earth.
Hip hop is global, so global that there is a scene in every country, even in countries you couldn’t even imagine having one. I’ve heard Bulgarian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, German, Polish, Palestinian, Egyptian, Japanese, Thai, even shit from countries not recognised by the UN. And if it’s banging, I’m all in. And so are they. When 50 Cent rocks up in Bahrain, and spits “Niggaz sayin’ they gon’ murk 50, how? We ridin’ round with guns the size of Lil Bow Wow”, you think even half the crowd has a clue what the fuck he’s going on about? You ever seen a club full Mongolians singing along to Lil Jon, hell even you probably don’t understand what skeet means. Shit, even little white girls in Southampton singing along to the chorus of “Loyal” have no idea what they’re doing.
Music is big worldwide because of a feeling, and if you don’t understand a word that Playboi Cardi and Gunna say, neither do Chinese and Estonian fans of Wu Tang when they fly in for a show. Music is a feeling, lyrics are fine, but I tell you this, the worst night out in the world of supposed music culture is a Don’t Flop battle. Just lyrics, pasty faces under Nu Era caps, and no fucking music. Give me Young Thug in a dress making weird noises any fucking day.