rap music

timtimes / Flickr / Creative Commons

One of the primary topics emcees rap about, aside from their own skill on the microphone, is hip hop itself—the music, the fashion, what hip hop is and what it isn’t.

It’s a tautology that, as far as I can tell, is practically non-existent in other forms of music. Rock and roll dabbles in the occasional self reference, but the act is nearly compulsory in hip hop. If every emcee’s first verse is about how amazing they are, their second verse is about how much they love hip hop.

I’m trying to atone for my sins as a former music snob, and today I’m doing it by listening to old hip-hop. I used to be quick to criticize pop styles that I didn’t think were “heavy” enough. But every time I said I didn’t like a particular genre, a counterexample would present itself. Fela Kuti destroyed my dislike of world music; Patsy Cline shattered my hatred of Country and Western.

So I’m trying to learn to like other kinds of music, and to do it I’ll have to do three things:

Courtesy photo

When it first appeared on the market in the early 1980s the Roland TR-808 could be purchased at about a quarter the price of competing brands. Imitation drums sounded cheap, too.

These were not digital samples, but simple analog circuits. The bass drum sound was a strange, deep, ringing thud; the snare was a high, papery snap; the cowbell was an obnoxious clank.