Everything That's Right About Hip-Hop Is Coming To The Paradise Tonight


Yesterday I tweeted something about the Boston rap group The Camp, which I've claimed on numerous occasions helped spawn the sub-genre that we now lovingly know as frat rap. To which the old frat rapster himself – @JKRealize – replied: “You still tweet about music?” I do, occasionally, though it takes some extra real or nostalgic shit to move me.

I plan on writing more about hip-hop in the near future. I'm considering a partial return to rap journalism as a possible new year's resolution, though there's also a chance that I'll just quit binging on Chinese food. With that said, I never stopped consuming new music, and have been lost for months in albums from the likes of Dark Time Sunshine and Fashawn.

Compared to other rap nerds, my taste is hardly eclectic. All I really ask for are some big sloppy bass bombs, some semblance of rhythm, and extra clever lyrics. I prefer the latter to be aggressive if not downright radical, but if someone can convince me that they have a fresh new way to rhyme about their platinum bath slippers, then I'm down to listen. It's the shameless facsimiles and copycats who I truly loathe – they're what drove me away from writing more about music.

What keeps me interested, though, are acts like Brother Ali and Homeboy Sandman, both of whom rock at the Paradise tonight, and each of whom is unique in ways that defy the illogic of boom bap today. As characteristically comes across as clear as day in the partial-title track (video above) to his new album, Mourning In America (Rhymesayers), Ali delivers the cold and naked truth. The military industrial complex and its vast network of municipal allies are literally and figuratively strangling democracy, all the while poisoning this country at an extraordinary pace.

There are few MCs who can hang with Ali – that is, to say, rappers with a ripe mix of courage, talent, and humility – and Homeboy Sandman is one of them. Since his introduction on the New York underground nearly a decade ago, he's continued to elevate in ways that not even he saw possible. His latest work, First Of A Living Breed (Stones Throw), is yet another demonstration of an artist who breaks boundaries in his sleep and leaps universes in the lab.

At one level, Boy Sand is funnier than nerdcore cats. At another, he's leagues more agile than the baddest battle rappers. But he's also built for hanging with the more politicized likes of Ali, Dead Prez, or anybody else who makes you not just throw a fist up, but hit the streets and bark at plutocrats. From the hilarious and educational “For The Kids” to the creepy and cranial “Sputnik,” these are Neil Armstrong-sized steps one and all.

On second thought, maybe my tastes are eclectic. I guess I'm at least picky, wanting artists to actually say something interesting, and do something different. So yes, @JKRealize, I do still tweet about hip-hop. And from time to time I'll even blog about it. But unless we're talking about seasoned counter-culture giants like this – or even up-and-coming all-stars with a stage show to match – I'd rather use my words to help fill voids that are left by the lack of serious sentiment in contemporary pop culture.

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