Quality over Quality

So this dude’s had asked me to peep his video when I got a chance and today I checked it out on vimeo. Now the song is hot and video was a different vibe for a Hip Hop video by today’s standards, but the comments from other people who watched it went on a different plain. I saw more comments about how the video “must be some cheap ass Windows Movie Maker made mess” or “this guy needs a better camera”. Didn’t hear shit about how the video was well thought out or how the song itself was good, only the quality of the video. One guy said to check his shit out if you want to see studio quality shit. I figured I wasn’t going to be the only one from that page who peeked so I looked. You get there and the song is pure trash and the beat was so lame it hurt to listen too long to it. The video itself, yeah is very high def shit but the problem is he was at a party with some of the most ghetto looking chicks and (what I can’t help but think) were rented cars. Not many people that commented on his video put the song under the bus, guess they were too busy loving the QUALITY of the video.

My thing is this, I get the quality argument, really I do, but good is good no matter what. I always think the people who complain about this are middle class citizens who have no idea about or can truly appreciate real Hip Hop. Sure they listen to Acealone, MF Doom, De La, Soul Assassins and any other underground non-mainstream artist to feel like they get the culture and music, but they miss the point and history of listening to Hip Hop. People forget Hammer was shitted on because he had good quality in his sound. Shit Russell Simmons had Kurtis Blow and Run DMC in good studios with state of the art shit at that time and he was pissed at what Marley Marl was giving the hood and the world from his Queen Bridge Apt. Why? Well because that was the new sound of Hip Hop. Not only was it the new sound but a throw back to about (I want to say) 6 years prior to the Roxanne wars.

See I know old school dudes who still pull out tapes of old performances, now most of them forgotten legends. What Sugar Hill records did was take the same routine shit those groups did live at shows and recorded them to give off the same street vibe. Outside of “The Message” no old school songs were really slow or had an “it’s not live” vibe to them. Marley Marl and Larry Lar and so many others brought back the samples and chopped them in machines. You had old records where you heard the static on the beats. I love my Hip Hop like that, it reflected the hood and its imperfect beauty. That’s what made it cool, you didn’t need to go to school to learn to be apart of Hip Hop (back then anyway) your tags were your own style and dance moves were yours too. Now we judge breakers on how clean a move was, I saw Wild Styles and Beat Street and seen dudes break right before my eyes for free before it was some main event shit. Breaking was like Kung Fu, a guy could be clumsy and make it a style of his own. This of course is before people started teaching it and even then they say do you and let with the flow. No two dancers should really rock completely the same exact way it’s a fact.

I grew up listening to WRAP back home in Bad Newz as a kid, it was a talk radio and gospel AM station really, but Mon – Fri from 3 to 5 it was Hip Hop. And also on weekends, all day Sat and Sun nights you got your fill of Hip Hop. The station never came in good so it fueled my love for gritty shit even more. But I grew up around that vibe and kind of Hip Hop, the” this is what we can afford and we’ll make it work” vibe because again most if not all Hip Hop artists lived in the hood at that time. Most of the “around the way” dudes I looked up to all did the same tricks to get beats done and record. I didn’t see high tech shit and an ASR 10 or SP 1200 til’ I went to Fuzz Box studios. Even the studios I went to that were owned by hood dudes were ghetto as hell (in a good way). At one Point Phat Headz, the barber shop, had a studio in the back. Forgot what they used to pad shit up but the mic was in the back room which had a window so everyone inside the shop saw you spitting. I swear the track board was on the counter near that window by some clippers and shit.

Never heard any complaints about quality at all back then from anyone in any crews, you were judged by the music you made.

Now we have these “spoiled by quality” people who if you go to youtube and find a really old school song someone ripped, because since it’s not popular or out of print and there are no digital versions of it, you’ll read “the quality sucks”. We’ve stopped cherishing the fact we have gotten such a great classic song or just great song from a low budget artist. I saw a guy’s statement about how he loves “The Chronic” over all East Coast classic because of the quality. Well Nas is a good place to start that debate. His debut album was produced by Large Pro, Primo, Q Tip, LES and Pete Rock. That album is hands down one of the best Hip Hop albums EVER, but some hate the quality of it. Not that it’s a good or bad album but people are debating that the sound isn’t good. Now Nas’ second album “It Was Written” had quality and the Track Masters did all but 3 joints on there and it was viewed at that time as a let down. Shit Even Jay Z is still being asked to reconnect with Primo, Clark Kent and Ski to get the REAL sound back. Fuck it’s why the first ‘Blueprint” was the shit really, the gritty samples and sick rhymes went perfect together. I know for a fact that was that same mystic in “Protect Ya Neck” by the Wu. We hadn’t heard a raw sound like that in years in Hip Hop. Its why “Come Clean” and ‘How About Some Hardcore” were bangers as well. Those three songs would get shitted on today and on some sites comment boxes. Shit “Enter The 36 Chambers” has a gang of bad reviews on Amazon.com from people who don’t know the sound of New York Hip Hop during that time. They bought it off the strength true fans deem it as classic and then they comment that the quality sucks. Hip Hop should be grimy and gritty! It’s why these rap dudes still shoot videos in the hood or at the least around a gang of black people who look hood. It’s why if you ever saw Biggie interviews on some web site he was always dressed like dudes from around the way, even as high maintenance as Diddy was. This music reflects the culture and the place where it’s from, poor inner city neighborhoods, once you start tampering with that then you truly only have rap music.

“Rap is something you do. Hip Hop is something you live”

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