Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enough is enough: The new way in which rappers pay homage

When I found out that Meek Mill and Rick Ross made a song called "Tupac Back" I was furious. When I heard the song, I believed like Pastor Harold Camping that the rapture was approaching. But even more appalling than the audacity of Rick Ross to make a song with such a title is the remarkable copy cats that have followed. Two Bay Area artists, Su and P-Lo made their own mix and titled it "Mac Dre Back". Elzhi took it a step further and, instead of making a tribute song, decided to re-do Nas' classic album Illmatic. He calls it EL-Matic And likewise, the south's own Yung JOC is attempting to make a comeback by taking on the persona of Biggie with his new mixtape Ready to FLY. Oh, and he's going by the name of Notorious J.O.C.

Enough is enough! As hip-hop fans, its natural to be nostalgic about the past and honor the legends that made us love the music to begin with. But there is a fine line between paying homage and copying someone's style. If we were in school, this would be called plagiarism; on the street, they'd call it swagger jacking. Since when did this become okay?

I know that it is often said that art imitates life or life imitates art but since when did hip-hop become about rappers imitating other rappers. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery you are probably saying, but who is this type of imitation flattering? Do you think Tupac would be slapping his knee and holding back giggles upon hearing "Tupac Back"? Did Nas call Elzhi and congratulate him for doing exactly what he did 18 years prior? This is all speculation, but my vote on both accounts is no.

I believe as fans of music and partakers of life, what we look forward to the most is the unknown; that new thing that will make us say wow. I believe this is in part because as people we like to challenge ourselves not to do what's already been done, but to see what else is possible. This is why we keep sending people to the moon. Not to do the same exploration as the Apollo 11, but to expand on their idea creating something more magical than before. I believe this is possible in hip-hop once we stop resting on our previous accomplishments. If we take ownership of our talent, follow our own destiny and stop trying to be who we are not, I believe progress is more than possible. I believe, we'll make the best music the world has ever heard. I think Tupac, Biggie, Mac Dre, Nas and others who built upon the foundations of hip-hop did just that and would be proud to see us doing the same.


BEasti said...

Interesting point brought up, and with the whole "swagger"craze, there brings up its relationship to homage and how as Hiphoppas its best to pay homage. I think swagger doesn't really pay much homage, at least the material-based flavor most rap comes in these days *SWAG*.

Its interesting that Elzhi is referenced because I think he's an ill emcee. I haven't heard what he did so I won't prejudge it, but I do believe in resampling popular samples for original instrumentals...

But, there is a difference between the way in which things are done. If somebody is trying to embody or become a version of the original person, i.e. taking the original artist's character and put it on
like swag, that's not really original. Butttt, the other way and the way I try as an artist to do, as homage is to understand the mastery of the classics, and extract its poisonous venom to mix with your own poison dart mix. Like absorbing their powers. That's cooler I think.


should continue the culture that artists are thriving from; Hiphop.

Imma510gurl said...

I understand what you are saying. But look at it this way, have you ever tried opening a jar thats closed tight? You twist and turn and nothing happens. So me, as a female, I go get a man. He'll twist and turn the top and still nothing happens. So then I'll get a knife and beat that top and try twisting and turning again. Still, it doesn't open. Then, this very intelligent man runs the jar under warm water, grabs a towel, twists the top and POW! That jar opens.

When we call ourselves artists we are charged to answer our calling. I doubt very seriously that we all received the same call. While there is often one issue we want to tackle(the jar) each person's approach, if there is to be progress, must be different. Would Picasso have been the legend he is today if he saw a Michelangelo painting and re-did it with his own paint set? Probably not. In fact, outside of hip-hop we scoff at copy cats and remakes.

Its not about "swag" its about purpose. Wack rappers and dope emcee's alike have seemed to lost thier sight of their purpose by trying so hard to be epic and remembered. Nas is great because Nas brought something new to the game. Thats why Illmatic is hailed as a classic. ElZhi is a dope emcee but Elmatic will always be considered a copy of Illmatic. Always.So in turn, E;zhi will walk in Nas' shadow.

How many times are we gonna twist and turn this jar before we realize we gotta do something different to get it open?

Doe Dotta said...

This can b a on gong debate! i feel ya at the same time understand the artist stand point also. When i herd the Rick Ross sonng it made my stomach hurt just on the strength of all the controversy with rick. Im from the bay area and two of my home boys re did that song " Mac Dre Back" not the two you posted thoug (I Never Herd Of Them Cats) but the two Boo Banga & Tay Assassin. I respect thhere song not because they my boys but because they payed homage and didnt make the song for pub. when the mac was alive Boo was on thizz so its a good look like a shout out. Just my thoughts @DoeDottaOffTop

Imma510gurl said...

Yeah Doe I know exactly what you mean. But Rick Ross and Meek Mill not even on the same level as Pac so that song is straight disrespectful and the video is a joke. If Pac could come back it would be over for those boys.

JK said...

This was a very insightful article with plenty of good points as to where the state of music is right now. Its going to take a stable of new artist that are willing to be risky and have the talent to back up the risk.