Dig A Little Deeper
Written by Stephanie Renee on July 17, 2016
I arrived here somewhat reluctantly, but I am now ready to admit that I have entered The Realm of The Elders. The signs have been present for some time now. I generally detest any rapper with Lil or Young in his name. I refuse to understand why so many young women match skin-tight jeans with mile-high stilettos for their social attire, even if they know it means walking great distances or standing for hours on end. The fact that most of my friends are juggling parenting duties for high school and college students. Yeesh! Where did the time go?
Worse yet, I realize that I am also in the same mindframe about a lot of popular culture that my father was at the advent of hiphop. I would use my allowance to purchase every single release on the SugarHill Records label and run home to play them for hours on end, only for my father to walk in the room with the most annoyed and confused expressions. He didn’t like hiphop, didn’t understand how it qualified as music, scowled at the repetitive nature of breakbeats and at my entire generation considering track suits as fashionwear. Two different worlds.
But what Daddy and I did share was a love for soaring voices and complex harmonies. So aside from my immersion in hiphop, gogo and what is now called classic R&B, we also spent time–together–around the stereo listening to Broadway cast recordings, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Motown, and his collection of straight ahead jazz. Eventually, he relented a bit and would even shake a hip at some of my faves. And he always smiled wide when some of his music wound up in my sing-around-the-house repertoire while I was doing chores. We might have taken different aural routes, but we often landed at the same destination.
But the young folks these days? Many of them have no connection to the artists and music that was released even 20 years ago. No sense of history about the folks who made hiphop a worldwide phenomenon and absolutely no desire to study their successes or failures as a guide in how they can cement their own legacies. Any time you get invited by BET (Rich Homie Quan) to perform in a HipHop Honors tribute to a slain legend (Biggie), and end up flubbing the lyrics (blaming a teleprompter error), then say you never listened to his music anyway because you’re from ATL and he was from NYC?? Clearly there needs to be an intervention.
I know that school music programs are all but disappeared in many urban districts. I get that the turnover rate for recording artists’ careers is more fleeting than ever before. But I also cannot abide by anyone who considers themselves a “rock star” without putting in the work. Beyoncé did not become Beyoncé without a relentless compulsion to rule the world. Queen Latifah, Will Smith, LL Cool J…all popular rappers who have had careers for nearly three decades because they have never stopped defining and refining their creativity to appeal to an evolving audience.
These young folks who want all the fame and glory with none of the commitment to study the past, produce high-quality work or set a vision for where the creativity can and should go can come grab a ticket for a slow boat to Nowheresville from me. And if we don’t snatch up these artists and impress upon them how their laziness will prove a detriment to themselves and everyone else who’s come before and after them, we’ll see the exact same damage to our cultural legacy that we’ve witnessed in our fight for civil rights and economic prosperity.
We’ve got to dig a little deeper. We’ve got to show and prove.