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Hip-hop talk: 90s rap vs today’s rap

Hip-hop talk: 90s rap vs todays rap

Arts Editor Caleb Jagoda and Sports Editor Sam Eggert love hip-hop music. Thus, they decided to come together and discuss this love. The following conversation was about four times as long in its totality, but was cut down and edited for clarity and formatting purposes.
Caleb: Would you say the 90s are the golden era of rap? It’s at its peak?
Sam: I think to put a time frame on it, to what’s the golden era, is a difficult thing to do because I’d say the 90s was when the most popular hip-hop was my favorite type of hip-hop, which was albums like “Illmatic” by Nas, anything by Wu-Tang Clan, stuff like that.
Caleb: You’re a big New York boom-bap guy.
Sam: Completely. That said, in the 2000s, there was still a bunch of great stuff being put it out, which is undeniable. Like Kanye West, “2001” by Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, most of his stuff.
Caleb: Underground stuff started to flourish (too), with people like MF DOOM.
Sam: Exactly, that’s when production really reached another level, I think. You bringing up DOOM really speaks to that.
Caleb: I definitely agree.
Sam: Where do you stand on Ludacris?
Caleb: Ludacris? I don’t really have a hot take on Ludacris; he’s kind of fun, but I’d probably feel different if I was this age in the mid-2000s when he was popular. Looking back it’s like, whatever he was fun, he was kind of funny, but during that era I probably wouldn’t really like him because I’d be listening to it all the time and I wouldn’t want to.
Sam: He would be like what Kodak Black is today, something like that.
Caleb: What’s interesting is a bunch of trap rappers actually have a lot of talent but they just make trap songs – like there’s a video of Kodak from like 2014 and he’s got bars, he’s actually rapping, but he doesn’t do that anymore which is interesting.
Sam: I think – I’m not sure – but in one of J. Cole’s more recent songs, he talks about Kodak – I think it might even be in “Middle Child” – he’s talking about how he knows Kodak can rap and he’s got skill and whatnot, but then at the same time, you’re not using your skills in the right way, if that makes sense, in the way hip-hop is meant to be because hip-hop is a form of poetry, it’s story-telling and it’s becoming littered with people talking about smoking weed and banging chicks and getting drunk… I’m trying not to swear right now.
Caleb: To that, you like Eazy-E, and while guys like him definitely have tighter rhyme schemes and are a lot more poetically inclined, they’re still talking about those same things because you wrote that Eazy-E article, and that song he was talking about the whole nine.
Sam: “Eazy Duz It,” “Real M***********n G’s,” “We Want Eazy,” all those songs, it’s true and I can’t deny that, but I just think like you said, the delivery is different and it’s a better sounding rap in my opinion. Auto-Tune has a time and a place, but no offense to Kodak Black listeners and 21 Savage listeners, but I don’t understand how you can enjoy that voice.
Caleb: I won’t declare war against Auto-Tune because it can be done very well, like Kanye’s used it very well, it can be used like an instrument, it can make your voice another instrument, but it can also be used very poorly.
Sam: It’s easy to use which is why I think it’s being used in a higher volume which I think makes it worse.
Caleb: But do you think the 90s are the golden era, I feel like you’ve said something along the lines of that to me before.
Sam: You know what, yeah, I do. You look at albums that came out in the 90s: let’s see, “All Eyez On Me,” 2Pac, that’s legendary; “Aquemini” by Outkast, “ATLiens,”; little bit of Big L “Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous,”; Mobb Deep, “The Infamous” is probably my favorite album ever; “Black on Both Sides.”
Caleb: So, why’s the 90s the golden era?
Sam: I think it falls onto the production and the emcees.
Caleb: Because I’d disagree.
Sam: Well I think it’s about when I got introduced to rap. I started out with the old stuff so I progressed along with that, and I think that’s just the music that I enjoy the most. It’s just one of those things where you don’t really know how to describe it. It could be the production, the rapping, the consistency; it’s just what I got into first. What would you say is the golden era?
Caleb: I’d say… well, I don’t know. It’s a weird conversation because saying now is the golden era is weird because … in the 90s, it was almost like there were gatekeepers, you had to be a good emcee to even get into a studio, where now you can make it in your bedroom, so that’s another reason trap’s big because you can make it yourself where in the 90s you had to prove you could rhyme before you could even step foot in the studio.
Sam: I think that proves my point though.
Caleb: I understand the argument that the 90s were the golden era and it also laid the groundwork for everything that’s done now, but also I think my favorite rap is being made in the 2010s and it’s definitely based off of the groundwork that was laid in the 90s.
Sam: Give me a couple examples.
Caleb: I feel like they’ve been able to take that and make it more alternative and I think the thing 90s rap – and not to say all of it does – but I think it largely lacks a lot of – not introspection, but emotional vulnerability, because I feel like artists like Earl who’s probably my favorite rapper –
Sam: – They kind of pour their life into their lyrics.
Caleb: Exactly – I was trying to think of my other favorites – like Jonwayne, who’s more underground.
Sam: Jay Electronica.
Caleb: Yeah, I feel like my favorite artists don’t really adhere to one time period, like Jay Electronica was the late 2000s, DOOM was the mid to early 2000s, Earl’s now; everything my favorite artists do are kind of removed from the trends of their time.
Sam: If I’ve learned anything about you, it’s that you appreciate transcendent artists who – let me rephrase that – you appreciate artists who stand the test of time.
Caleb: That’s fair. If you listen to DOOM, Earl or Jay (Electronica), none of them sound like they’re from a certain era – I mean, some of it – but mostly.
Sam: You could show me an Earl album, tell me it’s from 1999 and I’d probably believe you.
Caleb: If you told me “Madvillainy” was made two years ago I’d probably believe you. The underground sound isn’t dated, especially for DOOM. That’s why I have a tough time saying the 90s is the golden era, while it did lay the groundwork, I just like the alternative ways people are using hip-hop now.
Sam: I think you raise a very fair point, but the one thing I want to say about 90s rap is that with current rap, there’s more depth to it – and by that, I mean there’s more of it – artists expand on what they do a lot more than they used to do in the 90s.
Caleb: They take a lot more risks. Artists like Quelle Chris, he’s a super alternative guy from Detroit, and his music’s really out there, but it’s really good; it’s probably the weirdest rap I listen to – but artists like him take it in a whole different direction. Artists weren’t doing stuff like that in the 90s, either.
Sam: If you look at Mobb Deep, for example, you look at “The Infamous,” “Hell on Earth,” “Murda Muzik” it’s all kind of the same stuff over and over again. “The Infamous” is a brilliant album through and through, and all the music slaps on it, “Hell on Earth” has a couple of great songs, but you could play me a song from that album and if I don’t know any better, I’d be like, “That’s on ‘The Infamous,’ right?” It’s the same thing. You look at an artist like Kanye West, you know if you’re listening to “Graduation,” you know if you’re listening to “The Life of Pablo,” they’re all distinct. You can probably speak on this more than me, but Earl resembles that, too.
Caleb: For sure. “Doris” is a DOOM album pretty much, a DOOM, Eminem-esque album, and he kind of grew out of his influences from there. “I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside” is super dark and depressing but super honest. And then “Some Rap Songs” is very honest but more comforting and less angry – and they all sound very different. “Some Rap Songs” is loop-based, “I Don’t Like S***” kind of got out of the Odd Future production, but was still in a similar vein.
Sam: We should wrap this up.
Caleb: Closing thoughts?
Sam: My closing thought is that me personally, I like rap that is well-construed, thought through, the rapper’s rapping their own words rather than somebody else’s words, unless there’s a good meaning behind it, which usually there isn’t as far as I know, but I don’t know, I like what I like and not everybody likes it, but I think people need to understand why I like the music that I like, if that makes sense. I’m thinking about my friends, and I’ll play “Give Up the Goods,” by Mobb Deep, and they’ll be like, “Shut that crap off,” and I’m just like “How do you… like what?” I don’t know.
Caleb: I think like I’ve become content with understanding most people aren’t going to like what I listen to and that’s why I listen to it by myself, but I have music more people will enjoy that I’ll play around other people, like Anderson .Paak or Kanye, stuff like that that everyone enjoys generally, but I’ve become content with the fact that most people aren’t going to want to hear “I Don’t Like S***” by Earl because it’s super depressing and really dense lyrically.
Sam: You raise a good point, I agree with that.

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