Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Andre Grant and Ural Garrett. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.
Is Mike Epps Correct In Comparing K. Dot To Tupac Shakur?
Andre: The comparisons have been floating around at the very least since Section. 80. The choice of content is there, as well, with Kendrick dropping heartfelt odes to this, that or some other thing the way ‘Pac did. He does have that intense focus ‘Pac had, as though he’s always on the cusp of tearing a track to shreds. His quips are sharp and moralistic and he is as perceptive as ‘Pac was, highlighting the incongruencies of the day with candor and wit. Their careers through one just about an album and one proper album for the both of them also hint at something congruent. Like 2Pacalypse Now, Section.80 was overtly political and heavily ethical, having to do with the stark realities plaguing their communities. Kendrick though, at least out of the gate, seems more introspective than the late-great was, though every bit as artistic and touching. The play with voice, meter and measure is also apart of that package.
But I’d like to hesitate to compare anyone to Tupac Shakur. His exploits and life story is the stuff of legend. And his entire life is shrouded in a sort of mystery. Hell, some people think he’s still alive, having faked his own death in order to escape the watchful eyes of governments and his enemies. It’s the stuff of cinema, the happenings of his life, which shaped his kaleidoscopic world view and made him one of the most important artists of our generation. ‘Pac went past music. He transcended it, and that’s just far too much pressure to put on K. Dot no matter how gifted he is. Tupac’s world was violent almost from its inception, filled with enemies masquerading as friends, the specter of the crack epidemic still staining his childhood hands, and out of that he arose phoenix like out of the ashes. So, as amazing as Kendrick is, he has not yet nor should he ever be expected to transcend even death. And, as such, shouldn’t be burdened by the gargantuan tonnage of Tupac’s shadow.
Ural: Though Kendrick Lamar has been inspired by Tupac, like many millennial emcees of today, one must examine the lives of both in relation to their music. Pac was the son of a crack addicted mother who at one time was a member of the Black Panther Party. In contrast, K. Dot grew up with both parents in the worst area of gang infested Compton. There are more nuances of course but it’s safe to say that on a technical level, Kendrick was miles ahead of Pac’s early career as far as critical acclaim and commercial appeal are concerned. However, Pac’s world view on macro and micro levels were way beyond Kendrick’s scope.
What’s clear is that Kendrick may be the perfect accumulation of 2Pacalypse Now, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… and Me Against the World era Tupac. This is where majority of the comparisons around Section. 80 and later Good Kid M.A.A.D. are more evident. The moment TDE’s all-star rapper has yet to have is that All Eyez On Me or Thug Life era. During that time, many felt Pac had officially sold out after being signed to Death Row but he hit a commercial peak while alive. Time will tell if Kendrick ever has that moment (and no, “i” doesn’t count) considering he’s technically only two albums in. The mythology around Tupac was twenty five years in the making before his death as new recordings, writings and more are being uncovered to this day. Kendrick’s life has simply been a lot easier than Tupac’s and overwhelmingly less interesting which is a good thing considering the hype has always focused on the music itself.
Considering The Hype Around Chance The Rapper
Andre: Chance The Rapper’s real name is Chancelor Bennett, and if you were to believe the hype around him, see him traipsing with Obama or killing stages (he’s been touring for what seems like forever now) you’d think he was knee deep into a solo career of hit songs and critically acclaimed albums. You’d be wrong. He’s got a mixtape (10 Day) and Acid Rap under his belt. Which was a great piece of art, no doubt, but the accolades around the project were so outsized that you found it hard to see him clearly. He’s got a band named The Social Experiment and he’s done really great covers. Namely of James Blake’s “Life Round Here,” and of the Arthur theme song, which in less capable hands would have gotten that artist flat-out sued. He’s been on the cover of Complex and Fader and Dazed, and the people clamoring to collaborate with him are endless. There is talk of Andre 3000 and Frank Ocean revivals as well as whispers of Rick Rubin. Those are just the older Indigos. The new wellspring include work with Atlanta’s Raury.
But, what has he really done? I loved Acid Rap and the kooky renditions and songs with the Social Experiment that have followed have been tasty treats. And I’ve seen him perform twice now, once at Made In America, and the other at the House of Blues for Red Bulls 30 Days In L.A. and his fan base is rabid and taut. He is immensely talented, no doubt. But I can’t put my finger on why the clamor surrounding him is still at a fever pitch. Even after telling everyone that he won’t be releasing a solo project — he’s forgoing it to make the album Surf with the homies — the raging inferno of interest has yet to die down. And, of course, there’s the Nardwuar interview I love where it looked like he was about to choke the hell out of the Canadian for putting the mic in his face (he may have been tripping so I understand). All of this means that Chance is an enigma for me. He feels extremely well guarded, even in his interviews, but that may all just be a function of being an incredibly young wunderkind. Whatever the case, I look forward to his output, though, for me, he is akin to a playable Rap Street Fighter character with all question marks where his list of abilities should be.
Ural: Acid Rap is damn near two years old and Chance The Rapper is still performing tracks mainly from that project like it just came out months ago in addition to tracks from his debut 10 Days. It’s also given him access to creative liberties in Hip Hop normally reserved for fellow Chicagoan Kanye West. Since dropping Acid Rap, Chance has worked with everyone from Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, James Blake (also his room-mate in LA) Skrillex, Common, Action Bronson and even Madonna. All of this without even releasing his highly anticipated album Surf with collaborative band The Social Experiment.
It’s obvious why Chance has enjoyed such success within rap; he’s a fucking breath of fresh air. Even within his own area of Chicago where the focus revolves around the drill scene, his unique blending of gospel, jazz, Hip Hop and footwork(a.k.a. Juke) is just stylistically cool. Outside of that, most of today’s climate is either chasing Drake or Atlanta rapper A & B’s blueprint and everything in between. Essentially, Chance is the lovable oddball and his sparse output of really dope music proves just that. These type of anomalies only appear once every blue moon in Hip Hop and this is why he’s become such a figure without really doing much.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is an Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.