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. Well, 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 me, 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.”
Does The Game Deserve A Spot In The Top 5 Since 2000 Conversation?
Andre: Some would go so far as to say The Game brought the West Coast back. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him say as much a bunch of times. And I can’t blame him. Post ‘Pac a void was created on the West Side that hadn’t been filled until one Jayceon Terrell Taylor burst onto the scene. He’s more complicated than he seems, too. And, well, he’s one of the only artists to stand up to 50 Cent and walk away from it unscathed. In fact, despite the beef, he’s managed to thrive. Maybe even because of it.
He’s got the rare ability of being able to channel his rage. We’re all the better for it, too. Because he gets special in the booth when he’s got something tearing at his soul. But top five since 2000? Let’s check the tale of the tape. He’s got two extremely good, maybe even classic LPs. He’s also got two more very good to good LPs and he’s got two clunkers. So in the canon of Eminem, Kanye, 50 Cent, T.I., Jeezy, Lil Wayne, K. Dot, J. Cole, Drake, Nicki Minaj and more it’s tough to include him but criminal if you don’t. Who’s been more consistent in the 2000s than Game other than Em’, Ye, T.I., Jeezy and Wayne? Within that matrix, it would be entertaining to put him as 5 or just straight up number 6. But here’s why he’s in the top five: because he carried the west on his back for a while.
Ural: A reality about The Game Hip Hop rarely admits is the West Coast wouldn’t exist in its current state without him. Some fail to realize it but, there was a time where he was the biggest and most high-profile emcee coming from the area. Between his 2005 G-Unit debut The Documentary and probably around 2011 as the TDEs and YGs of the area began to make traction, The Game was a lifeline sustaining the West Coast as the South officially started to really dominate. While the various beefs and slightly inconsistent catalog, The Documentary and Doctor’s Advocate are modern classics. Personally, I’d also put The R.E.D. Album within its ranks as well regardless of how people feel about it. Looking back, Game has at least managed to have longer relevance within music than longtime nemesis 50 Cent despite never reaching his overall sales numbers.
Looking at the guest list for his upcoming The Documentary 2, only someone with his amount of reach could pull features from Q-Tip, Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre and even Diddy. Anyone claiming to have Game in their current top five, I wouldn’t judge them at all because he deserves consideration at this point. Rather people like to admit it or not, the West Coast needs Mr. Jayceon Taylor’s antagonistic self and Hip Hop understands that. His time on G-Unit gave him an East Coast respect that only heightened after surviving Fiddy and southern sensibilities really made him not only a regional ambassador but evolving OG.
Will People Care About A New Album From Lauryn Hill?
Ural: First impressions is an interesting thing. When The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill dropped in 1998, I had to be around 11 or 12-years-old. This gives me a very specific view of her as one of the greatest emcees (male or female) in rap history who also could sang. And, we’re not talking about acquiring vocal pipes on the job either like many do in today’s Hip Hop space. Whether people consider Miseducation a rap or R&B album is irrelevant as she found perfect inventive expression in both. Then again, we’re in 2015. This means there’s a large chance anyone born around the 2000s probably view Ms. Hill a lot differently. I’ll leave the personal life stuff out and focus primarily on her fairly inconsistent output since her Grammy Award-winning solo debut. The last official album she released was the MTV Unplugged 2.0. album that many saw as an utter disappointment after its release in 2002.
Those old enough to attend concerts, tours and music festivals by themselves yet missed the boat for Miseducation constantly see her as failed potential. I can consider myself lucky to have attended a decent show during that time where she wore weird clothes and had these weird interpretations of her classics that didn’t enhance those old memories. Thankfully, there are always these moments of brilliance that Ms. Hill is always ensuring listeners recognize. Last year’s “Black Rage” featured a stunning interpretation of Rodger and Hammerstein classic “My Favorite Things” from The Sound Of Music. Making good on those Nina Simone comparison that Hill has received since her ending verse from The Fugees’ “Ready Or Not,” the recently released album companion to the What Happened, Miss Simone? documentary featured the New Jersey-native heavily.
With recent news of a new Hill album possibly on the way, there’s a strong possibility of the newer generation getting a genuine understanding of her greatness past what fans, music journalist and everyone else proclaims. Will they care? Considering the internet generation, a lot of people will. There wasn’t better proof than D’Angelo’s late 2014 comeback out of the blue with Black Messiah. And if that doesn’t happens, that’s absolutely fine. Hill’s debut still stands the test of time and like Talib Kweli said, she doesn’t oh us anything.
Andre: Let’s not be silly. Of course, people will. She’s the Nina Simone of our generation. A polarizing figure cut from a moralism that a lot of people in the black intelligentsia feel is just necessary. Her talent in her prime was extraordinary. A deep alto that percolated into musical transcendence. Some of her best work, then, have been covers or one offs. “Nothing Even Matters” with D’Angelo had super-group like potential and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” is in that song’s top five in terms of renditions. She was scholastic and charismatic, that huge ‘fro pointing upward into a great black beyond. She wasn’t afraid to be acerbic, once commenting that she wasn’t anti-white, she was just incredibly pro-black. For many, Lauryn Hill was the dream of the black girl archetype. Separate from Aaliyah in her maturity and womanliness, Lauryn put forth another path, which favored intellectualism and righteousness as much as sultriness and beauty.
But sometimes genius stings more than it soothes, and this may have been the case for Lauryn. Her much-publicized relationship with Wyclef Jean and then her equally much-publicized relationship with Rohan Marley have both been noxiously complicated. Wyclef was married when he was with Lauryn so it’s been reported, and so was Rohan. He got married to an 18-year-old woman from New Jersey in 1993 before meeting Lauryn in 1996. Toure´ wrote for Rolling Stone that, “Hill decided to ignore it. ‘I think she was kinda like, ‘Put it in the closet and don’t even pay attention to it,’ says a friend. Rolling Stone could find no record of the dissolution of Marley’s marriage, and even now it’s unclear whether Hill and Marley were ever married in a conventional sense.” It then turns out that there was a Haitian divorce certificate that’s been floating around the net, though he and Lauryn were never officially married.
But did the enlightened nature of her relationships really lead to a breakdown that has haunted Ms. Hill ever since? I’m not sure. It seems more like a case of trying to see behind the veil. According to Rolling Stone, once again, she teamed up with “shadowy” spiritual advisor named Brother Anthony. Then on her Unplugged 2.0 she could be heard saying things like this, some say, “I’m crazy and deranged . . . . I’m emotionally unstable,” and repeatedly rejecting celebrity and the illusions that make it possible. “I used to get dressed for y’all; I don’t do that anymore,” she said on the album. “I used to be a performer, and I really don’t consider myself a performer anymore . . . . I had created this public persona, this public illusion, and it held me hostage. I couldn’t be a real person, because you’re too afraid of what your public will say. At that point, I had to do some dying.”
There will always be an unmistakable mystique surrounding Lauryn Hill, and it will live on past her. People will be playing Miseducation… at the end of the world. But will a new album be able to capture the magic of her past? Will it be able to do for the fall what Miseducation did for her rise? I’m not too sure.
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 a 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.