How did lyrical rap become synonymous with wack?

Originally published at: How did lyrical rap become synonymous with wack? | Boing Boing

that you could write the above with no reference to the beastie boys or public enemy seems almost inexplicable. if it were a deliberate slight to those masters of words i would have to call it despicable. tell me honestly, did you leave them out to make the topic more clickable? or is it that your response to those acts is like oil to water, immiscible?

edited for spelling.


I call shenanigans. I grew up in the 70s and 80s. First live rap battle witnessed while in 8th grade. Left a big impression. But this was years before Beastie Boys made it mainstream for us white kids (graduated HS in 1987 the year Licensed to Ill came out). The fact that your entry into rap was in the 90s makes it difficult to take anything you say seriously (I know, that is ageist). But also, hip hop is not rap. And there are always different sorts of lyricists and musicians. In the end, I struggle to see any point at all in this post. Is it that you are too tired to parse lyrics any more. But lyrical rap is not whack…is it?


Hey, I respect people’s preference to have their rappers sound like teenagers that just got their wisdom teeth out and are slobbering all over the front seat of the car. That’s the overall millennial aesthetic in a nutshell, anyway. Good music is still there to listen to, no loss to me.


I just don’t enjoy a lot of new rap. It was the syllable twisting of Rakim in the 80’s that got me into rap, and then the 90’s golden era of punch lines and battling, and it’s true that style has kind of faded. I didn’t really like the OG old school of Sugarhill Gang and Furious Five all that much back then either, although I came to appreciate it, particularly if one song showed up in a mix. It’s like how I don’t really dig rockabilly because it’s so simplistic and similar, but then every couple decades there’s some kind of rockabilly revival. I can still recognize its importance even if I’m not into it.

Realistically, no style ever really disappears, it just fades from popular consciousness. Kids today are still buying LP reissues of Led Zeppelin, Miles Davis, and Gang Starr-- one of the hottest selling LPs last year was MF Doom, and Operation Doomsday is more than 20 years old now.


For me, it was the lyricism, the wordplay, that was interesting. The modern trend of sounding like you have vocabulary as high as 50 words (that definitely won’t include a word as long as “vocabulary”) and a mouth full of marbles just does not work for me.



Not much of an improvement, yet.


Hip-Hop “Rap.”

Hip Hop is an entire culture…


I’d love to hear your opinions on the hashtag rap flow.

1 Like

I think Drake’s “Hotline Bling” is a good, mainstream example of the changes in rap, and strangely this is a topic I think about quite a bit. Not just about Rap but other musical genres as well.

It’s a great single (YMMV) but there’s no rapping in it at all, just singing. Why and how was it classified as rap? Is it because that’s how Drake is pigeonholed? It could have been pop or RnB, but no, it was a rap single.

Music of all genres changes and fluxuates and that’s all good, but when there’s no longer the term of art being deployed in the art itself, is it any longer the same thing? You wouldn’t call a colored pencil drawing a painting (no value judgement here), but they’re similar, right?

I don’t have an answer, but if a song is good, a song is good. Labels only get us so far.


I don’t care for Drake as a performer and personally, I don’t get his appeal in general, but I agree with the rest of your comment.

I think consumerism and greed play a big part in the decline of lyricism in rap music.

Once ‘Big Money’ realized it could capitalize on what was once an underground culture, the process of market manipulation and ‘homogenization’ started, negatively impacting the overall creative process.

As long as they can pump out vapid, cookie-cutter ‘club bangers’ which keep the revenue stream flowing, why bother having any actual content?


It seems like the most enduring rap is either really
lyrically clever or really political (or both). But it also has to be accessible. By accessible I don’t mean it can’t be challenging or easy to understand on an intellectual level but you need to be able to feel the gravity of what’s there. When I was a kid and hearing Public Enemy for the first time I sure as hell didn’t get most of Chuck D’s references (“mom, what’s a Chesimard?”) or wordplay but I definitely knew it was “important”.

Rap is always evolving and mumble rap is just as valid as any other form. There’s some really good stuff there. It might be the current hotnesss but I just don’t see it as sustainable. It may be clever but you can’t understand it much of the time, and often any cleverness is so wrapped in impenetrable hyper local slang and metaphor you need a and decoder ring to “get it”. It can be exhausting.


I was aiming for brevity.

The Beasties are my favorite rap group ever. Stay tuned; I’ll do something about them soon.

If I were to list and expatiate on the entire history of lyrical rap and “party” rap, I’d be here all day. Notice how I didn’t ONCE bring up MC Hammer under the former category.


I still listen to both, however the former works better in a neutral environment.

Listening music and chill/dance music are two different things.

I don’t listen to Future for depth. I have Kendrick for that.

1 Like

Yet going by the metric of “it makes LOTS of money!” he still counts.

That’s a matter of personal opinion, methinks.


That’s not my disposition.

For example, I love Aquaman. It’s a big dumb film, and it’s perfect because it doesn’t try to be anything else.

I also love Lighthouse because it’s artistic and genius.

I find most of Drake’s category- pioneered by guys like Hammer- to be the music equivalent of summer blockbusters. They’re designed to be the lowest common denominator to maximize profits.

The fallacy is going into blockbusters or party rap and expecting anything intelligent or emotionally stirring.


That makes two of us. I don’t really care for him either, but the song I mentioned does hit me in the right spot. Another example from a different genre: I fuckin’ hate Ted Nugent, but the riff in Stranglehold is awesome.

Music of all kinds will have this push and pull between art and commerce as long as capitalism is the dominant paradigm, imo. My favorite rappers (DOOM and Gift of Gab, RIP to both) never hit the sort of commercial heights their artistry deserved.


Just remember that’s ALL CAPS…


I’ll never forget. An artist’s artist, gone too soon.


Hard to believe it’s been a year.

I thought I’d get new DOOM until I was using a walker.


I don’t disagree there; decent analogy.

Word; I loathe Kanye as a human being, but I still like certain older songs of his.

People, and the works we create (both good and bad), are not monolithic.