Monday, January 26, 2009

Trevor Corrected me - 2% of Rap is great - with proof

Almost everybody I have met who defends rap has an argument like Trevor's:

"Just because the popular s--t is 98% unlistenable tripe produced by talentless ghetto trash, that doesn't mean that there isn't any actual talent involved."

"... doing simple monosyllabic rhymes like DMX does, I'll grant you, is pretty easy. But just listen to Blackalicious' Ego Sonic War Drums, and if you still hear simple robotic beats under simple rhymes, then you're just biased and no amount of convincing, on my part or otherwise, would change your mind."


Here's the proof.





Now I don't remember any music being proudly hailed as "98% crap" until the 80s. Not music that got released anyway. You could say maybe 30% in the 1940s - maybe 60% in the 70s, but even the worst music then still at least rhymed and had melodies, if not always inspired ones. They had the basic ingredients of music.

This 2% of rap that's great has to be hunted down by the underground musicologists today I guess. And then all the other rap lovers will totally disagree with what you hold up as the only good rap.


Here's more of Trevor's 2% of genius
"Rap is not pop, and if you call it that then stop"
- "Check The Rhyme" by A Tribe Called Quest


Here's some more brilliant lyrics:

A song about the "Motherf**N***" in the White House who will bring us all together. I didn't make this up.



More of the 2% from commenters.




And here is RAGE AGAINST THE EQUIPMENT rapping about how rebellious they are and telling you why you should love them.

113 comments:

Ebbe said...

God you're old, John.

Timefishblue said...

All that's needed to redeem rap is the Wu-Tang Clan.

Arvin Bautista said...

Fact: 98% of peoples' gripes about during which decade music started to suck is directly correlated to which decade they were born in.

Justin said...

wasn't he saying only 2% of popular rap is good?
you then need to add whatever % of non-popular rap that is deemed good to get more exact results.
either way the ratio isn't good. the beats have evolved more than the mc's have.

Emily said...

i really hope you're being sarcastic about that last song having brilliant lyrics! haha! it's great to like the president, but rhyming colors about him is for simpletons.

JohnK said...

>>Fact: 98% of peoples' gripes about during which decade music started to suck is directly correlated to which decade they were born in.<<

That's because each new generation gets stupider.

Oliver_A said...

Fact: 98% of peoples' gripes about during which decade music started to suck is directly correlated to which decade they were born in.

I was born in the 80's, and I totally agree with John that from an artistical standpoint, a lot of pop music produced in that era is throw-away fastfood (plus a lot of unnecessary remakes from the 50's, 60's and 70's). Not only rap.

It's sometimes hard to keep an unbiased view on things to which you have been exposed to as a child. Especially when you have been heavily influenced by the media and MTV indoctrination of what is supposed to be "in" and "cool".

"All we hear is, radio gaga..."

http://de.youtube.com/watch?v=rBUr1pSWTVI

@John: do you like Queen? ;)

mike f. said...

Trevor's argument is absurd, of course - but at least he doesn't pull the intellectually dishonest "race card".

Whenever I try to argue the merits of rap, I'm accused of racism. (This despite the fact that 75% of my record collection is blues, R&B, jazz and gospel.)

Personally, I have no problem with people eating shit, just don't force it on me - (and that includes in malls, grocery stores and at red lights.)

I'll stick to my filet mignon, but thanks anyway.

Ian Andersen said...

The 2% is right, even the underground has lost its way. Those two examples are terrible, but I'm not hunting down the stuff that is respectable. This doesn't apply only to rap now, just about everything you hear on modern clear channel radio is abominable. I'll leave college and independent radio alone because they're generally eclectic for the sake of being so, but their databases are often better at finding gems.

I was actually thinking about that the other day, how people like Bob Dylan and the Beatles made great music and were also popular, and wondering why that doesn't happen anymore.

Also, at some point shouldn't subjectivity be acknowledged? Even if I recognized a hardcore metal band as having great talent, I'm probably still not going to want to listen to their music, or is that sort of "what if" frivolous because: a. it's not going to happen /b. it's completely aside the point?

M. R Darbyshire said...

"That's because each new generation gets stupider."

Why

Peggy said...

So the story goes that sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon was at this party. And some guy asked him what he did. "I write science fiction," Ted said. "Science fiction?" the guy asked. "Isn't ninety percent of that crap?" And Ted replied,

"Ninety percent of everything is crap."

This has become known as "Sturgeon's Law", and I find it to be pretty true.

What percentage of animation is great?

(Also keep in mind that like any music directed at teenagers, 'pissing off your elders' is part of the design. "That's not music - that's just noise!" has been said about rock and jazz; applying the same thing to rap means it's following in its forbear's footsteps.)

(Me, I can't stand the stuff. I can enjoy well-done scratching and turntabling, what with generally being into musiqué concrete, but have someone start hollerin' at me over it and I turn it off. I am aware of the tradition of improvising your rhymes on the spot and can appreciate the virtuosity in theory, but it bugs the fuck out of me on an instinctive level.)

Oliver_A said...

I think the problem is not to have occasional "guilty pleasures", like listening to rap (I personally just don't care for it), but that young people (to which I still count) dismiss EVERYTHING which is older than 15-25 years, as if culture started only on the day you have been born.

Like, refusal of watching black/white movies only for the sake that they are black/white.

I think that's the kind of heavy conservatism John is referring to. Being a slave to current trends, and afraid to try opening up your tastes to new influences.

M. R Darbyshire said...

"All that's needed to redeem rap is the Wu-Tang Clan."

Obviously not, considering they already exist and rap still sucks.

Draconis said...

I used to listen to rap back in the 80's up until it did start to become crap. There are very few rap artists who can cut it. I personally like the ones who are literate and who actually know how to write poetry complete with metaphor and analogy. "While the City Sleeps" by MC 900 foot jesus is one such song that tells a story that isn't about self aggrandizing, boasting how rich, popular, and better than everyone else. Yeah, it's about an arsonist but wow, can he wax poetic!

Jay said...

Rap,as it exists now is largely irrelevant because it's not new or shocking anymore.

The true genius and flexibility of early hip hop was completely consumed by gangster rap to the point where people think they're one and the same. Now the the g rap fad is dead, it's taking hip hop with it. (Rap sales are plummeting.)

Don't confuse the shallow surface style of gansta with the solid foundation it was built on.

JKG said...

Hi John,

Like animation and what we usually see on screen we can reach the same amount of crap Trevor suggested.

But I firmly disagree, if I ask the students around me about their animation culture, they wouldn't be able to name any eastern European (for example) animation artist or film because of the propaganda they have been taught and the lack of information.

That can be said about hip hop and any other musical genre. But it's all a matter of taste, even in the style we like there's a considerable amount of bands, songs and artists we dislike, especially the ones we see on tv or radio.

Thanks to Internet we can reach the underground. It's all about finding the nuggets we deserve because we dig them, as you do with your blog, I enjoy a lot of them but no all of them.

Cheers.
K.

By the way, here are some of the nuggets that stand out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSa_xIVDTrA

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PXB8uyJNZI

Oliver_A said...

@John

That's because each new generation gets stupider.

You mean like this?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPn4v9Ak55Q

Mitch Meats said...

I want to preface this by saying that I enjoyed Ren & Stimpy immensely when I was growing up, and that I still do. I agree with much of what you have to say about the sorry state of today's cartooning and animation and the "corporatization" of creative media in general. I've learned a lot about by reading this blog, especially about color theory and construction and history, and think you're extremely talented.

But I don't think it's constructive for you to call out and ridicule people for liking things that don't conform to your decidedly narrow worldview. For one who considers himself to be such an avowed liberal, I can't think of anything you have enjoyed from the last 15 or so years (admittedly, I do not read every post) besides you or your friends' own work, Calvin & Hobbes, and a smattering of anime.

Frankly, a lot of the time you come across as a bitter crank. And it's fine (maybe even natural) to hate practically everything not from your generation, if that's your prerogative. I just think it's condescending, childish, and cheap of you to blatantly disrespect anyone who happens to disagree, especially when they're coming here to ostensibly learn something.

Believe it or not you are not the final arbiter of all that is Good and Creative in the universe.

Jeffrey said...

Actually, I think 98% of most genres are crap, and that's what usually floats to the surface.

Anyway, you are correct. A lot of the great rap is the underground, and most "real" rap fans really hate things like Antipop Consortium, Dälek, Michael Franti when I play it for them.

Though, to add perspective, rap is the largest growing musical genre in the world. The reason is, of course, because of the simplicity. Someone living in the slums of Marrakesh or Cairo can't afford to buy a guitar, bass, PA, etc. But they can afford a microphone and beat machine. It's the modern folk music. And, it's been around for +30 years, so it's not going anywhere, and it's not new.

Michael Franti is one of many socially conscious artist who has been around for a long time. He mostly sings now, but his raps were pretty damn good:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA5faeCGg-w

Antipop Consortium consistently push the boundaries of hip hop, often playing with unique rhythms and working with Jazz artists like Matthew Shipp to write songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bnzL6eJZ-8

A fun little ditty:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e84LOYFbf3o

Dälek blends industrial music and metal guitar with rhythms to confuse, basically, everyone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5rGkhEJWog

Ryan G. said...

Rap is not Pop? Are you kidding me? All you have to do to find out what is pop is turn on MTV. Almost all rappers claim to be businessmen but few claim to be musicians. Thats the problem. They're in it for the paycheck.

Hell, Most of these "artists" dont even write their own "rhymes."

Im usually open to new ideas and keep an open mind out to new music. However, Rap has not changed for almost 15 years. Its presence in the 80's and early nineties was valid, but has reached a sophomoric, teeny bopper-ish, superficial level and continues to drop to appease its base.

Its overly formulaic and the substance of its content has diminished to a new low.

Granite, you could name off a few underground Rappers or Hip Hoppers that dont follow the formulas to make a big hit for MTV, and then soon sell out by writing a new jingle for Burger King, but they are not Pop, mainstream poop.

One more thing about rap is that its way overproduced and does'nt translate at all to live performances. Ive watched some Rappers on SNL or other shows and it sounds horrible. There are about 20 guys on stage each with a mic and each guy only says 1 word or phrase and does a call and response to what the main rapper says.

There is much more to music than just talking in rhymes and similies into a mic which is degrading our state of music today.

Thanks.

Ryan

Jay Taylor said...

John,

This type of thing must be really discouraging for you. You try to teach people about culture, and how much skill used to be involved in the arts, and then these people defend the garbage that's made today.

How do you put up with it!?

How's this for a link?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9Afn3Z-BWI

It's the Boswell Sisters!

Adam T said...

The comments that rap is somehow our culture bottoming out are ridiculous.

It's just another approach to making music. It's a lot simpler than learning to play a more demanding genre like jazz but that shouldn't matter.

You can make a sculpture out of marble or legos. In capable hands a lego sculpture can be really interesting... it may never measure up to a marble statue made by a master but who cares? There's room for both.

The problem is just overexposure and the music being played in the wrong context. And I think the number one reason for people's strong distaste for rap is it being played where and when it shouldn't be played. A repetitive drum beat and a person talking quickly is irritating in most situations.

I like some rap music but I don't want to hear it in a restaurant or when I'm writing, just like I don't want to hear a string quartet when I go to a dance club.

If rap hadn't leaked out of parties and nightclubs and into stores, restaurants, and obnoxious people's car stereos we wouldn't be fighting about it.

Don't blame the genre itself blame the people who are trying to make millions off of it by exposing everyone to it at all times and the sheep who build their identity around it.

peldma3 said...

Here's A cool video that sums up How all the stuff works that frustrates you Mr.K, You may know all this stuff already but this video explains how it all works real simple like. If put together nicely. Please, watch and enjoy.
http://www.5min.com/Video/The-Truth-Behind-Commercial-Television-9716

Julian said...

As I've always said and as you ought to know, John, 98% of everything is crap. Why should rap or any other musical genre be the exception.

Elana Pritchard said...

John what's wrong??? Lets learn about cartoons and not waste out time getting upset about bullshit corporate popular music!

Humiliating people and calling them stupid doesn't solve anything. Any intelligent person can see that!

Trevor Thompson said...

Man, you laid the sarcasm on thick with that one. :)

That's because each new generation gets stupider.

I completely agree.

My stubbornness on this subject is only a reflection of the denial that there's ANY artistic merit. And there's nothing sacred about the 2% figure.

If a kid who has a horrible family life and lives in a rough neighborhood can put on a TuPac record and cry because he finally feels like someone understands what he's going through, then that qualifies it as art. Maybe not high art, maybe not even art that requires a lot of skill.

The reason this debate can't really go much further is because you've NEVER liked rap. Like, from day one. And if your opinion on rap hasn't changed since the 80's it sure isn't gonna change now.

Maybe this is the answer. My DJ mentor was a music director for a huge Top 40 radio station named Stan "The Man" Priest. I asked him once, that if they were request-oriented ( meaning that all the music they played was dictated by listener response ) why did all the music ( or at least 98% of it ) suck? Surely not EVERYone likes the same 30 crappy songs played over and over incessantly.

He said that if I were starving and he were to put three cupcakes in front of me, one with worms in it, one that had been dropped on the floor and stepped on and one that was made of tuna fish and used Band-Aids, I'd eventually pick one.

If the only choices people have are crap, because they like being catered to at all and they want to feel like they're contributing, they'll vote on their favorites. Happens every four years anyway.

Maybe that's why I'm defending rap, John. Because my generation is dumber, and we haven't had the exposure to the level of quality that you and Mike have. I certainly feel that way about the new generations of hip-hop now.

But dismissing it blindly doesn't teach anyone anything except disdain for the new without analysis.

- trevor.

smackmonkey said...

Ruck Fap.

Frankie said...

You folks are kinda getting off track here. I think the original point John was trying to make was that what is popular now does not have the type of talent that was displayed in previous pop-culture. What was popular back then gained favor because of its newness, creativity, and dynamism.

I think everyone can agree that the vast majority of rap is incredibly formulaic and has about as much substance as a Happy Meal --a bit like all popular music nowadays really.

Bragging about the rims on your car and being a 'player' in the club is just as homogeneous as a pop star singing "hey hey yeah yeah I wanna be your girlfriend". It's not about passion about their art...it's about getting your 15 minutes of fame.

I think Billy Corgan summed it up best when he said "it's like this culture is stuck on orgasm".

Kali Fontecchio said...

Flintstone rap!!!!

Jay Taylor said...

Trevor,

He didn't dismiss it without analysis. It doesn't rhyme, no meter, and no melody.

Analysis complete :)

Ebbe said...

That's because each new generation gets stupider.

More that each generation grows up and gets to hate what the current generation is doing... whatever that is.

mike f. said...

Fact: 98% of peoples' gripes about during which decade music started to suck is directly correlated to which decade they were born in

Not sure what you're trying to say here, but if you're implying that people are inherently prejudiced towards the music of their own generation, I don't necessarily agree. Of the examples recently put forth - Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald - none of them are from my generation.

If I were merely advocating music from my own generation, for example, I'd be singing the praises of glitter rock and heavy metal - which is emphatically not the case.

In fact, rap proponents are the ones who seem to have a problem seeing beyond their own generation. A more objective acid test would be to find someone who advocates the merits of rap who didn't grow up with it.

The core problem, I'm sorry to say, seems to be generational cultural illiteracy.

Toonimated said...

Finally!
I totally agree with you John.
I'm 21 and i'm always stuck listening to all this rap bullcrap on the radio against my will at work. I can't stand how these none talented people "rap" about the money they are making... it's like a big fuck you to everybody else in the world, the people that actually have to work for their money.

Jeffrey said...

One more thing about rap is that its way overproduced and does'nt translate at all to live performances.

This is a person who has never been to a Beastie Boys concert.

Ryan G. said...

>>In fact, rap proponents are the ones who seem to have a problem seeing beyond their own generation. A more objective acid test would be to find someone who advocates the merits of rap who didn't grow up with it. <<

I remember Usher introducing Bob Dylan as Bill Dylan a few years back at the grammys.

Trevor Thompson said...

In fact, rap proponents are the ones who seem to have a problem seeing beyond their own generation.

Quite frankly, I've been standing on my tip-toes trying to look beyond my and the previous generations for some time. Mine is the second of three horrible generations which emerged back-to-back.

And given the choice between listening to Lauren Hill and Nina Simone, it'd be Nina every time. Hell, I'd choose Simone over Ella Fitzgerald, too.

But not Ol' Blue Eyes!

- trevor.

mike f. said...

Maybe he should go back to being an usher.

Pat McMicheal said...

I'm not so sure RAP can even be categorized as music!. Music, by definition, requires a melody! A repetitive single note ( voice ), although rhythmic, is still a single note on a musical score! Matching an angry poem on top of a rhythm pattern comes VERY much short of the category of music!
Also, Why in gods name, is it so absolutely necessary to always have a "featured" rapper in every rap recording???????????????
I remember before rap, the best music available and the most talented musicians in this land were the black artists. What the hell happened? Where did they all go?
John, I am also a Musician/Artist and it is frustrating for musical people to tolerate this cRAP....I mean RAP!

JohnK said...

Jorge,

leave out the f- word and I'll post your comments.

Let the rappers use the Fs and Ns

Chickens and Beandip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JohnK said...

Elana

don't worry

this is all context for my next article on conservatism as it applies to cartoons

the same thing that happened to music has happened to culture all across the board

including animation

Oliver_A said...

That's because each new generation gets stupider.

uuuuhuhuhu...

Evolution sucks!

Elana Pritchard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smackmonkey said...

Listen up, hatchlings. I've had a glimpse behind the curtain...

Music industry execs LOVE an uneducated listener. It makes their job so much easier on both ends.
Ignorance means they neither have the need to satisfy a discerning ear nor appease the creative demands of a motivated artistic vision. No temperamental personality to coddle in hopes it lays a golden egg that the fickle epicurean public will swallow. "Let them eat cake" is an apt summation of the music industry's attitude toward the largest demographic of the music buying public. Starvation is their M.O.

Perhaps some of you young whippersnappers need to be reminded why this blog exists in the first place. Do you see the parallels? Are you hungry yet?

Kevin Harman said...

That's not very nice. If rap's not your cup of tea, so be it, but to single out a fan who stands up to defend it as a valid art form?

mike f. said...

Says the man from the generation of asbesto's shirts, racial segregation

Um, John is from the generation that defeated segregation. Open a history book, stupid.

Oliver_A said...

Ha. I think the first comment is true.
I think you're just getting old. And aren't "hip" anymore. I suppose the music is getting "louder" too.


Ah, and the next cultural development which will eventually send our culture straight to hell: everyone over 35 is old, useless and his opinions and views therefore worthless.

Goodbye experience, hello neverending amateurism.

Elana Pritchard said...

okay John- I'll trust you this time :)

Enclothe said...

I agree that there's probably only about 2% good rap. But the truth is that applies to almost everything in our popular culture. There's only 2% good movies out there, there's only 2% good cartoons out there...
That's why they coined the term 'the cream of the crop'

For every Ren And Stimpy out there, there's 50 He Mans.

I think it's unfair to target rap specifically for this, sure it's easy to make fun of the glitter and baggy pants that are on TV, but flip the channel and you get some other example of cultural waste.
It's always been like this and always will be, if you think the 50's and 60's were exceptions to the rule, then you're looking back with Rose Tinted glasses.

I don't listen to a lot of rap but here's an example of some rap that I would consider good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CauWi02hDJU

Michael K. Warren said...

Hi, I've been lurking for a while but I feel that I must post something even though this blog has taken a violent turn away from its theme.

John, this quote from one of your comments on your previous post bothered me:

"First of all, music has to have a melody to be music. Otherwise, it's just a beat. If that."

That's a valid opinion, but for a post about conservatism and liberalism (albiet dealing with cartoons) that's an awfully conservative statement. I'd agree that anything with melody is music, but music arguably goes beyond that. Serial (12 tone) music can have no discernable melody. Free Jazz often sounds like crazed racket (and sort of is, but usually has some sort of skeletal structure to work around). Within the ambient genre there may be no melody or real structure at all (and this of course is open to discussion).

What is or isn't music can be argued all damn day with no resolution, it all boils down to opinions. I guess my point is that statements like "...music has to have melody..." come across as narrow-minded and simplistic. I'm no fan of rap (I really like Sonic Sum, though), but I do think it qualifies as music, or maybe one could think of it as spoken word with musical accompaniment. It's an artform at the very least, and like all things in that realm it varies in quality, intelligence, discipline, etc.

JohnK said...

>>
I think it's unfair to target rap specifically for this,<<

I didn't. Read yesterday's post.

I include my own medium as being guilty of being conservative and ignorant.

Ryan Martin said...

I respect you, John, and I've learned a great deal from this blog, but you're barely even constructing an argument here. You opine that rap isn't music, is made by talentless hacks - huge generalities by any standard. It's not hard to see that you're not exactly looking for a way into this music; that you don't understand the culture from whence it springs, nor do you understand the theory behind it. So why even address it? All you're proving is that you don't know what you're talking about.

Lee said...

Ok, I think this settles it for me. I cannot read this blog anymore.

The attitude constantly presented is stubborn, arrogant, and completely regressive. The glasses you wear while viewing the past are so rose-tinted I'm surprised you're able to make out any details at all. The fact is, only the exceptional and important pieces of cultural history survive past its given decade. And the farther away it was, the more exceptional a piece of cultural data needs to be in order to remain within the collective consciousness. The 50's and 60's were no golden era of American culture. It was more stifled, controlled, and homogeneous than every decade following it (yes, even with the Hippy movement). The majority of output created then was absolute trash, just like today, except there was less to choose from. You remember a few shining stars and discard the rest.

The current decade has some of the most exciting developments in technological innovation driving cultural dissemination within recorded history. The internet completely throws traditional power structures that have controlled cultural distribution on their collective heads and now, some poor black kid with an internet connection can put up a stupid catchy video on YouTube and if it resonates well enough become a Top 40 star (The infamous Soulja Boy, which I am surprised you didn't link to as exhibit A of the fall of culture). The barrier of entry has fallen so low, that in the first time in history, ANYBODY can truly contribute to the greater cultural landscape. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

As to the subject at hand, this is the same-old debate that's been going on for over 50 years: music sucks now, it was better when I was a kid. 50's rock and roll was considered a bunch of malcontents creating noise pollution by the older generation who loved jazz and big band. 60's hippy rock movement was considered a bunch of malcontents creating noise pollution by an older generation who loved 50's rock. And so on. There is so much more I can say about the subject: the importance and definition of musical "talent", music defined as artisan masterpieces vs. disposable commodity, and the often overlooked factor of music as a catalyst for social cohesion and collective joy and not just individual appreciation. This rant has gone on long enough, though, so I'll leave it with a final question:

If these phenomena garner such massive fervor and enjoyment from so many even though, from your perspective, they are of no value, does it really make sense to disregard with the impunity of saying that "people are dumber these days" and not think, maybe, just maybe, that you are missing something?

- Lee

P.S. The fact you rely on a platform that really sprang into existence 10 years ago to say how much better things were in the old days has some serious irony to it.

JohnK said...

I don't need to understand the culture that Tchaikovsky came from to realize how superior it is to the music I grew up with.

Most of the art and music I like comes from a culture that happened before I was born. It was a superior culture with much higher standards. We have no standards now at all.

I've witnessed it get worse every decade, until its at the point where I can't even imagine how much worse it could get. But I'm confident it will.

In 1980, when I thought it was at its lowest point, I never could have imagined Eminem.

John S said...

"The core problem, I'm sorry to say, seems to be generational cultural illiteracy."

"the same thing that happened to music has happened to culture all across the board"

What gets me is that apparently more literate countries out there seem totally fine with this type of culture-- culture that glorifies FAILURE. Why? Why do they not mind amateurism? Why is it not only enjoyed, but IMITATED? Why is it so difficult to create something appealing in this day and age, even when gold standard examples exist and are acknowledged by all?

JohnK said...

BTW,

There are about a zillion comments I haven't posted yet. I will at the end of the day.

If I posted them now no one would get through them all so I haven't posted some that agree with other comments. I'm not censoring anybody.

It's amazing how the mere mention of rap always gets the most comments.The dumbest thing ever created and it's the most important topic in the world.

mike f. said...

Why is it so difficult to create something appealing in this day and age, even when gold standard examples exist and are acknowledged by all?

*Executives making creative decisions.

*Demographic testing by advertisers to determine content.

*The demise of classical training in art schools.

*Baby-boomers foisting their standards of political "correctness" on creative artists of all generations.

*The demise of literary magazines, newpapers, bookstores and libraries.

*The lack of theatrical training grounds like vaudeville and burlesque, and legitimate theatre.

*The death of the studio system in developing raw talent.

*The glorification of prison culture in music and splatter movies in theatres, etc...

...In short, almost everything that happened in the last 40 years.

mike f. said...

Music industry execs LOVE an uneducated listener. It makes their job so much easier on both ends.
Ignorance means they neither have the need to satisfy a discerning ear nor appease the creative demands of a motivated artistic vision...


Agreed. Maybe that's why the industry is creatively and finacially bankrupt.

Mantron said...

ah yes the love/hate relationship of HipHop. Good Hip Hop is supposed to be prolific. It keeps track and brings to light things that happens America that majority probably don’t know about. Kurtis Blows White Lines is just as important as Marvin Gayes Whats Going On, musically you can’t compare obviously, but the message is just as important. Hip hop is not for everyone, it has faults just like any other genre of music. I could write a long paper on why I Love/Hate this stuff. On my ipod Janis Joplin, Muddy Waters, Coltrane, Gershwin, rides right along with Biggie, OutKast , Company Flow, J Dilla. I do agree with this “conservatism” killing me!

Johnny Mastronardi said...

I agree with the Sturgeon's law idea. Almost everything is crap today, but that's more because of pop culture than the medium itself.

I also find it rather difficult to compare genres. While freedom of culture produces a lot of crap, it also produces things that would otherwise not get made. I listen to everything from Classical to Big Band to Prog Rock to New Wave to the occasional Rap artist (say MIA), and I think there's a place for all of them. Music gets boring when it stagnates, just like anything else.

The problem is when large groups of unrefined people start latching onto the crap making it harder to compete as a better artist. If only the producers did their jobs by looking for real talent instead of quick bucks.

Atherium said...

"this is all context for my next article on conservatism as it applies to cartoons
the same thing that happened to music has happened to culture all across the board
including animation"


John you are simply ignorant. You cannot listen to this and deny the talent displayed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGvaiazMXtI

mike f. said...

Ok, I think this settles it for me. I cannot read this blog anymore...

Sounds like you never read it at all.
Bye-bye, and don't hurry back.

John Young said...

Constantly battling against mainstream culture is exhausting and futile. The culture is out of our control, it’s like war in that for all the planning of generals, wars are usually won by bursts of energy and courage by individuals. I’ve never been able to fully embrace rap but I can understand people liking elements of that genre for reasons that aren’t musical; it can be empowering to listen to extremely confident people spew forth their mental diarrhea. I know because I love punk and hardcore music, which is hardly skillful, it’s more about youthful enthusiasm and angsty dissatisfaction.

Arvin Bautista said...

Lee: well put.

JohnK: Yeah, and wanting to sit at the front of the bus is a pretty stupid thing to argue about also.

Mikef: I'm not saying that someone instinctively believes their own generation made the best music; I'm in fact saying that most people consider music from their past/childhood inherently better than music when they become adults, specifically because it was around to fill your ears during your formative years when you were most susceptible to hearing music. As soon as you become "adults" you start locking off your receptivity to new things. It's scientifically true; it's like learning a new language.

It's the kind of stuff you used to hate hearing from your parents. You're doing the exact same thing.

Aside from your own generational bias (btw, I can still argue the value of disco versus rap) The reason you think the music from the past is so much better than the music from the present is cause you haven't heard the 98% of the music from back in the past; the further back in time you go, more of that music gets filtered out, and all you get left are the ones that stood the test of time.

The music of Tschaikovsky and other classical musicians weren't being listened to by ordinary people back then; they were being listened to by the upper crust of society, the ones that held that 98% of the population in abject poverty and feudalism. I can assure you the music THOSE people found important in their lives weren't sweeping melodies and geometrically complex arpeggios.

It's the same with people who claim foreign films are better than American films; the only foreign films you're seeing are the ones that were brought to America after winning film festivals and being commercially successful. You're not seeing the 98% of crap they turn out anyway.

Seriously, all I'm hearing everyone say here is "God, how terribl

Atherium said...

Also do yourself a favor and listen to
this
before you go bashing any more hip hop.

James said...

"[Rap]'s dumbest thing ever created and it's the most important topic in the world."

John, what about money?

Oliver_A said...

@Lee


Ok, I think this settles it for me. I cannot read this blog anymore.


Because you disagree with John's opinion on rap? How old are you? Did you read this blog just for the colorful pictures?


The attitude constantly presented is stubborn, arrogant, and completely regressive.


Now you have to explain to us what is regressive about analysing cartoons which are, more than evidently, made of a far superior craftmanship than today's cartoons.


The glasses you wear while viewing the past are so rose-tinted I'm surprised you're able to make out any details at all.


If you would have read this blog at all, you would see that a lot of aspects of the past are harshly critizised here.


The fact is, only the exceptional and important pieces of cultural history survive past its given decade. And the farther away it was, the more exceptional a piece of cultural data needs to be in order to remain within the collective consciousness. The 50's and 60's were no golden era of American culture.


Isn't it funny that this statement of yours sounds like a complete contradiction. Who will remember 50 cents, Eminem and Usher in the next 50 years? Mainstream pop culture nowadays is designed to be disposable waste, because it is based on following trends only.


It was more stifled, controlled, and homogeneous than every decade following it (yes, even with the Hippy movement).


What?!? I mean, just to come back to the purpose of this blog, discussing cartoons: ARE YOU BLIND?

The majority of output created then was absolute trash, just like today, except there was less to choose from. You remember a few shining stars and discard the rest.

What shining stars from the 90's and the 00's are going to be remembered for the next 5-6 decades?

The current decade has some of the most exciting developments in technological innovation driving cultural dissemination within recorded history.

And yet, most people are still unable to put these valuable tools to good use. Having word processors nowadays hasn't created any more Shakespeare's. Does the ability to perfectly pitch the most amateurish voices create good singers? Where is the humanity???

The internet completely throws traditional power structures that have controlled cultural distribution on their collective heads and now, some poor black kid with an internet connection can put up a stupid catchy video on YouTube and if it resonates well enough become a Top 40 star (The infamous Soulja Boy, which I am surprised you didn't link to as exhibit A of the fall of culture).

If everyone is a star, then no one is.

The barrier of entry has fallen so low, that in the first time in history, ANYBODY can truly contribute to the greater cultural landscape. THIS IS A GOOD THING.

I'll take a picture of my evening crap and post it on youtube. Wheee, I am an artist!!!


As to the subject at hand, this is the same-old debate that's been going on for over 50 years: music sucks now, it was better when I was a kid.


You forget that a lot of people still belonging to the "current generation" start to despise modern culture exactly for its uncreative, corporate driven bull.


50's rock and roll was considered a bunch of malcontents creating noise pollution by the older generation who loved jazz and big band. 60's hippy rock movement was considered a bunch of malcontents creating noise pollution by an older generation who loved 50's rock. And so on.


You forget that John is constantly favouring cartoons and music in his blog which have been created before he was born, not created in his generation. I was born in the 80's, and I can perfectly see that most which has been created in this decade is a degenerated photocopy of what had been created earlier. And the Xerox machine keeps on running until everything which is left are blurry clouds of disjointed particles.


If these phenomena garner such massive fervor and enjoyment from so many even though, from your perspective, they are of no value, does it really make sense to disregard with the impunity of saying that "people are dumber these days" and not think, maybe, just maybe, that you are missing something?


Of course there has always been dumb people. Dumb people are in the majority of the human species. But nowadays, our culture has allowed dumb people to infiltrate every aspect of our lives.

It's depressing enough to cope with dump people on a daily basis in real life. But nowadays, you see them EVERYWHERE. On TV, In reality shows, Big Brother, American Idol... Music, which isn't music anymore, devoid of any individuality, as disposable as toilet paper after you have wasted it on your behind.


P.S. The fact you rely on a platform that really sprang into existence 10 years ago to say how much better things were in the old days has some serious irony to it.


What do technical accomplishments have to do with the evolution of culture and humanity?

Again: do the tools make us better?

Christine Gerardi said...

"Fact: 98% of peoples' gripes about during which decade music started to suck is directly correlated to which decade they were born in."

I'm seventeen, and I'm pretty sure it started to suck in the late sixties. But I'm definitely an exception.

Cartoon Crank said...

*The lack of theatrical training grounds like vaudeville and burlesque, and legitimate theatre.

Absolutely. Pantomime was something all actors and actresses were trained in. That practice died sometime in the 60s. WHY?!

JohnK said...

>>Also do yourself a favor and listen to
this
before you go bashing any more hip hop.<<

That was so good, I added it to the post. Thanks!

/\/\ikeB said...

I wonder if the movie "Idiocracy" will be our most accurate view of the future.

mike f. said...

I love when multi-millionaires RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE that they made full use of to make them rich and famous.

Oh, aren't they rebels?

(P.S: Ka-ching-$$$!!)

Mattereaterlad said...

The best rap performance I ever saw was Cab Calloway. True story.

M. R Darbyshire said...

Funny how a lot of this 2% is bands who promote socialist or black power movements. Perhaps the proponents of the "2%" are mostly interested in the, also despicable, political ideals of the band. Scared to say they dislike the music, because their communist friends won't like them anymore.


Just a thought.

Oliver_A said...

I wonder if the movie "Idiocracy" will be our most accurate view of the future.

Mike Judge is a very perceptive human being.

John S said...

"...In short, almost everything that happened in the last 40 years."

Right, but why is the rest of the world following OUR lead? America does not control all the other countries (well, depends on who you're talking to), and so I'm assuming They're capable of making good (or bad) judgements.. after all, They're more educated than we are.

So does the list you posted (twice now) really apply to everyone else in the world? It would appear so, since Japan seems to be the only country out there to at least be ATTEMPTING to make appealing works, while everyone else seems fine with imitating our failure and stupidity (while simultaneously criticizing us).

OWEN said...

Rap sucks and we're only straying more and more from actual music, the end.

Jack said...

Hey John I'd really like to hear your opinion on this

mike f. said...

The best rap performance I ever saw was Cab Calloway

Same here, believe it. That's why I can't listen to talent-challenged garbage.

(All the 20-somethings blathering on about the merits of rap are saying - "Cab who?")

JohnK said...

>>It's the kind of stuff you used to hate hearing from your parents. You're doing the exact same thing.<

I loved my parents' music. Their parents' too. It was actually music then. I couldn't argue with them.

perspex said...

i think it's funny how this post has gotten more comments than any other.

i like "Parents Just Don't Understand", by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince... because it's entertaining.
most "booty rap" thats on the radio now, sounds [to me, mind you] all about sticking it in, or sucking on it. or where are the slutty girls we can etc etc.
maybe we're not old; maybe we're just bored with that stuff. we were the generation that had to accept that to be "cool" you had to wear rags and f**k in the mud.
how depressing.

mike f. said...

But I don't think it's constructive for you to call out and ridicule people for liking things that don't conform to your decidedly narrow worldview... I just think it's condescending, childish, and cheap of you to blatantly disrespect anyone who happens to disagree

...So said Mitch Meats. Here's a quote from Mr. Meats' own blog:

"Evolution is the theory of the devil. It's just a THEORY!!!"

Well, well. Quite a deep, open-minded thinker, aren't you Mitch?

John Glenn Taylor said...

There are still very talented creators trying to produce great music of all genres. The main problem is the people who are running the record companies. Amid Amidi and Frank Zappa explained this a few weeks ago...

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/frank-zappa-explains-why-cartoons-today-suck.html

Craig Harris said...

I grew up with the Fat Boys and RunDMC and I never cared a whole lot for it. I love the music of the 40's and 50's and a lot of random stuff like Camera Obscura and Steve Lucky. Ive hated the hell out of rap most of my life. But there is one "rap" band that I enjoy some of their music. The Roots, the guys are actually classically trained musicians based in Philly.

If nothing else you have to like them for using the curtain girls in this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnevMn60Unk

Oliver_A said...

The most funny thing is, I actually do own a rap record on vinyl, inherited from my mother:

The first rap

The root of all evil: Rapper's Delight from 1979

Aaron Borst said...

I am going to school for graphic Design right now and I am always looking for design inspiration, what I have found is that most design has fallen under the same spell. All I see is the same trash produced anymore. and people call it good. It makes me depressed. I have to look at the old designs from the 40's, 50's and before to find anything inspiring.

Chickens and Beandip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Roberts said...

Rap is the working man's expression of the world views just like the cartoon is. I am pretty sure Ralph Bakshi would certaintly agree with me. Now when I say this I am not really defending rap, I am hardly a major fan. I much rather listen to R&B, Love songs, and, novelty music. However, it can't be denied both mediums are very much buried in working class roots. Hell, the same goes for early Rock and Roll. The only reason why rap is such an easy target is because it came in during the last 30+ years. That is why, in my opinion, it only had a so few years of a golden age.

M. R Darbyshire said...

To the one who said Rage is hypocrite because the make money and consider themselves rebels.
Look at the Beatles. Look at every band ever. Find be a successful non profit band. Thanks. See you in never when you find it.


'Rage' is a bunch of yuppie socialists preaching against "The System," but at the same time they are part of, and contributing to, "The System."

If that's not hypocritical, what is?

Rick Roberts said...

"(All the 20-somethings blathering on about the merits of rap are saying - "Cab who?")"

Ain't that that old N***a that wus in the Blues Brothers ? XD

Oliver_A said...

@Chickens and Beandip

Every generation hates the next generations music. Every year it's the same thing. We like to think that cause we're older we are better. Some people buy it too. Old guitars are better, old music is better, old clothes are better, old cartoons are better.

If you can't see the superiority in craftsmanship of cartoons made in the 40's and 50's, then it hasn't anything to do with the generation you were born in, but the inability of perception.

All those cartoons were made much more than 40 years before I have been born. I would NEVER EVER attempt to compare them to the utter pieces of crap I watched in my childhood.

This relativism "it's a generation thingy" is totally avoiding the point: we actually do live in a period of cultural decline.

Why is that so? My take on it is: during the second half of the century, we have gained way too much sudden wealth and comfort, which had a serious impact on the arts: commercialism. Choices being made by the flow of money instead of the heart.

I mean, just look at what is currently being played in the charts! It's all about focus groups and safety for the music industry. Always appealing to the smallest common denominator.

Rick Roberts said...

"It's all about focus groups and safety for the music industry."

That reminds of me of the recent title song for QUANTUM OF SOLACE, what piece of crap. The producers just stuck two popular names together, Jack White and Alicia Keys, and told them to make a song obviously for the MTV generation. Now I am not against pop music icons making a Bond song, Paul McCartney and Wings' LIVE AND LET DIE was great. So was Duran Duran's A VIEW TO A KILL. However, they kept it Bond with adding there own style. That piece of crap White and Keys did was just something to get the kids listening again. That really makes me angry as Bond fan. Sorry for the OT rant John but dammit, I need to say it.

mike f. said...

Just like the execs no [SIC] nothing about animation. Hip hop is the modern day beat poet.

What exactly do you know about beat poets? I'm guessing you "no" nothing whatsoever about the subject. Am I right?

To the one who said read a history book. Segregation ended roughly 68, All the stuff that gets quoted as being the best on this blog comes from the Days of segregation...

Please see my earlier comment about the race card and intellectual dishonesty. Here's some good advice that I hope you'll take. First, learn how to spell and construct a sentence properly in English. Next, learn how to make a coherent argument that is relative to the discussion at hand.

BTW, just to refresh your memory, you originally said John was from the generation of racial segregation. You conveniently changed it - another example of your intellectual dishonesty.

So I don't need a history lesson, You just need to pay attention... use your wisdom and intelligence (the same intelligence that spawned an aids pandemic and more with the hippy garbage) and fix things...

My advice regarding history books still stands, genius, and you need it more than ever.

Mean while [SIC] us kids will enjoy our existance [SIC] until we become cynical and decrepit like you guys, and start arguing with the next generation of kids on irrelevent [SIC] topics in cyberspace

John, can I propose a basic IQ test one has to pass before being able to comment on this blog? I feel like I'm debating a squirrel.

Jorge Garrido said...

Hi, John. I didn't leave a comment with f-words in it. I've actually been careful not to lately. That was either another Jorge (actually, that sounds probably) or someone's imitating me again. It wouldn't be the first time.

Oliver_A said...

With modern tools like these, readily available in music production, where is the skill? Where is the art?

Voice pitching

J.R. Spumkin said...

Touche, John.

Touche.

Atherium said...

real hip hop

Jay Taylor said...

@Atherium

All the so called "good rap" that you've been linking to sounds like all the rest.

Apparently, these people would like to think the rap they THEY listen is the good music, because THEY have great taste.

Yeah right…

M. R Darbyshire said...

Atherium: Would you love these bands so much if they rapped about their love of free markets, capital, or the benefits of competition?

Something tells me you like the message, not the 'music'.

JohnK said...

What IS the message?

M. R Darbyshire said...

The supposed message, perhaps I should say.

'Rage's anti-government lyrics vaguely hinting at socialism and support of communist radical groups in Central America. A Quest Named Tribe's black supremacist band members. Dead Prez' more blatant pan-africanism.

I do doubt that any of them actually follow the politics they promote, without succumbing to the already discussed hypocrisy.

Mantron said...

"Something tells me you like the message, not the 'music"

Thats what hip hop is supposed be about the message. I'm posting one example and thats it. If you hate this then oh well its not for everybody. The Roots are a band , they play instruments, occansionaly put some Jazz albums out. The Philadelphia experiment was a Jazz album they did with Roy Hargrove anyways here it is

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdWOoL31IJc

Mantron said...

@M. R Darbyshire

Dead Prez isn't easy listening i wouldn't try to push them anybody that was not already a Hip Hop fan.

M. R Darbyshire said...

"Thats what hip hop is supposed be about the message."

Strange way to promote a message. Confused unintelligible lyrics wrapped up in metaphors to confuse it even more? Why not just write a book with a clear point of view, so you can at least be taken seriously by the literate?

pappy d said...

I honestly thought Trevor's replies were an elaborate work of sarcasm, given that as a white youngster 18-25, he's the target demographic for hip-hop. I'd love to hear your interpretation of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds".

I guess my own interpretation was based on a fallogy. Yes, I listened to it. He does say "fallogy".

People today aren't stupider, but there's so much more opportunity to parade one's stupidity in public. If only 90% of the comments on this blog are trash I'd say that, collectively, we're doing pretty well.

The fact that old people find this music irritating is the best claim to cultural legitimacy young folks can make for rap.

The generational progress I see today is that culture is becoming more & more commercial. Now, I appreciate how hard it is to sell out in a buyer's market, but I heard a rap 'song' on the radio about a beautiful girl of the artist's acquaintance in which he inserts "Grey Goose" over & over in the chorus. It was jarringly inappropriate to his theme, insulting to his subject & only made sense as an advertisement. See? I remembered the product name & now I'm doing viral marketing for vodka against my will.

Mantron said...

@M. R Darbyshire

"Confused unintelligible lyrics wrapped up in metaphors to confuse it even more"

Its unintelligible to you. I understand exactly he's saying. I don't fault your for that. Hip Hop is not for everyone. The metaphor is the meat of rapping. How vividly a rapper composes his lyric through metaphore ,is equilvent( to me) to a singers delivery. Its called word play and that is what sets apart a good rapper from a bad rapper. If don’t you get that you will never like hiphop. I am a fan of all music (I dj and collect records) Hip Hop fits the definition of music, but I don’t think its traditional music, its something else, but Its not crap, and it does take talent. Cut and paste samples from other songs to create something new, with clever word play, when its at its best tells a story. I could break down the Roots rap for you, if you interested.

M. R Darbyshire said...

It doesn't matter if you understand it. No effort is made to let the audience understand this so-called message, so it's obviously not that important. It's just by chance that anyone actually knows what they're saying.

Coming up with a clever metaphor is equal to the effort it takes to be a good singer? Anyone who took a Language Arts class can make a metaphor. They aren't a new innovation.



So, basically hip-hop is an encrypted political message set to snippets of better artists' music. Sounds great, when's the next festival?

crazeziggity said...

It's humorous how everyone is whining about the ignorance of the masses today. We live in an era of unprecedented enlightenment. We can get any kind of knowledge about any subject we want in milliseconds. It's called the Information Age!

If you want to make something great, no one is stopping you but yourself. Not diabolical executives, not Stephen Spielberg, and probably not the Illuminati.

Make this a NO Bitch Zone!

Reg said...

Check out MF DOOM. (There's load of stuff on YouTube). Well within the that 2%.

Lohenhart said...

The problem with the rap, hip-hop, and this type of music, is the same like art animation.
These new "artists" say they want to make their own style, but like in animation, they don´t now the basic principles used decades ago, an they fail trying to be diferent.

Caleb said...

I'm jumping in way late here, but how did Rage Against the Machine get lumped in with booty bass and sell-out (jewelry) music?

RATM is a punk band with a vocalist that broke up over 6 years ago. Among their many accomplishments they closed down Wall Street for a day, not many artists (or greedy rappers) can say that.

Alvaro said...

Oh,you have to hear the horrible music that I have to listen in my country (in the stores,the bus...)
There is a unholy abomination against music called "reggaeton". If you think that rap is bad, any of the reggaeton "artist" could be the AntiChrist.
Some examples:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUcGppAekSY
or maybe:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtD0V6ADL5Y&feature=channel_page

I was born in 1988 but I´m not very much into music of those years.

freqazoidiac said...

Rap had it's golden 'air'ah.. back starting 1987 till around 1994 in my parts..just north of Detroit..in even the mainstream Radio/TV. There was heaps of community vibe and some truths being spelled out without the acoutrements (ie . swearing)

This inspiring rap artist had a minor hit in 1990, named the Divine Styler, he still has no equal in terms of casual, but thought provoking flow of word play. utubelink : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1bZ7zSvHEs