Monday, January 4, 2010

Knux The Formula

Music is agile. Labeling is slippery. Music is changing at a rate that once a label is formulated for a sound, that sound has evolved so far past the label that it only sparsely applies. This is why you see more general terms stick. These are terms so broad that there is no way the music you love can out run the label you have formulated for it. Take alternative rock--huh, pretty interesting. It applies to almost everything and nothing all at the same time. Is it everything not played on Clear Channel radio? Is it Kings of Leon? You begin to see my point. I fear this same phenomenon is happening with "conscious hip-hop."

The origins of "conscious hip-hip" began with the politically driven acts Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The label quickly expanded along with with growing national hip-hop scene in the '80s. Sound used to exclusively be associated with a geographic location and sonic locale. Obviously, once this stuff hit national radio and MTV, that was all over. Furthermore, the labeling phenomenon of "conscious" began to refer to those artists not entirely concerned with the '90s trends of "gangster rap" and didn't fall in line with the emerging conglomerate of factory produced club bangers. Conscious rap, at a point, concerned itself with social issues, more specifically, issues that socially affected the black community. However, once an issue becomes inherently attatched with a lyrical movement and a style of production, I think that the shelf life clock begins to tick. Somwhere along the line, the formula became a 4 on the floor kick, a sunny horn sample, and a yearning 70s soul vocal. This is what makes the work of Mos Def's on Black on Both Sides and The New Danger so incredible. He creates labels as songs. He justifies Girl Talk's notorious "fair use" copyright stipulation. Though we are on a dangerous path, a path filled with overly sentimental, repetitive, even soft production. We are to a point where we expect a formula when we put in a cd of "conscious hip-hip." We listen and say "that sample is sick." We are tragically distracted by soul and new wave samples and Jay-Zs "Forever Young" maybe be the most lazily constructed hunk of shit to grace my ear in the past year (note: it was ironic when the sample was in Napoleon Dynamite).

This is where bands like Outkast and The Roots come into play. They are important in the respect that they truly bridge the gap between the artists that inspire and the contemporary artists that innovate. There is a reason why I think the aforementioned genre of hip-hop is becoming tired--that reason is the literal recycling of these samples. Outkast and The Roots benefit from either the talent to play instruments at a high level or have the ear to construct a song that models that complete sense of song. This brings me to The Knux.

A family rap-duo hailing from from New Orleans, The Knux are something different--a tad bit innovative even. Heavily influenced by the prodcution of Outkast, The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, Jurassic 5 and ATCQ, the proof is in the song form. They flow like songs, not cut up samples looped in Reason.

From the recently released Fuck You EP...

The Knux: "Watchu Say"


Colored Commentator said...

I will destroy your argument in multiple ways.

I would argue that the genre of rap should be divided into at least 3 subsities. 1) Rap (Anything you would hear on the radio, Weezy, Jeezy, 50). 2)Hip hop (anything with an aforementioned sample (Jay Z, Nas...) 3)Conscious Hip Hop. Conscious Hip hop is far from what you make it out to be. Listen to any Mos Def CD, any Roots Album, any Talib LP. These rappers are addressing serious issues within the African American community. While they do do it over recycled samples, the lyrics are the true art. Background music can be garb but as long as the lyrics are meaningful, the music should be considered Conscious Hip Hop. Go back to my favorite Common album, Resurrection. Listen to "I used to love H.E.R. You will find out what conscious hip hop is all about.
I politely disagree with your argument, and think that "conscious hip-hop" has been over simplified from what it actually represents.

I also realize I have no idea how to spell. Fuck me, right?

I am Music.

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