Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Things done changed!
One thing that is constant about music and indeed all art is that we are always led to believe it is never as good as it used to be. A new exhibition on probably the greatest visual artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, places and compares him to the past masters who he was influenced by growing up in Spain over a 100 years ago. This may not seem like such a big deal now, but despite being widely acclaimed throughout his long and productive life, for many traditionalists, it was difficult to accept Picasso as being a genius in comparison to those who came before him.
In music i've always told young hip-hop fans to be respectful of the past in order to understand where the music has come from. Those who get this will have no problem understanding that to get to hip-hop the legends of blues, rock, soul, funk and reggae had to pave the way, and many hip-hop worshippers like myself hold the likes of James Brown, George Clinton, Ray Charles, Lee Perry and many more in massive reverence. Indeed, such is the ubiquity of many crap hip-hop artists these days, especially in the mainstream, that for many people who consider themselves big hip-hop fans, it is love of other music that these days interests them more. On the opposite end of the scale, many people who love this modern day version of hip-hop, mostly younger kids, have a disdain and ignorance of the music which went before, and would laugh in your face if you told them that James Brown or Gil Scott Heron were more hip-hop than Flo-Rida or Souljah Boy ever will be.
There are two almost opposite hip-hop mindsets these days, and many of those raised on the classics of the 80's and 90's have a totally different attitude than those growing up now. This is obviously largely in part to a simple generational thing, and even in Picassos time it was not possible for an artist to hear about how "things were much better years ago". It's a constant theme in hip-hop too and being lucky enough to grow up in arguably the golden era of the genres productivity (1987-1995), it would be hard for me to get the same excitement now with much of the music that currently gets released.
This was always the way though, and in any art-form this mindset persists. It may seem strange now, but those golden era artists were sometimes compared unfavourably at the time to the Run DMC's and LL Cool J's who had gone before. Hip-hop as a whole was certainly compared unfavourably with the soul and jazz it had emulated, and until that golden era many were reluctant to admit it was real music at all. Stetsasonic were correct when they credited hip-hop for bringing much of this soul and funk and jazz back into fashion and into the general musical consciousness; before the late 80's artists such as Donald Byrd and David Axlerod, revered now by many, were largely ignored.
Also, while it is right to always respect this past but sometimes I reckon older people let it prevent them from acknowledging the great work that still goes on in the present. Does this mean that Flo-Rida and Souljah Boy are as good as Run DMC and James Brown. Certainly not, but it is also certain that these guys still represent hip-hop to certain people and will introduce these people to the genre. Personally their music may do nothing for me but it doesn't mean all modern day hip-hop is rubbish. This is a familiar argument coming from people of my generation, who are sometimes to busy listening to 90's classics rather than searching out the wealth of great new music that does come out on the hip-hop underground. Terminology, Static Selectah, Panacea, Frank n' Dank, Exile, Theoliphilus London, Foreign Legion, Guilty Simpson, to name a few of the top of my head, are all hip-hop artists doing quality music a million times removed from Flo-Rida and Souljah Boy, but who will largely be ignored by many of the very people who would probably like their music if they heard it, but won't listen as it is of the wrong generation. To me, this is a shame, but it is the way with all music and art really. Those who make music should not get frustrated though, even the greats such as Picasso had their doubters back in the day!
This article originally appeared in Downtown in Cork's Evening Echo last Thursday
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- I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays http://www.pavilioncork.com also you can catch me at http://djstevieg.podomatic.com