Thursday, July 02, 2009
Death of Auto-tune = Rebirth of hip-hop?
Jay Z has released the biggest hip-hop tune so far this summer with "Death of Auto-tune". It's been massive since it first leaked a few weeks ago and it has provoked loads of debate in hip-hop, which is a good thing. The last time something like this happened was when Nas released "Hip-hop is dead" a couple of years ago but the Jay Z track is far superior and likely to shake things up more.
Nas has always been acclaimed as one of the best modern day rappers and his legacy was secure from the day he released his stunning "Illmatic" album 15 years ago. Jay Z came out the same time with "Reasonable Doubt" and though both went through dodgy periods before their own rivalry helped bring back the hunger, it is safe to say that both are still two of the finest rappers in the world today. Jay Z has undoubtedly got a bigger profile at this stage though and this is one of the reasons why it is good that he is behind this incredible new tune. There are hundreds of rappers bringing out tracks with similar sentiments every year, but when the likes of Jay Z lambast the entire hip-hop industry people tend to sit up and take notice, especially since he is a respected business player now too.
Musically, it's an impossible track to ignore which helps. The distinctive horn samples come from "In the space" by French film composer Janko and it will stay in your head all day. The bridge is inspired by Steams "Na na hey hey kiss him goodbye" and it is a banging production by No I.D. Kanye West, who recorded a whole album using auto-tune last year, is being heralded as a co-writer and producer in some circles but it seems likely that this is not the case. Kanye will hold down some production duties on the new Jigga album though and it is fairly likely he had given Jay Z his blessing for this track, since he himself has more-or-less left auto-tune behind since last year too.
Auto-tune is a pitch correction vocoder that's use has exploded in hip-hop over the last few years and the likes of Kanye and T-Pain have been using it very heavily in commercially successful hip-hop and r&b tunes. Even though it echoes some of the great sonic vocoding sounds that Roger Troutman made famous with Zapp nearly 30 years ago, the use of auto-tune became very fashionable within modern day music and it is far to say that Jay Z is right to attack the over-kill we are experiencing. He is in fired-up form and starts with rhymes that leave is in doubt that mainstream hip-hop is his target, proclaiming "This is anti auto-tune, death of the ringtone, this ain't for i tunes, this ain't for sing-along". Jay Z proceeds to basically tear it up over a few minutes that will certainly make many rappers think twice before they hit the studio next time out. The tune is everywhere and the different versions are already coming out too; hopefully Jay Z's tune will result in many other big name rappers stepping up their game because at the moment mainstream hip-hop is very poor.
Jay Z and Nas have both been guilty of watering down the genre themselves but overall it is fair to say that they are hip-hop fans at heart. Kanye too is is an innovator who still has respect and as a fan of hip-hop I hope that all of these big names inspire others to get back to what Jay Z is saying are the basics of the genre. There are too many guest producer driven albums featuring too many guests spots and too many gimmicks. I'm not nostalgic and moaning that the old stuff was always better and I'm certainly a fan of the best modern day stuff but I do hope that Jay Z's influence helps create a situation where we can turn on MTV in 12 months time and hear plenty of quality hip-hop rather than generic ringtone rap!
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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