Readers, have you ever come across a line so good you close the book for a minute, take your reading glasses off and stare at the wall with mouth agape in total awe of the literary genius you’ve just witnessed? Quite an orgasmic experience, isn’t it? What if I tell you hip-hop used to churn out those with every new release? There was a time- surprisingly not so long ago- when hip-hop was respected as a culture, as an art-form, as an emotional outlet. Once upon a rhyme, being wack was worse than being broke. And then everything changed.
The year is 2021, and “failed rapper” is not a reference to lame emcees. Nope. The term refers to a dying breed of wordsmiths who gave us those mouth-agape moments. The year is 2021. A failed rapper is any hip-hop artist that cares about hip-hop. A failed rapper is anyone who comments on the mediocrity of the latest “hot” rapper. “You’re just hating” gets thrown around on the daily there’s no more room for criticism. So a failed rapper hides in the shadows, forced to react with a heart emoji whenever everyone’s favorite rapper drops their latest fecal matter in a sonic package. Because somewhere along the journey, the culture changed. It was suddenly no longer fashionable to write interesting lines. What mattered more was who gained financial interest from an endorsement with a fashion line.
The hip-hop I fell in love with died. And it’s worse for me because I come from a fairly intellectual ecosystem. Now most of my acquaintances are into jazz, classical music, opera and all that other elitist BS. I’m the fish out of water trying to defend the genius of hip-hop music during every art discussion on Friday night. But I can’t support the present using nostalgia. The hip-hop I’m sure they’d respect and herald is long gone. I now have to tell my opera-loving gang that I love fecal matter in a sonic package for that’s all we have now.
Failed rappers, don’t you miss it when being lyrical was not an option but a necessity? I sure do. I long for the days when one’s mainstream popularity was not a contributing factor to their quality. I miss the days when the lines weren’t so blurred between what’s good and what’s popping. I curse the day a culture became an industry. My two favorite hip-hop songs of all time are Rapsody’s Hard To Choose and eLZhi’s Hello!!!!! Two beautiful pieces by two lyrical geniuses (oops, failed rappers) that highlight the present-day struggle of the dying breed. I cry every time I listen to those tracks because they confirm my pessimism- that the culture I truly care for is dying, and the few mouths with the ability to resuscitate it are being muffled by the noise of the mumble.
If it sounds like I’m a dinosaur who just can’t come to terms with the reality that my species is over, it’s because that’s exactly what this is- and unashamedly so. We call Pinn and Miz the GOATs not because they made a living from rapping (which they didn’t), but because they were about the movement, and shone in an era when it wasn’t cool to be wack. But if by some miracle, they were resurrected by the gods of hip-hop, they would wake up to 2021 as failed rappers. And if that doesn’t make you angry, fuck you. I am not against the evolution of art and culture, but it hurts me that hip-hop evolved backwards. I swear I can teach an orangutang to rap better than the apes on Star FM. And if you think that’s funny, fuck you too.Do I wish Miz had accumulated wealth through his talent? Yes, sir. Do I think it’s beautiful to make a living off of art? Yes, ma’am. Do I think there exists a dwindling community of geniuses who still wouldn’t sacrifice brilliance for a paycheck? Yes, douche-bag. Miz and Pinn were two of them. And two others came out of the shadows yesterday – mUnetsi and Jungle Loco.
We rap because there’s something more to it. We rap because we love this culture and respect this art. That’s why I’m crying right now – it’s tears of joy. Because integrity still exists! mUnetsi and Jungle Loco will not make a dollar out of this song. It may not even break a thousand streams. But I’ve been staring at the wall with my mouth agape for the last twelve hours because every single line here is an orgasmic experience on its own. Lord, had I missed that feeling- the nostalgia! This is hip-hop! And I can’t wait for Friday night to stick it to those opera-loving classical-passionate jazz-affectionate sons of bitches.
The year is 2021, and the failed rapper is finally punching back. And he’s using a weapon y’all aren’t familiar with – punchlines, not fashion lines, you well-dressed wack emcees.
Stream Chitown To Masvingo by mUnetsi and Jungle Loco