Saturday, December 10, 2011

...For the Kids.

This is one of the most amazing and heartwarming videos I've seen in quite a while.

You know, I've heard my share of complaints from older folks about their inability to understand hip hop lyrics. Many say the words are too indistinguishable or that they move too fast for them to decipher what's been said. For me, this video beautifully illustrates a core aspect of rap performance that is much more important than lyrical comprehension. Rap lyrics are the textual conduit for the rapper's percussive and melodic aesthetic. In fact, I would argue that what an emcee says in a verse is rarely as important as how s/he musically shapes the verse into something pleasing and exciting for the listener.

"It's not enough to know which notes to play, you have to understand why they need to be played." George Carlin commenting on the blues

This brilliant kid has already made this discovery (as kids will do if we simply leave them to their explorations). As soon as he reaches the age of adding lyrical content to his already sophisticated sense of musical awareness (and if he keeps rapping), he's going to be an absolutely magnificent emcee.



  1. <3 your blog Reuben!

    Question for the future if you really wanna address it: I'm a 28 year old white girl and I listen to hip hop at the gym. I get kind of into it and sing along.. And then I get to "those words." It makes me uncomfortable and basically stops me from enjoying the song cause I can no longer sing along. Do I just flub that bad/racist/not friendly word and continue? God help me if I actually sing it at the gym! Help me Reubenator, you're my only hope!

  2. thanks jess!

    that's very good question, and i can only give you my personal take on how to address this.

    obviously, there are words in hip hop music that cause political complications when spoken in public. even though i fit the traditional model of a person who listens to hip hop, i refrain from using those words when rapping along in the company of people who don't know me, or at least know me well enough to recognize my awareness and sensitivity to those words. so yea, try not to say them in the gym! :)

    however, to deny the existence of those words is denying the full palate of artistry being communicated by the emcee. so there are times when i feel it may be necessary to speak the lyrics verbatim; if i happen to be making a observation with someone about what a lyric truly means to art/politics/society/etc. if those instances occur, i'd say take the chance. it's how those words feel when spoken or heard that reveals their importance to what's really being said by that emcee.

    nevertheless, make sure you are with someone who has absolute understanding of your awareness and experience. miscommunications can occur very easily when wading into these kinds of waters.

    i will say this: there are black people who will never be able to withstand the "n" word spoken by a white person, no matter the context. i'm not one of them, and their numbers are dwindling, but be aware of that.

    thank you for asking, jess.