The Tampa Tribune has never been known for going out of its way to cover hip-hop. And Iâm not going to pretend to be a connoisseur. But having grown up during the '90s golden era of gangsta rap, I find it troubling that music critic Curtis Ross, who I often agree with, would discredit the movement because the lyrical content isn't positive, with a message, as if the only worthy rock songs were "Imagine," "Peace Train" and "War."
In todayâs Friday Extra cover story âHip hop for your brainâ Ross and his editors offer âsmart alternativesâ for people who âhate the ignorant excesses of gangsta rap.â
The story is a Hip Hop 101 that grants Ice-T and N.W.A. a pass while slamming Dr. Dre for subject matter. Huh? Makes me wonder if Ross has ever listened to Ice-Tâs 1991 masterpiece O.G. Original Gangster, a poetic, unapologetic how-to guide on pimping and hustling. Ross discounts the lyrics of Dreâs 1992 album The Chronic âwhich uncritically celebrated violence and misogyny.â The list of tracks recommended to âend your hip-hop resistanceâ includes ace selections by the likes of Public Enemy, De La Soul and Outkast, but doesnât include a single gangsta entry? Which would be like listing the greatest songwriters of the last century and omitting Robert Johnson.
After all, the legendary bluesman was the meanest misogynist of them all. Violent, too. Most of the blues greats were. In dismissing gangsta rap nearly altogether, does Ross pretend not to notice (or know) some of Johnsonâs famous lines? Lines like: âIf she gets unruly, and thinks she don't want do/ Take my 32-20, and cut her half in two.â A â32-20â is a Winchester rifle. Johnson sings about killing his woman for coming home with her âhair all tangled.â Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a similarly themed number called âDelia.â
Gangsta or hardcore rap is like any other music: there is good and bad. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese rarely get criticized for killing people on screen. Apparently, glorifying violence and misogyny in movies can be high art but rapping about it is abhorrent. If the Trib still had a film critic, it wouldâve been interesting to read his or her take on the matter.
Ross is right about songs like âBuy U a Drankâ sucking. But any serious music enthusiasts (including a professional critic) who fails to recognize the genius in the modern version of the blues and Appalachian murder ballads is doing readers a serious injustice. Plus, what's wrong with a jam about just plain partying? They don't get much better than "Gin and Juice."
Recommended hardcore, gun-toting, bitch-slapping (i.e. politically incorrect) rap tracks:
âNew Jack Hustler,â Ice-T
âStraight Outta Compton,â N.W.A.
âWelcome to the Ghetto,â Spice 1
âMind Playing Tricks on Me,â Geto Boys
âBitches Ainât Shit,â Dr. Dre (and check out the Ben Folds cover version)
âCheck Yo Self,â Ice Cube
âIâm a Player,â Too Short
âI Seen a Man Die,â Scarface
âGin and Juice,â Snoop Dogg
âHit âEm Up,â 2Pac
âRegulate,â Warren G
âReady to Die,â The Notorious B.I.G.
âCell Therapy,â Goodie Mob
âGet at Me Dog,â DMX
ââ97 Bonnie & Clyde,â Eminem
âWanksta,â 50 Cent
âTouch It,â Busta Rhymes
âHustler Musik,â Lil Wayne