Rap beyond Top 40 has artistic value


Rap doesn’t suck.

Let me be more specific: there is rap that doesn’t suck. If you’ve never gone out of your way to look for it, you probably haven’t heard any. I’m not talking about the crap you hear on the radio or MTV; if you think that stuff is terrible, that’s because it is. Well done. The rap you hear on the radio is, by and large, criminally awful. It’s commercialized garbage, just like everything else on the airwaves. But radio stations rarely play good music of any genre, and rap is no exception. For many people, this is the only exposure to the genre they’ve ever had. However, rap does not begin and end in the Top 40, and dismissing an entire style of music based on such a small sampling is a hasty decision. The genre began in the underground, and that is where it continues to thrive today. There does exist good rap, intelligently written music of both depth and artistic value.

As a result of corporate marketing strategies, those unfamiliar with the genre tend to equate all rap with Gangsta [sic] rap. This is a subgenre, and rap as a whole is in no way limited to discussion of guns and drugs (though they do tend to be common themes). In fact, as a genre, hip-hop is incredibly unrestrained. Eyedea, a recently deceased rapper from Minneapolis, wrote songs ranging from a three minute explanation of Plato’s cave allegory to an expression of the frustration born of his social anxiety disorder, doing so with a level of technical ability that puts to shame any rappers in the mainstream. There are conventions of the genre which artists commonly adhere to, but these are just as often ignored.  If thumpin’ bass isn’t your style, you can find rap performed over Beethoven, Rock ‘n Roll, melodic acoustic guitar, or your favorite indie band. Rap can literally be about, or mixed with, anything.

I’m always surprised by literary types who scoff at the idea of hip-hop; they should be embracing it! For nerds like me who sit around writing poetry, it provides a means of presenting poetry in a manner that appeals to a modern audience and avoids having one’s sexuality called into question. One can quibble over the distinction between rap and poetry, but that’s an argument I don’t feel is worth getting into right now; let’s just agree that they have a lot of similarities. YouTube artists like poet-turned-rapper George Watsky (youtube.com/user/gwatsky) blur the distinction between the two to the point that it’s negligible.

The Internet is overflowing with quality hip-hop, but you can find live performances of equal quality without ever leaving the Midwest. The Minneapolis area has an impressive hip-hop scene, with its better acts putting on shows that rival or surpass anyone in the mainstream. Dessa (myspace.com/dessadarling), another Minneapolis artist, is a writer turned emcee who writes intelligent lyrics, raps incredibly well, and puts on the most passionate, moving live performances I have ever seen. She’s also really hot.

You can even find good rap in South Dakota. Sioux Falls is host to some suprisingly talented artists, such as Soulcrate Music (soulcratemusic.com), who will be performing at Tappers in Brookings, April 14th at 9 pm. If you’re interested in hip-hop or are just curious to find out what a good rap show is like, I urge you to attend. Check out thecollectiveeffortsunion.com to stay updated on what’s happening in the Sioux Falls music scene.

Even the SDSU campus is home to unknown names with enormous levels of talent. SDSU student Chris Miles is an absurdly talented rapper who can occasionally be convinced to freestyle; track him down and tell him to record an album. Another SDSU student, Adam Carpenter, has tracks available online and is in the process of recording more. His recordings draw from a wide array of musical styles; you’ll find songs that are more along the lines of traditional hip-hop, rap performed to acoustic guitar, and songs with an electronic music flavor. He alternates between singing and rapping, and does both extremely well. Find his recordings online at hollow1.bandcamp.com.

Mathias is a non-traditional student majoring in Spanish. Reach him at [email protected]