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View Full Version : The Trouble With Backpack Rap


Bloo
12-06-2006, 03:03 AM
Saw this and thought I'd start a discussion...


Yesterday one of my colleagues here at XXL (http://xxlmag.com/online/?p=2212) suggested that I think backpack rap is boring because backpack rappers tend to complain a lot. In actuality, I don’t have a problem with backpack rap. The subgenre—like any other in hip-hop—contains a wide spectrum of material, from the hot, to the fairly decent, to the wackest garbage conceivable. I can’t stand flat-toned rappers spitting impossibly abstract rhymes over dark, predictable basement beats, for instance. But I’m certainly not mad at records with cutting-edge concepts, innovative soundscapes, and thought-provoking lyrics.

My problem is not with backpack rappers. My problem is with hardcore backpack rap fans.
Those dudes kill me. They have to be the most self-righteous Stans under the sun. Let me run down the profile.
You can find these hotheads in the record store copping a holier-than-thou attitude, spitting obscure hip-hop trivia with an almost religious fervor. They are the ones you see in the back of the club, glaring when the DJ drops a 50 joint.

These knuckle-shufflers harbor an obscene amount of nostalgia for a golden era that they were never a part of, and a baffling level of resentment for all that is gangsta and/or flashy and fly. They despise the music industry, without ever having had any contact with it. They romanticize poverty, worship political rappers (who, truth be told, often don’t want these guys as fans in the first place), and demonize any artist that doesn’t fit into their rigid definition of “real hip-hop.” (http://www.hiphopmusic.com/archives/001938.html) They deliberately ignore anything that calls their limited conception of “real hip-hop” into question. (The Jay-Z/dead prez collabo “Hell Yeah,” for example.) They have little interest in dialogue. More often than not, they are very young, suburban white dudes.

Adam Mansbach nailed it in his novel Angry Black White Boy:
“How, Macon wondered as he cut a path toward the small stage at the back of the club, had the backpack rap set gotten so self-righteous so quickly? These kids were as dogmatic as the bitterest old-school has-beens, oozing with keep-it-realness and wistful reminiscences of a misimagined past in which hip-hop hadn’t been shackled to capitalism. The backpackers scorned commercial success and radio airplay—corrupting the culture, yo—but spent all their money on niche-marketed hip-hop accoutrements, from breakdance videos to old-school Pumas. They ordered water at the bar, not for fear of being carded or out of desire to stay sharp-witted for the freestyle ciphers to come, but because their giddily professed pennilessness nudged them closer to the underground rappers they admired—rappers who for the most part would have traded all the adolescent-male dick-riding for a major-label advance check and used the money to move out of the projects.”

I used to get a lot of letters from backpackers. No matter how many articles I did on Lyrics Born or Mos Def or Talib Kweli or J5, whenever I wrote on Jay-Z, the Backpack Brigade would inundate me with outraged mail. One dude fumed that Jay was the height of superficiality and that I was wasting media space on money-hoes-and-clothes rap. (Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?) Another guy called Xzibit an “ass-kissing establishment man” after I reviewed one of his releases, characterizing X and radio rap in general as “vacuous self-aggrandizement, misogyny, and status-peddling.”

What’s unsettling about the backpack boys is that their critique of mainstream hip-hop doesn’t actually fall too far from hipster’s ironic interest in crunk. Both feel free to mock elements of black culture. Both are certain of their own aesthetic and/or intellectual superiority. Both can’t manage to see the humanity of those outside their own narrow worldview.

So yeah, give me Zion I’s Deep Water Slang any day of the week. But keep those Zion I fans far, far away from me

Let's speak on this (yeah, yeah I know. not another one). But really, I can't say I haven't fallen into this category myself, I regularly shit on mainstream rap. All in all it just boils down to entertainment, right? Everytime someone pops in a CD they don't want to get an education, they just wanna relax and listen to something. I've never been 100% against the commercial. I'll admit this only because none of ya'll can personally locate me, but I like that T-Pain / E40 joint that's out right now, Lil' Jon beat and all. For the most part most mainstream cats are cool with the movement too. Jay-Z Executive Produced the album for Linkin Park rapper, Mike Shinoda's side group Fort Minor.

My main issue with it is the stigma that it carries in the world. It's the shit that they play on the radio that gives rap in general a bad reputation cause for those who aren't into it, this is what they're exposed to when they do hear it. I just think there needs to be more balance. It's cool to spin the 50 tracks and whatnot, but why not throw in a Little Brother or Mos Def track from time to time.

What do ya'll think?

ironwizard
12-06-2006, 05:45 AM
You will never be able to hear indie/underground hiphop on commercial radio, simply because it doesn´t reach a wide enought audience. I would love it as well, no doubt, but that´s just not the way things work. It´s all about appealing to the lowest common denominator, and by spinning cerebral, abstract hiphop, that can´t be done. I must admit, I truly dislike most commercial hiphop, much more than I did five years ago. It might be my taste in music that´s evolved, but I really do think that the quality in mainstream hiphop, not to mention music in general, has declined.

I do agree that most of these backpackers need to take a chill pill and stop nursing their images all the time. If I were to be categorized, I might be a backpacker myself, but that wouldn´t be to reach a certain image, it would simply be judging by the music I listen to in general. I don´t listen to much gangsta rap anymore. Not because it isn´t "underground" enough, but simply because it doesn´t really appeal to me. I find it hard to relate. I do love the sound of old school gangsta rap such as early mobb deep, boot camp, etc.
But that´s because of the sound and the mood it creates, not specifically because of the subject matter, which does tend to become a bit repetitive.

Anyway, I guess what I´m trying to say is that I mostly just listen to music that I like. Period. I listen to music to please my ears, not to please the world and the way it perceives me. To me, mainstream hiphop just happens to be crap most of the time, and it doesn´t seem to get better right now.
To me, underground is where it´s at when it comes to creative, interesting, thoughtful hiphop. I must admit that Binary Star ain´t the music to play in the club, and of course I can go crazy to some crunk or g-unit, if only because it´s so stupid it´s funny, or I´m really drunk.

Anyway, that´s my 2 cents (or whatever this post might be worth)

Peace

Alesco
12-06-2006, 06:12 AM
Yea man

This is why Electronic music (Techno) is my first choice of music genre.

The stuff i listen to is underground music.

You wont see it on tv n shit. And thats the way most of us like it.

And yes folks.. I do know that techno music was influenced by Hip hop

EAGLE EYE
12-06-2006, 06:50 AM
Yesterday one of my colleagues here at XXL suggested that I think backpack rap is boring because backpack rappers tend to complain a lot. In actuality, I don’t have a problem with backpack rap. The subgenre—like any other in hip-hop—contains a wide spectrum of material, from the hot, to the fairly decent, to the wackest garbage conceivable. I can’t stand flat-toned rappers spitting impossibly abstract rhymes over dark, predictable basement beats, for instance. But I’m certainly not mad at records with cutting-edge concepts, innovative soundscapes, and thought-provoking lyrics.

My problem is not with backpack rappers. My problem is with hardcore backpack rap fans.
Those dudes kill me. They have to be the most self-righteous Stans under the sun. Let me run down the profile.
You can find these hotheads in the record store copping a holier-than-thou attitude, spitting obscure hip-hop trivia with an almost religious fervor. They are the ones you see in the back of the club, glaring when the DJ drops a 50 joint.

These knuckle-shufflers harbor an obscene amount of nostalgia for a golden era that they were never a part of, and a baffling level of resentment for all that is gangsta and/or flashy and fly. They despise the music industry, without ever having had any contact with it. They romanticize poverty, worship political rappers (who, truth be told, often don’t want these guys as fans in the first place), and demonize any artist that doesn’t fit into their rigid definition of “real hip-hop.” They deliberately ignore anything that calls their limited conception of “real hip-hop” into question. (The Jay-Z/dead prez collabo “Hell Yeah,” for example.) They have little interest in dialogue. More often than not, they are very young, suburban white dudes.

Adam Mansbach nailed it in his novel Angry Black White Boy:
“How, Macon wondered as he cut a path toward the small stage at the back of the club, had the backpack rap set gotten so self-righteous so quickly? These kids were as dogmatic as the bitterest old-school has-beens, oozing with keep-it-realness and wistful reminiscences of a misimagined past in which hip-hop hadn’t been shackled to capitalism. The backpackers scorned commercial success and radio airplay—corrupting the culture, yo—but spent all their money on niche-marketed hip-hop accoutrements, from breakdance videos to old-school Pumas. They ordered water at the bar, not for fear of being carded or out of desire to stay sharp-witted for the freestyle ciphers to come, but because their giddily professed pennilessness nudged them closer to the underground rappers they admired—rappers who for the most part would have traded all the adolescent-male dick-riding for a major-label advance check and used the money to move out of the projects.”

I used to get a lot of letters from backpackers. No matter how many articles I did on Lyrics Born or Mos Def or Talib Kweli or J5, whenever I wrote on Jay-Z, the Backpack Brigade would inundate me with outraged mail. One dude fumed that Jay was the height of superficiality and that I was wasting media space on money-hoes-and-clothes rap. (Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?) Another guy called Xzibit an “ass-kissing establishment man” after I reviewed one of his releases, characterizing X and radio rap in general as “vacuous self-aggrandizement, misogyny, and status-peddling.”

What’s unsettling about the backpack boys is that their critique of mainstream hip-hop doesn’t actually fall too far from hipster’s ironic interest in crunk. Both feel free to mock elements of black culture. Both are certain of their own aesthetic and/or intellectual superiority. Both can’t manage to see the humanity of those outside their own narrow worldview.

So yeah, give me Zion I’s Deep Water Slang any day of the week. But keep those Zion I fans far, far away from me


I would love to shake the hand of who ever wrote this article. The stuff I highlighted in red is probably the most truthful shit I've ever heard. I myself am a fan of underground and mainstream. The comparison of the backpackers to hipsters is brilliant.

Longbongcilvaringz
12-06-2006, 07:07 AM
people listen to what they think sounds good.

TAURO
12-06-2006, 08:52 AM
You will never be able to hear indie/underground hiphop on commercial radio, simply because it doesn´t reach a wide enought audience. I would love it as well, no doubt, but that´s just not the way things work. It´s all about appealing to the lowest common denominator, and by spinning cerebral, abstract hiphop, that can´t be done. I must admit, I truly dislike most commercial hiphop, much more than I did five years ago. It might be my taste in music that´s evolved, but I really do think that the quality in mainstream hiphop, not to mention music in general, has declined.

I do agree that most of these backpackers need to take a chill pill and stop nursing their images all the time. If I were to be categorized, I might be a backpacker myself, but that wouldn´t be to reach a certain image, it would simply be judging by the music I listen to in general. I don´t listen to much gangsta rap anymore. Not because it isn´t "underground" enough, but simply because it doesn´t really appeal to me. I find it hard to relate. I do love the sound of old school gangsta rap such as early mobb deep, boot camp, etc.
But that´s because of the sound and the mood it creates, not specifically because of the subject matter, which does tend to become a bit repetitive.

Anyway, I guess what I´m trying to say is that I mostly just listen to music that I like. Period. I listen to music to please my ears, not to please the world and the way it perceives me. To me, mainstream hiphop just happens to be crap most of the time, and it doesn´t seem to get better right now.
To me, underground is where it´s at when it comes to creative, interesting, thoughtful hiphop. I must admit that Binary Star ain´t the music to play in the club, and of course I can go crazy to some crunk or g-unit, if only because it´s so stupid it´s funny, or I´m really drunk.

Anyway, that´s my 2 cents (or whatever this post might be worth)

Peace

Exactly how I feel, I listen to whatever sounds good to me whether it's commercial or underground it just so happens that the underground has a lot more of what I like.

deadlymelody
12-06-2006, 04:51 PM
That was a very good article on backpackers. I don't consider myself a backpacker, because i'm not that damn limited. I listen to a lot of music, one of those genre's is not mainstream rap. It's just not appealing to me. I love creativity, originality, and cleverness in my music. Thus, if a song has a really low grade in terms of musical talent, I just don't like it.

xHard to Earnx
12-06-2006, 04:56 PM
I love it when she says something that isn't stupid.

Prolifical ENG
12-06-2006, 05:05 PM
Yup thats pretty much how it goes. Talking about the other extreme. Everyone else catigorizing themselves exactly where in between they stand.

People exposing others ignorance of the extremists.

ShaDynasty
12-06-2006, 05:17 PM
i hate mainstream music, fake artists and such and the morons that buy into it
not to say that i hate all mainstream stuff of course but theres probably about 5 out of a thousand rappers on major labels that im checkin for these days
fact is that a lot of mainstream rap is watered down, moronic, charmless, materialistic misogynistic bullshit that sounds like it was churned out of a factory

xHard to Earnx
12-06-2006, 05:25 PM
You sound like an angsty white dude who didn't get hugged enough as a kid.

ShaDynasty
12-06-2006, 05:35 PM
you sound like a moron

xHard to Earnx
12-06-2006, 05:48 PM
Seriously. That first sentence looks like something this kid would say:

http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a349/nicoli80/aaronandi0052.jpg

ShaDynasty
12-06-2006, 06:02 PM
maybe i shouldnt have made the statement "i hate mainstream music"
it was something of a generalisation
the point remains the same, a lot of mainstream music is soulless

Bloo
12-06-2006, 06:33 PM
I agree with that to a degree. There are still some mainstream cats that make good music though. But honestly, being caught up in the underground is the same as anyone caught up in the mainstream. You're honestly no better, just on the opposite side of the pole.

ShaDynasty
12-06-2006, 06:53 PM
I agree with that to a degree. There are still some mainstream cats that make good music though. But honestly, being caught up in the underground is the same as anyone caught up in the mainstream. You're honestly no better, just on the opposite side of the pole.

im not on either side of a "pole", i like what i like
theres probably only 5 underground emcees i listen to as well
i dont have the time or patience to find out about other underground rappers
i just resent getting wack mainstream music thrust in my face everytime i go somewhere

Prolifical ENG
12-06-2006, 07:01 PM
im not on either side of a "pole", i like what i like
theres probably only 5 underground emcees i listen to as well
i dont have the time or patience to find out about other underground rappers
i just resent getting wack mainstream music thrust in my face everytime i go somewhere

thats true....its hard to check everything....you need to enjoy the material most of the time that you listen to.

In one way its good to explore and check out other stuff.....at the same time you wont like everything, so you need to shut out to only what you know you like.

PuNcH_iN_PuNcH_OuT
12-06-2006, 08:49 PM
you peeps complain about backpackers who complain to much





















dumbasses

xHard to Earnx
12-06-2006, 09:26 PM
Oh and "the trouble with backpack rap" is that most of it sucks, but you're a sucker and probably aren't that into rap if you're not checking into all hip-hop. Mainstream, underground, whatever. You've got to breathe it and absorb what you can. I'm convinced that the people that say hip-hop is dead are probably deaf. This is such a great time to be into it right now, not to mention that this is probably the best 4th quarter of releases that I could ever ask for.

Bloo
12-07-2006, 05:29 AM
In that case I'm gonna have to check what's out cause I haven't been paying attention.