Good Kid Maad City-- No Love. How The Heist was Won
Sooooo The Grammys happened and again Hip Hop heads around the country are scratching their heads. Actually, I take that back, they’re not. Hip Hop heads around the country are saying—Here we go again, with the dull face -___- and the side eye. And who can blame us? It’s THE BIGGEST night in music and the BIGGEST ALBUM to happen to Hip Hop music since (Dare I Say) Blueprint is silently overlooked and tucked away, back into the dark and dangerous corner of the world it came from. If you haven’t caught on already, I’m talking about the UPSET that was Kendrick Lamar and Good Kid Maad City. By now you should have already seen/ heard / read Macklemore and Ryan Lewis “SWEPT” the Grammys rap categories, taking home 4 “Gold Sippy Cups” (s/o to Jay and Blue Ivy for that one). Leaving Kendrick to humbly accept this “EPIC L” and hope for the next year and the next album.
I will admit I was disappointed. Not because Macklemore and Ryan Lewis don’t deserve to be awarded for their spectacular and SURPRISING musical take over of 2013, but more-so because the Hip Hop GIANT that was Good Kid Maad City— DID DESERVE to be awarded for it’s valiantly heroic representation of what true Hip Hop is. No shade… It is what it is.
The irony of The HEIST winning 4 out of the 5 Rap categories is blatant hilarity. I mean-- a heist is in fact “a robbery from an institution”. Get it? The Heist “won damn near alllll” of the Rap Categories? The Heist was a Heist???? Again—no shade… Wellllll ok maybe a little.
Among all of the Facebook bashing and name calling and race card pulling I saw via social media I decided to take an educated approach to assessing what I witnessed, yesterday evening. I started with some basic qualitative information; Record sales, Radio Spins and Social Hits. I compared both parties’ two biggest hits of the year. On the Macklemore side: Thrift Shop & Same Love and on the Kendrick side: Swimming Pools and Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe. Qualitatively—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won (I’ll spare you the details, especially since I hate numbers). They outsold, outspinned, and out viewed Kendrick. Which should be enough right? Not exactly, in my opinion. What I found in my radio spin research was that Kendrick’s music was played primarily on Urban and Rhythmic Stations, and Macklemore and Ryan were spun on Top 40, Alternative and Rhythmic Stations. Their hip hop save was Rhythmic Radio—which if you’re not 100% on what that is—It’s your Hit Music station: Hip Hop, R&B, Dance, Pop and all the bubble gum that comes with it. It wasn’t pure Hip Hop love but it definitely stood its ground with some hit makers. However, you did not see Macklemore and Ryan Lewis making substantial impact on Urban Radio stations—You know, where all the hip hop music gets played. So you know where I’m headed with this—Miley Cyrus in all her twerking glory gets played in HEAVY rotation on a Rhythmic Station, but maybe a good spin or 2 a week on Urban Radio, but I didn’t see Miley in anybody consider putting her in anybody’s rap category.
Qualitatively—I just thought about my basic experience with music last year. Last year around this time I was about 3 months into my love affair with GKMC. I played it on the train, the plane, in the shower, at work… EVERYWHERE… By summer it was the same shit. On my social media timelines, all of my networks were still singing praises of King Kendrick Lamar and his Black Boy Fly. Oh—and don’t get me started on the summertime scandal that was CONTROL-GATE! Hip Hop is STIIIILLLL getting over that shock of electric life #Clapforhim! My friends and I were engaging in heavily intellectual conversations about GKMC. I mean if you’re from NYC you know Stop and Frisk and if you know Stop and Frisk; you 100% empathized with the second verse of track number 7 of GKMC—Good Kid.
The Heist on the other hand was more of pop culture propaganda (in my personal experience). Every morning news show invited them to perform on their “summer stages”, every TV show, Commercial etc... used clips from their summer singles. Hell—I couldn’t walk into a thrift store with out hearing about only having $20 in my pocket, which in all fairness is a real struggle… I know that feeling VERY well. But aside from the catchiness of the lyrics and the beat—there was no emotional connection to the music that made me say—YES! THIS IS HIP HOP! The difference was like the seeing an attractive person and the seeing the love of your life. It was cute and all, but nothing to write home about.
So here is the struggle I encounter everyday as a lover of music. If Macklemore and Ryan Lewis AND THE HEIST don’t receive substantial play on HIP HOP/ URBAN radio—how in fact do they represent the best of what HIP HOP has to offer? It literally took me 2 seconds to answer this question for myself—Symantics! They won Rap categories!!! Not HIP HOP Categories!!! DING DING DING! They rhymed, so they ARE RAPPERS and so they won the game. All hail the formula that is Marketing! Proper positioning, and access to “mainstream” markets, with a non-threatening-like BRAND and a familiarly (you can insert some shade here) “clear face” will get you on the fast track to Rap Music Grammy Gold.
Of course WE KNOW Rap and Hip Hop are not the same. Hip hop is the term for the micro urban culture that developed from humble roots of a disgruntled and ignored people of America’s inner cities, in the late 70s and early 80s that eventually transitioned into mainstream music by the late 90s. Rap is the means by which the message of the disgruntled and ignored was expressed. Rapping is a skill someone has. Hip Hop is a way people live.
So there it is—Macklemore’s catchy and cute and mainstream messaged RAPS reached the right people. Meanwhile—somewhere in the core of Hip Hop culture Kendrick Lamar’s biographical analysis of growing up boy, black, brilliant yet belittled, reached out and touched the hearts and minds of a generation ignored. It’s clear both musicians poured their hearts into their music. It’s clear both musicians have talent and skill to support their accolades. But damn—no love for Kendrick tho??? NONE?
I mean—I kinda get it. Like, in my head, the voting academy has a very small number of heavy hip hop loving voters. Now, this isn’t a fact it’s very much so just my opinion. I mean why else would J.Cole NOT be nominated for his work on Viluminati and Kendrick Lamar NOT win anything…ANYTHING?!?! It’s the only thing that makes sense to me, but I’m always open to hearing other theory’s so if you have one, please share J