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 Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Heff 
Date:   10-20-17 14:35

Ever since the mid-90s, I've pretty much avoided rap and hip-hop. When it became mainstream popular, I chalked up my dislike for my inevitable moving out of the mainstream bracket (i.e. getting old). So when I started hearing the term 'alternative rap' or 'left-field rap', I got a little interested. Hey, I reasoned, I liked the alternative back in the `80s, so maybe this would be the same? But, as I said, I was a 'little' intrigued, so I never bothered to check it out.

Lately, I've noticed that more of these acts are touring with more traditional rock outfits and I when I saw one that one of the biggest hyped ones - Death Grips, was touring with Ministry, that was the deciding factor for me to get a ticket. When I listened to some of their output, it sounded to me like freestyle rapping over Cabaret Voltaire or Minimal Man, so figured I could handle it.

Well, live, that wasn't the case. Imagine, one guy whaling away on a drum kit set up to sound 'dub', another guy handling the electronic duties - mainly a heavy bass line, and a third one yelling into a mike - all at the same time. For most of the show it was pitch dark with strobe lights handsets utilized by the band members. It was most likely the worst live music performance I have ever witnessed.

The place was crowded with, no surprise here, millennials, who, it looked to me, were mainly concerned with the beat; if there was one, they were happy. However, I guess, this might have been what it was like to someone unprepared at a hardcore show back in the `80s (which I loved), so maybe I shouldn't be so harsh.

What is everyone's opinion on alternative rap?



Post Edited (10-20-17 14:36)

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Post-Punk Monk 
Date:   10-20-17 15:01

Heff - Your reasoning seemed sound. Too bad it didn't work out.

I guarantee it wasn't the worst live "music" performance you could have witnessed. That would be John Wiese. I saw him open for Zola Jesus recently. I really should have investigated him online first, but time was tight. He offered biological leaning noise loops of animal sounds and booming subsonics. Interesting? Not very.

Every so often the sound of a violin being torn apart took the sound in a different direction. This was the sort of stuff I really hated in the 90s. Sampler collage. Completely unmusical.

After about 20 minutes it began to sound like a beehive between my ears before it abruptly shifted to something equally unmusical, albeit shot through with chopped media sound bites. Tedium. I wondered how this was intended to make me feel.

After 25 minutes recognizable chords occurred to two or three shouts of recognition from the audience. Notes were being played and there seemed to be a recognizable tempo under it all. But was it too late to make me care? Yes. It ended 30 minutes later to a guy in the audience who said “is that it?”

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

https://postpunkmonk.com
For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   10-20-17 16:08

I don't follow hip-hop at all, so I'm not really qualified to speak on this. But when I see the term "alternative rap," I think of folks like A Tribe Called Quest and Arrested Development. I suppose their spiritual successors would be Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and the other folks coming up behind and alongside them - smart, creative folks who are more interested in asking questions and exploring twenty-first African American identity than in bling, gangstas or misogyny.

I think Death Grips is an outlier - not really part of any scene or movement. They've always deliberately courted controversy - not just in their performance style, but whether or not they'll even show up. They seem to break up and reconvene a lot, and if I'm remembering correctly, they once self-released one of their albums online for free right before their record company was about to put it out. They pop up at "edgy" rock festivals all the time. I've never heard a note of their music, live or on record.

Then there's Run The Jewels. We just had them on the show. They also seem to be outliers, coming out of an un-mainstream group of rappers and DJs but experiencing a great deal of success.

That's all I know. Hopefully someone with a lot more expertise can weigh in.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: MrFab 
Date:   10-20-17 17:55

Electronic based musics like hip hop sometimes don't work too well in a live setting (haven't heard Death Grips albums). I was also a big fan of Golden Age hip hop back in the day, and Public Enemy and Run DMC were great live. On the other hand, New Order were, er, not so exciting. They could probly use a hi-tech visuals show like Kraftwerk. Or maybe drive around in one of those little cars like Gary Numan.



Post Edited (10-20-17 17:56)

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: nosepail 
Date:   10-20-17 18:14

Raise your hand if you're tired of the one-man opening acts with sampler.

I'm so sick of *that guy* whatever his name is.



Post Edited (10-20-17 19:02)

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: hoip chiggs 
Date:   10-22-17 09:56

I really like this guy, Loyle Carner. His hip hop is soulful and mellow.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Delvin 
Date:   10-23-17 10:17

> Raise your hand if you're tired of the one-man opening acts with sampler.

Hear hear! I've seen only a small number of those, but even one of them is one too many.

And, since you were kind enough to open the door ... I'm thoroughly sick of guys at work who learn I have a radio show, and bring me home-burned CDs of their kids' DIY music, saying it'd be a real boost to the kid to hear it on the air. It almost always turns out to be something electronic/sample-based, incredibly amateurish ... and they almost always include one track at the end (that their parents don't know about) that features a cuss-word-filled rap that only serves to emphasize that it's a suburban white juvenile behind it all.



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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Heff 
Date:   10-23-17 15:12

Delvin wrote:

I'm
> thoroughly sick of guys at work who learn I have a radio show,
> and bring me home-burned CDs of their kids' DIY music, saying
> it'd be a real boost to the kid to hear it on the air. It
> almost always turns out to be something
> electronic/sample-based, incredibly amateurish ... and they
> almost always include one track at the end (that their parents
> don't know about) that features a cuss-word-filled rap that
> only serves to emphasize that it's a suburban white juvenile
> behind it all.
>

..Uh, you can ignore that package I sent you labelled 'the best thing you haven't heard'. I'll let my son down easy.



Post Edited (10-23-17 15:12)

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   10-23-17 15:42

This reminds of a story from back in the days when I used to give tours of the original ACL studio. (Now the tours are at the "new"studio, where we've been filming the show for the past six years, and since I don't office there, I don't do tours anymore.)

We always got folks from all walks of life and from all over the world (which was puzzling, since at the time the show wasn't broadcast anywhere but the States). But we often got folks from here in Austin. One day I had a group of about eight or so that included a father and his son, who was about 9 or 10. The kid had his guitar with him. That wasn't particularly unusual - sometimes folks would bring their guitars to pose on the stage while a friend/relative took photos. No big deal.

I knew there was potential trouble when the father started talking up his playing ability. After my usual shtick about the history of the studio, he asked if the kid could get up on the stage with his rig. Sure. Then he asked if he could play. Um...sure. The other tourists were polite enough to sit down and listen.

The kid got up onstage and showed off his moves. Which, at 9 or 10, was all they were - moves. He played the blues-based licks he knew, head hanging down like Stevie Ray Vaughan (or a kid who was embarrassed at being made to do this - I'm still not sure which), but made no attempt to play anything that might remotely be called a song, or even a riff. He just ran through the licks he'd copied from records or videos. No sin in that - that's how a lot of players start. And he got to do it on the ACL stage. That's a memory he'd take with him as he continued to play.

The problem was his father, who insisted the kid keep playing, filming it on his iPhone, of course. He then turned to me as if (a) after all the incredible musicians I'd seen on that stage I was gonna be standing there slackjawed and (b) as I was going to immediately say, "Let's book him!" He wanted to know what I thought. I said something noncommittal about his skill and that he should have no trouble finding a band to play with. Dad wanted to know about the booking process. Fortunately, this was the out I needed - we don't book anyone that doesn't have an album out and doesn't tour regularly (and not just regionally). Obviously this kid didn't qualify.

The dad was disappointed, but said he understood. I could tell he was genuinely hurt that I didn't recognize genius in his son and insist that we book him immediately (something I don't have the power to do in any case). The kid himself didn't seem to care one way or the other.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: steevee 
Date:   10-23-17 16:17

At this point, hip-hop covers a pretty vast range of ground, and asking for recommendations on "alternative rap" and going to a Death Grips show and getting disappointed is like asking for recommendations on "alternative rock" in the late '90s, If you like an aesthetic that combines elements of industrial and noise music but is still recognizably hip-hop, I'd recommend Death Grips' early mixtape EX-MILITARY and debut album THE MONEY STORE (for me, their peak.) I like the music they're doing now, but apart from rapped vocals, I'm not sure how much connection it still has to hip-hop.

Have you heard the music released by the indie label Defintive Jux (whose owner El-P has gone on to greater fame and continued to make great music as half of the duo Run the Jewels) in the early 2000s? I would really recommend Cannibal Ox's THE COLD VEIN, El-P's own I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD and FANTASTIC DAMAGE, Aesop Rock's LABOR DAYS, BAZOOKA FACTORY and DAYLIGHT and Cage's HELL'S WINTER. All of these artists combined adventurous production (El-P's own in the case of his solo albums and the Cannibal Ox album) with intelligent lyrics, although in different styles.

I would not bash all mainstream hip-hop: I liked Jay-Z's 4:44 (which came out earlier this year), and Kendrick Lamar is both a massive star and one of the most talented rappers out there in terms of his lyrical skill, taste in beats and flow. Even something like Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" or Cardi B's recent #1 hit "Bodak Yellow" is a fun pop song. Amidst a lot of cliched violence and sexism, A$AP Rocky has served up extremely weird and trippy production and sometimes interesting lyrics,.

But if you're looking for contemporary artists I'd describe as "alternative rap" who are worth checking out, I'd recommend Princess Nokia, Billy Woods, Vince Staples, ka5sh, the aforementioned Run the Jewels and Aesop Rock, the Flatbush Zombies, Mike, Danny Brown, Kate Tempest, Earl Sweatshirt (only his 2 major label albums - his early mixtapes are outrageously offensive), Cakes da Killa. Brown - whose past three albums are dedicated to chronicling his losing struggle with addiction and who once sampled Hawkwind and This Heat on the same song - and Run the Jewels are my favorite hip-hop artists right now.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Aitch 
Date:   10-23-17 21:56

I really like the last couple of Danny Brown releases, ditto RTJ as well as clpping by Clipping.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: steevee 
Date:   10-25-17 01:07

Given what clipping sound like, it's funny that HAMILTON performer Daveed Diggs is a member and the group produces the music for the new ABC show THE MAYOR.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   10-25-17 09:45

We recently hosted Run The Jewels on the show. I can't speak for their albums, but live they're a powerhouse.

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 Re: Alternative Rap - what's the deal?
Author: steevee 
Date:   10-26-17 14:46

You can download all 3 albums for free from their website, although you have to give the group your E-mail address first. As a result, they'll E-mail you once a month with offers for a bewildering array of merchandise, but clearly, they've decided they will never make music selling records, CDs or downloads in the current music industry climate, thus they must tour endlessly, sell T-shirts and license their music to TV and movies. All three albums are quite good, but I think RTJ3 is the masterpiece so far.

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