Like a lot of people from europe* who spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about rap music , I was once somewhat of a Jeru. Never to the point I was religious with it but yeah playa-hatin used to be a bit of a hobby of mine. Then like a lot of of people who spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at rap blogs, I learned to love what i hated, hate what i loved and became yet another newjack turncoat reverse-elitist.
Lately Iv been trying to correct this by revisiting some of my old listening habits and theres been one consistent similarity that struck me – most of the production was at the very least daecent and actually pretty bangin a lot more often than id expected it to be. While it rarely took many risks, surprisingly little of it was the boring geeksauce that id anticipated. I feel pretty proud of that fact cos while 15 year old me may have had a warped perception of what good rapping was I never fully adopted the worst ELEMENT of jansportery, having that naSears jones for elevator music. No $pitta.
Dilated Peoples, Jurrasic 5, Sunz of Man- while obviously from a time before the wu-name generator and most of their vocals very much left something to be desired, ** all had beats. Especially Dilated, my favourite song of theirs was always the Defari solo though so obviously my inner G was tryna tell me something. Trade Money still kinda holds up too I think. This too:
The main revelation for me out of all this looking back is People Under The Stairs, or more specifically their 2006 album Stepfather. While their earlier work could be used as a scared-straight detterant for any kid you catch rockin a rap minus lies t-shirt, *** Stepfather is a pretty good departure where they got their act together by takin the stick out their arse, having production that isnt all dry shite horn-loops and rapping thats about more interesting things than rap, rapping and digging for rap songs. They still say shit like “real rap” though:
They stepped up their production, adding in more upbeat carnival/funk type shit and taking some of the elements of their old style (jazz samples, filtered basslines etc) and making them way less muddy & snooze-worthy.
The most notable thing I found was their self-awareness, its like they took every snarky message board comment **** about them as constructive criticism and tried to apply it (“backpackin rhyme book not a good look” is one of the many references, which mostly seem heart-felt and not pandering at all.) and by and large, they succeed. They even make a Hip Hop VS Rap/Ego Trippin pt.2 song thats actually not pointlessly derivative (as in of the likes of those two songs, obviously the whole point is that its derivative.) because its about old LA rap! Maybe its just me but hearing Low Profile and 2nd II None shout-outs is pretty appealing. I mean they even sample 40 at one point, which surprised me to be honest.
Its far from flawless, their humour and style is often really corny but usually in a way thats really endearingly earnest, the reason thats fairly forgivable where if most other rappers did the same itd be horrible is down to them embueing every song with this vibe that theyr having fun *****, which feels genuine and not contrived. Even when their were grown-ups now reflective songs veer into mawkishness that feeling of sincerity rescues them from being complete cheez-fests.
Its pretty obvious from my half-hearted praise I dont want to oversell them but they do a pretty admirable job of switching up their old failings, (a lot more so in Double K’s case, who while less technically proficient is more charismatic in this kinda charmingly goofy way.) and the production while not mind-blowing is some nice easy listening barbeque music
And yes all of this was very backhanded but I dont think it contradicted the point I was trying to make, a lot of the complaints people have about these groups are valid but too often they throw the baby out with the bathwater, they have their flaws but that doesnt neccesarily negate their positive attributes. With that said, Im probably just gonna try and bag them Expansion Team instrumentals.