The Search for the Perfect Verse
The art in hip hop is ignored, and at the sake of sounding pretentious; hip hop is for intellectuals. Generally, poetry, in the traditional sense, is short form. Poetry, or good poetry at least, is almost exclusively allegory. Hip Hop, to the casual observer, appears to be made almost exclusively out of metaphors. As much as I disagree with that premise, it is at least believed to be true.
Form is, however, a side note. Tone is what dictates mainstream America’s understanding and idea of what hip hop is. Which is interesting. Mainstream America has no opinion on what is “not” hip hop outside of the very obvious examples. Sort of like mainstream America can easily recognize that the fragle rock theme song is not hip hop.
And herein lies the problem hip hop’s current tone does not lend itself to the artistic space necessary for our current artists to craft the perfect verse. Perfection is as much a function of timing as it is talent. Our current tone is “let’s get ready to get offended.” Hip hop has become safe. Sure, rappers talk about sex (graphically), violence (gratuitously), and money (lavishly) but they really aren’t advancing art generally or hip hop specifically.
The current iteration of hip hop is obsessed with genre bending and experimentation. Artists are now trying to out weird each other. Rappers used to be a tool the community used to tell stories and within that artists had to figure out how to tell those stories in an interesting way. The perfect hip hop album is a soundtrack to sitting on a park bench or smoking a bowl with loved ones or dealing with depression and suicidal ideology and the perfect verse is the truth of those scenes.
Hip Hop sounds good. The last Wu-Tang album was fairly dope but it sounded to perfect. Picture RZA mixing and mastering the album with the precision that one would employ when scoring a modern day Sound of Music score in a studio with a window in the hallway and air conditioning and internet and paid interns; that’s what the album sounded like. Sonically perfect, no ambient noise. No poping from the mic, perfect. Now, picture RZA in a basement surrounded by a sea of goons, recording to analog, guys are drinking and fighting. It’s dark and ugly and that is how 36 Chambers sounded. Sonically; barely mastered but artistically perfect.
The perfect verse is made in dark, smelly, messy places. The perfect verse comes from that place we don’t like to visit. Hip Hop is more “street” than ever but that “street” is a clean avenue with smiling pedestrians and buses that are never late and sadly, the Perfect verse isn’t there.
Travis A. Williams, Esquire
* Travis Williams is a lawyer, emcee, and freelance journalist for HiPNOTT.