I have a hate hump. I've carried it with pride my entire life.
(The Late Prophet Bill Hicks described the hate hump as a metaphorical growth on the backs of some people that bulge with stored hate, much like a camel's hump serves as an internal water reservoir. The hate hump reserves are expanded when one journeys out into the world and witnesses blatant acts of stupidity and superficiality.)
And nothing fills my hate hump faster than walking into work on a Saturday morning, plopping down into my leather, ergonomically crafted chair and reading the following email in response to my claim that legendary hip-hop artists are not well represented in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
The email read:
"The hip-hop giant's ... lol ... What a bunch of filthy crap. I'll say this about hip-hop, rap, gangsta ... It give your average punk with absolutely NO musical ability to make it in the music business. I can't even get mad anymore, its actually funny. I shake my head and laugh. What would any of these clowns do if they had to play an instrument ... Run dmc an important band, WOW! ... thats a hot one ... Cheers."
I find the ideas suggested within that message far more troubling than the tortured grammar, spelling, etc. in which they were delivered.
One of the base attacks that base people fire at hip-hop is this idea that MCs possess a second-tier talent as compared with musicians who play instruments.
Every time I write about hip-hop in these pages, I receive at least one email comparable to the one above.
Why? Do they have some sixth sense that tells them my hate hump is running low and needs an infusion?
No. I suspect this knee-jerk reaction toward placing a value judgement on someone who plays a guitar in a band versus an MC who spits lyrics into a mic comes from a cultural ignorance that transcends generations.
I'm about halfway through my second read of Adam Bradley's brilliant book "Book of Rhymes," which is a study of poetic forms found in hip-hop lyrics, ranging from Melle Mel, he of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five fame, all the way to Kanye West.
Bradley highlights centuries-old poetic forms such as the ballad and iambic pentameter used by MCs since the early '80s.
After reading Bradley's book and watching "Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap," in which Ice-T interviews MCs from across the country to ask them to explain their creative process, I realized that my love of words lends me to an appreciation of hip-hop.
The Ice-T movie showed MCs Nas, Eminem and KRS-One pouring over their notebooks, describing how and why to place words and rhymes in certain places.
Eminem, in particular, talked about graphing his sentences and then erasing words buried in his lines and replacing them with ones that rhyme with the ones at the end of the sentence or the beginning of the next line.
Ah, I thought, he's practicing internal rhyming. This dude from Detroit is a word craftsman, and a talented one.
But he doesn't play an instrument.
I'm not saying you have to like hip-hop because the MCs who have mastered the form are word wizards. In the end it's about taste.
But don't be like the guy who sent me that email and sell some half-cocked theory that true musicians play instruments.
If fact, I'd go a step further and argue that rock 'n' roll allows some to achieve legend status who didn't even know how to play their instruments.
Rappers don't get the luxury of relying on charisma alone. If you want to earn respect and admiration in hip-hop, you have to endure the rap battle scene like Nas and the members of the Wu-Tang clan fought in New York. And then you have to complete a book of rhymes that will be compared harshly with those that came before you. More importantly, your rhymes will be placed next to some dude in a nearby neighborhood who is trying to make his name in the world. And if you don't stack up, you don't earn the respect.
Sure, there are joke MCs such as Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, but they are largely forgotten aside from desperate appearances on reality rehab shows.
The legends earned their way by mastering their craft and proving they belonged with the great ones.
I'll leave you with the words of Q-Tip of Tribe Called Quest: "Rap is not pop/ and if you call it that then stop."