Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some Thoughts on Alternative Hip Hop

Two nights ago I attended the final day of Rock the Rapids. To be honest, I wasn't expecting much.  It was hosted by WSNX and included such fantastic acts as Baby Bash, Aaron Fresh, and Shontelle.  Those were mediocre performances that I expected, and many people enjoyed them and the Top 40 power they employ.  The low point was definitely when Cody Simpson, the next reincarnation of Justin Bieber, performed.  He is younger than our favorite 15 year old Canadian and happens to hail from Australia.  He can't sing very well - at least not without auto-tune, and he didn't even impress when playing the guitar on the song he wrote that "meant a lot to him".  Perhaps, but I'm not going to trust a 14-ish year old kid about love.

Good thing we had some good people to sit by, and our buddy Michael - the concession kid - coming by to throw ice at us in the heat.  Yeah, this concert happened to be outdoors at 5/3 Ball Park on just about the hottest day Grand Rapids has seen in a while.

Now for the redeeming factors.  Headliner B.o.B. and an early performance by Chiddy Bang managed to make the concert entirely worth the $10.45 that tickets cost.  Both of these artists happen to fall under the label of "Alternative Hip Hop", which is kind of an umbrella term for artists making hip hop outside of traditional stereotypes in beats and lyrics.  Kanye West is probably one of the biggest names in the alternative hip hop and has pulled it into the mainstream.

Kid Cudi is another artist to note, and although it didn't get great reviews from places like Pitchfork, his debut album is solid. Cudi managed to team up with other artists like MGMT and Ratatat giving a unique sound to his album.  An appreciation and use of indie musicians has increased in alternative hip hop.  In his mixtape, Cudi sampled Band of Horses and he has also used Vampire Weekend.

B.o.B. and Chiddy Bang are similar to this.  B.o.B. has largely stuck to his own material, but also used and changed up some Vampire Weekend in his song "The Kids".  He has also strayed from straight rapping and does some of his own guitar playing and crosses into indie/rock at times.  This was the major complaint from Pitchfork reviewers and a reason for the mediocre review for B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray.  I like the cross over - he doesn't restrict himself to the hip hop genre; however, he is best at rapping and at times that is missing.

Chiddy Bang is even more exciting.  Chiddy Bang is made up of two guys creating a fusion genre of hip hop and electronica using sampling.  Many of the samples are from alternative or indie sources.  For example the following are all used in Chiddy Bang songs: Ratatat, Notorious B.I.G., Passion Pit, Belle and Sebastian, MGMT, Sufjan Stevens, Hot Chip, Gorillaz, La Roux, and Major Lazer.

No matter how mediocre Pitchfork reviews groups like these, I think I'll continue to listen.  They are catchy and make things interesting by exploring sound and crossing boundaries.  Now, just to wait for the new Kanye album, which according to Spinner features a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Like a skit on the Chiddy Bang mixtape, The Swelly Express, says: It's like rap, but not rap.  I love it.

1 comment:

  1. I tweeted this at you a few weeks ago, but you really need to check out Doomtree. I've grown particularly fond of Dessa, Paper Tiger, and Cecil Otter. <3 Minneapolis Alternative Hip-Hop scene.