Rap Appreciation 101

If you're not fond of hip-hop, what might you need to know to like it better?

On the use of samples rather than recording instruments

"Joe: I wanted to get you to tell that story about when you were talking to your mother-in-law about painting….

Mr. Supreme: Oh, yeah, and we were arguing, 'cause she was saying I didn't make music. That it's not art….She really didn't understand at all, and we argued for about two hours about it. Basically, at the end she said…if I took the sounds, it's not mine—that I took it from someone.

And then I explained to her: What's the difference if I take a snare drum off of a record, or I take a snare drum and slap it with a drum stick? OK, the difference is gonna be the sound. Because when it was recorded, it was maybe a different snare, or had a reverb effect, or the mic was placed funny. It's a different sound. But what's the difference between taking the sound from the record or a drum? It's the sound that you're using, and then you create something. You make a whole new song with it.

And she paints, so I told her, 'You don't actually make the paint. ... You're not painting, 'cause you don't make the paint.'…But that's what is is; it's like painting a picture."

"…Mr. Supreme relates the common experience of hip-hop producers being questioned about whether or not hip-hop is really music. Whenever I speak about hip-hop production, this is almost always the second question I'm asked. As I take pains to point out, it is actually a question about what the word 'music' means, and it contains the hidden predicate that music is more valuable than forms of sonic expression that are not music. If one believes that only live instruments can create music and that music is good, then sample-based hip-hop is not good, by definition. The real question, in other words, is 'Can you prove to me that hip-hop is good?' And the appropriate answer, in my opinion, is 'No, because it depends on what you personally consider to be valuable; hip-hop is what it is.' This is essentially what Mr. Supreme is doing by creating an analogous argument about painting: if you believe that musicians should make their own sounds, then hip-hop is not music, but, by the same token, if you believe that artists should make their own paint, then painting is not art. The conclusion, in both cases, is based on a preexisting and arbitrary assumption."

—Joseph G. Schloss. Making Beats: The Art of Sample-based Hip-hop.


Lack of harmonic complexity

Themes and language

[ Hip-Hop ]