Following on from my recent post about the need for more vocals as part of the whole beat renaissance movement and the meeting point between hip hop and electronic music, I came across this rather interesting article in the LA Weekly yesterday which makes the following point, in contrast to what I was saying:
More than that, Chung and his contemporaries both here and abroad represent a groundswell of producers who make hip-hop-based music that can thrive apart from the MC culture. In the past, with a few significant exceptions, a rap instrumentalist’s reputation was only as good as that of his vocal counterpart. The recent comingling of boom-bap, dance music and ambient strains is changing that. Imagine hip-hop as high school. The MCs are the jocks, the DJs are the nerds, and after so many years of ceding the choicest bits of their lunch to jocks, the nerds are eating the whole damn thing.
“Someone told me a lot of MCs in L.A. are frustrated because the producers are all going instrumental,” says Chung, who has only contributed beats to two local vocalists, Busdriver and Low End Theory staple Nocando. “I don’t think I’m too interested in working with rappers. When I got into hip-hop I was in third grade. My first tape was Warren G’s Regulate, and my first CD was Doggy Style, neither of which makes sense to a little kid in Cerritos. Since I didn’t understand the slang, I listened to it on a musical level, and the flow was more percussive — that’s what I responded to.”
I quite like the way the writer put it, and hearing Nosaj’s take on it is also interesting. The article is about Nosaj’s recent rise to fame and Low End Theory establishing itself as the night of reference for the movement on the West Coast.
I still believe there is a need for more vocalists, though as I said the key very much lies in the balance – too much or not enough of one thing can only lead to a certain amount of frustration on the part of the listeners but also the music makers. I’m not asking for vocals on everything, just like I’m now getting a little tired of the majority of the music being purely instrumental. How this moves on over the rest of the year should prove interesting. Vocals have the ability to make the music more appealing to a broader audience, though at the same time it seems that the focus on the producer is also becoming a worthy attraction in its own right, as I witnessed at the recent Flying Lotus live show. Vocals could also prove to be the one thing that stops the whole ‘scene’ and movement from imploding under the weight of attention and expectation.
As a bonus, here’s a short video of Nosaj performing live: