The year 2012 has been somewhat of a renaissance for rap music. A variety of game changers have been streaming out of Los Angeles recently, notably Odd Future and Kendrick Lamar, who are active participants in this revival of the genre. They have established their own styles and are some of the first to have gained significant attention strictly through the Internet.
It’s been a busy year; Lamar just released his major label debut,
on Oct. 23, Odd Future dropped The OF Tape Vol.2, Frank Ocean released his own side project, Channel ORANGE and even old timer Nas came out with Life is Good. The industry continues to change which makes it an exciting time to explore new territory.
“Music labels are falling by the wayside, they’re losing money fast,” said Marc Peters, who teaches the course Hip-Hop: Past, Present, Future here at Concordia. Peters attributes the changes within the industry to the failure of major labels to take the Internet seriously, early on.
“[Music labels] have been floundering trying to keep up with technology but people are already ahead of the game,” he said.
Peters likens collective groups like Odd Future to the L.A. based punk rock and ska groups of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
“They’re very similar,” he said. “Some people would denounce them because of their posturing, they’re bowing to the lowest common denominator. They really lay it on thick, they’re really offensive and that’s also part and parcel of the punk rock culture. So those guys might actually be founding something which is going to flourish not just into a phenomena but into a style,” he continued.
“If you look at the origins of hip-hop in the Bronx and if you compare it to what we see as hip-hop contemporarily, which is like a quagmire of stereotypical images that are usually not challenged in their own field of representation within corporate popular media, that’s where things are changing.” said Peters.
Along the same lines pop-music critic Sasha Frere-Jones recently wrote about Lamar in the New Yorker: “He’s the rapper of the moment who, perhaps, will not simply reenact cliches of rap’s past but change them, take them apart and turn them into something else.”
Montreal rapper Ceas Rock is in the midst of completing his latest project, Zero Gravity, which he says has been influenced by recent developments in the rap and hip-hop scene.
“It’s 90 per cent done, and a lot of it is influenced by this so-called change,” he said. “It’s not even to say I’ve changed my approach, but there has been a shift.” When asked what he thought about the Lamar phenomena, Ceas Rock said: “He’s created his own style; he’s good, he’s honest.”
Montreal-based rapper Markings admits that Lamar’s latest release was one that he’d been looking forward to. “Lamar’s album was the last hip hop related project that really got me excited about the music, the one before that was Action Bronson, and that was almost a year ago,” said Markings.
He is also bit skeptical, though, about what he calls “the rap-savior complex.”
“Lamar is not going to save rap music, Lamar is not the heralding of a new age. He’s one dude that made it on his own terms,” said Markings.
Markings put out his debut album, Odd Man Out, late last year and since has been keeping busy with several different projects. He is working alongside Professor Marc Peters and is the mastermind behind the second edition of Slang Rap Democracy, a hybrid panel discussion surrounding the Montreal hip-hop scene that is set to take place Nov. 23 at Concordia.
“I would argue that, despite the fact that my output is rap music, monotonous, rhythmic speech over instrumental beds, I don’t limit myself at that,” said Markings. “I don’t think that any self-respecting artist should limit themselves to the genre that they create.”
Check out the event page for “Slang Rap Democracy II: Decyphering The Cypher” on Facebook.