Change your opinion of rap music

Ramble, rant or reminisce, this is an artist’s opportunity to pen their own Clash article. This month Canadian maverick Chilly Gonzales wants to change your opinion of rap music!

“If you don’t like rap, then let me try to convince you.
Rappers remind me of my father, a classic old-school Hungarian hustler. As he himself told me, a Hungarian is one who “gets behind you in the revolving door but comes out in front.” So, when rappers like Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick started to flirt with a kind of capitalist revenge fantasy (proto-bling), I instantly identified with them as funky versions of my father. Think of me as the son of a rapper and you get the idea. (I almost called my forthcoming rap album ‘Capitalist Revenge Fantasy’ but then Kanye kind of OWNS the ‘Fantasy’ theme in rap album titles.)

I came up first with music wannabe virtuosos (I played in a Sting tribute band!) and later I flirted with the condescending, defensive posture of jazz musicians, and finally, I cut my professional teeth in the decidedly droopy-drawers, lazy, bearded milieu of indie rock in Canada. So strangely, rappers seemed like the only ones I could relate to.

Unapologetic in wanting success on their own terms, these guys were the first to start their own labels as a rite of passage, who respect the marketplace enough to care about crowd reaction, and therefore, their sales.

Rap is a meritocracy: the best ones are the most successful ones. Many don’t share this view, but they’re like people who live in Brooklyn: no-one REALLY wants to live in Brooklyn, they’d all rather live in Manhattan, but they have conspired to believe they wanted it that way. Alternative rappers can only DREAM of being on top but pretend that it’s a nightmare.

This means that I, by definition as a non-NBA rapper, am a failure as a rapper. Guilty as charged. I only said I was a musical genius, never the best rapper. (In fact, I might have been the worst MC at some point).

Rappers know the secret: that strategic business sense and artistic integrity can, and should, co-exist. Be thankful for what I call the Bukowski element of rap lyrics - usually pop stars and folksingers leave out the fun, messy, offensive parts of what runs through a poet’s brain.

Rap that was openly political was the right tone for the times. Every era deserves the rap it gets. Rap is now in its adolescence, and the pre-occupations of the teenager are the focus now: status, fashion sense, sex, elusive ‘swag’, seeming like a badass... It’s a lot less “political” than it used to be, but it’s also much less violent. But the materialism you hate in rap music is STILL the best social commentary we have. Wouldn’t it be pathetic to hear a rapper pretend he hadn’t risen to a new tax bracket?

Rap music is now ABOUT the effects of rap’s global domination: it answers the question, ‘what happens when these guys get into mansions and have no boundaries anymore?’ It’s basically an exciting movie plot.

So, if you don’t like rap, you don’t like the times we live in. That, or you are mildly racist. Your choice.”


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