Revenge of the Nerds: Backpack Rap Appreciation Thread

Corpsey

call me big papa
I've been listening to Soundbombing 1 and 2, Superrappin' and Lyricist Lounge over the last few days and rediscovering the modest pleasures that attend late 90's underground rap music.

Of course, you get some complete no hopers, some wild eccentrics who veer all over the place, a general lack of ambition to rock any but the most retrograde dancefloors, and half the songs (if not more) are about how other MCs aren't as good as the MC currently rapping, and built on those generic ''i've got ambition to make the right decisions and my mission is to die spitting not die in prison etc.'' constructions... BUT

Loads of great stuff too. And I appreciate the down-to-earth quality of it. It's quite rare for any of these rappers to claim to be Pablo Escobar. Also, the amateurishness of some of it feels quite liberating. There was that DIY aspect to it, the idea of cyphering on street corners etc.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Doubtless many of you will think 'oh, not ANOTHER thread about rap music!'

Make your own threads, sucka. :p
 

luka

Moderator
What's the stuff you like? How about a 10-15 song list in reciprocation for yesterday's UK r&b?
 

luka

Moderator
The stuff I remember enjoying was stuff from people who predated that scene but we're drawn into it eg monch, kool Keith etc
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Let me work on that.

One surprising thing for me is how much I enjoy Mos Def's music from that era. I've grown used to thinking he's a dweeb.
 

luka

Moderator
And also 7 eyes 7 horns, I love that as much as anything from the era
https://youtu.be/JHd7UNVnSsI

tried by 12, um....

At the risk of bringing the wrath of Crowley down upon us I quite liked early mos too
 
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Corpsey

call me big papa
The stuff I remember enjoying was stuff from people who predated that scene but we're drawn into it eg monch, kool Keith etc
Yeah - I mean, there was probably the same lack of quality control going into that scene as there is alleged to be nowadays with trap/mixtape rappers. Whereas artists like Kool G Rap and Monch were the products of a really competitive scene.

Real weirdos with borderline un-listenable styles like Thirstin Howl III were allowed in purely on the basis of being weird. And I actually quite like that. Also was surprised by how much I enjoy Company Flow's contribtuion to Soundbombing 2. El-P has absolutely no finesse as a rapper and even that I find perversely admirable.

Sir Menelik is a good example of a weirdo who was actually good. Remember 'So Intelligent' off Soundbombing? Him and Kool Keith rapping complete gibberish. Good stuff.
 

luka

Moderator
Probably done it last week but that's OK I've forgotten it. Roc marciano, ka and Griselda records keep a certain strain of this stuff alive although I don't find any of them all that compelling
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
I don't know that Roc Marciano has made a completely solid album but I absolutely love him at what I consider to be his best. Dr Yen Lo album is great, also.

I've got a nostalgic itch for New York rap, tbh. Fab's Friday Night Freestyles from last year briefly filled the hole blown in it by the rise of the South.

Actually I'd like to read Crowley's take on why NY rap went into decline.
 

luka

Moderator
I classify it as mannerism in an art history sense

(it being roc, ka, Griselda etc)
 
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Corpsey

call me big papa
Would mannerism not suggest a sort of duplication?

I think what Ka/Roc Marci are doing is distinct from 90's rap in terms of its production, its tone and mood, although obviously closely related.
 

luka

Moderator
No if it was duplication it wouldn't need a separate name it would be a continuation of the high renaissance house style!
 

luka

Moderator
Like mobb deep is high renaissance this is mannerism. Aesthetically accomplished but without cultural vitality
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
I find this art history/rap history idea fascianting and I want to see it more fully explored in a book. You did the Spotify list now write me a book.

I see what you're getting at. ROC Marciano to me is like Kool G Raps flow slowed down and then mixed with a sort of It Was Written era obsession with designer clothes, yachts, Mafiosi, etc. All over beats that obviously evoke the Wu Tang.

Leaving aside all these influences though I just think his style is very enjoyable to listen to on headphones on the train. He's weaving these images together with rhyme patterns, and the images are often memorable and unexpected like talking about "three drops of olive oil in the wok".

But yes this is what underground hip hop is, in a way, this refusal or inability to tap into popular taste, and instead to be deliberately esoteric and introverted
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
Did technology kill off NY hip hop? Not only the legal problems with sample clearance but also the rise of soft synth software making it easy to make electronic beats and taking all the grit out of sample beats?

I'm probably talking bollocks. But there's something over-smooth about the premier-a-like stuff I've heard in recent years (including Premier's).

But as you might say, the cultural vitality went into trap production. It's hard to see that ending atm but it will definitely decline at some point.
 

rubberdingyrapids

Active member
Like mobb deep is high renaissance this is mannerism. Aesthetically accomplished but without cultural vitality
thats a good description. explains why i admire roc marci and these guys but cant really engage with it. it sounds hermetically sealed, vaccum bag rap, disinterested in anything that might contaminate its purity (also seems like a sort of high minded take on raekwon, kool g rap etc).

ive not heard old rawkus in a long time but i was a total devotee. i knew i didnt like it as much as what was around just a few years earlier (didnt know why though), but i bought into the whole 'real hip hop' thing. i dont think the original late 90s artists thought they were being arty or anti-populist, they (and their fans) honestly thought they were carrying the torch and making hip hop how you were supposed to make it, and it was puffy and everyone else who were bastardising it. i liked a lot of the plain underground stuff, rather than the indie stuff, people like street smartz, godfather don, thirstin howl, scaramanga, el-p (fandam is one of the best things to ever come out of new york, its better than the cold vein IMO), etc. have a soft spot for ra the rugged man, and non phixion and necro (up to a point).
 
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Corpsey

call me big papa
Again I appreciate your POV but I think it's something of a mistake to characterise ka/rocmarci as 'high minded'. I think it's a question of atmospherics rather than intelligence. As for 'purity', a lot of the samples Marciano uses, for example, are hardly the type you'd hear on a Mobb Deep song, e.g.

I do think your description of vaccum-packed rap is apt, but I see that as a strength in the music, really - it seals you into its own world.

I guess what makes it seem austere is the lack of emotion in either rappers voice. It's all flat-toned, poker-faced, ice-cold. Although actually that DOES make me think of Mobb Deep. On the face of it its joyless. The joy in it comes from the exhilaration you feel (and which they must feel, one assumes) at the intricacy of the rhyme schemes.
 
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