Over the past two years, hip-hop music has become an ever-increasing wasteland of desolation, lacking originality, concept and skillfully crafted lyrics or soulful beat production. Not only is the lyrical prowess as low as it has ever been in Hip Hop Kulture, but the beats too are dry, robotic and devoid of soul. Nowadays, desperate fame-whores, pimp out their integrity, searching for a get-over, down any popular avenue, to chase a dollar. To my dismay, I have been psychological assaulted by each new low, main-stream rap music makes the World witness. Today, however, I heard the most brilliant interview about hip-hop beat production that I have probably ever heard.
On National Public Radio’s (NPR) daily talk show, Fresh-Air, hosted by Terry Gross, a guest named Adrian Younge blessed us all with a detailed description of how artistic the beat-making process can be. Younge is a Deejay and producer who, as you may have heard, is coming out with a project he conceived, and produced for Ghostface Killa called, 12 Reasons to Die. Not only did the 34 year old producer discuss the detailed 1960’s Italian crime/horror movie soundtrack concept he used to create the tracklist, but he also gave insight into his love/hate relationship with hip-hop music. “I can’t really listen to hip-hop that much anymore. You know, I mean, there’s a lot of great hip-hop out there, but I’m not an avid fan of hip-hop. I always say to people that I left hip-hop in ’97, meaning that I departed from listening to predominantly hip-hop and just started really getting into records from the late ’60s, early ’70s,” Adrian told Terry Gross during the 40 minute chat.
An intuitively curious host, Gross, gave Adrian fertile ground to tread on and ample time to do it, with her perfectly-pitched line of questioning. She even made an audible gasp of agreement late in the show, when Younge stated that he sometimes got inspiration from old-school, soft-core porn instrumentals. The two shared an in-depth conversation about the creation of music, the likes of which you would hear from an aged jazz musician. Yet, this talk came from a 34 year old hip-hop producer who confessed that he also enjoys the emotional resonance of Opera.
Adrian spoke about, how his disappointment with hip-hop music’s lack of creativity lead him to seek out heavy, soulful tracks of the 1960’s and 70’s and then ultimately learning to play instruments. He also has an entirely analog throwback album featuring Delfonics lead singer, William Hart called, Adrian Younge presents the Delfonics. The lead single, Terry played a snippet of called, Stop and Look (and You Have Found Love), is distinctly Delfonic soul yet “raw and dirty” hip-hop because of the drums, Adrian says. He’s right. The beats do sound perfectly hip-hop, as if you were listening to a sample that spread out into a whole song, without the corny, non-hip-hop changes in it.
The best part of the interview was not the good music or the celebrity collabos with Hart or Ghostface, though. It was Younge’s exploratory description of how and why he makes music and these songs in particular. The levels of thought he used to create these inspired albums, was fully recounted on Gross’ program, something you would never hear on your local pop-rap station. There was no talk of poppin’ bottles, flossin’ or beefing with competition, it was just about the creative process of making beats. It didn’t matter what style the songs ended up being. The descriptive process of how he got there was enough to make you, at least want to hear, what these songs could possibly sound like. That is brilliant promotion. That is how you promote a project.
Sadly, most projects we hear today, are not this thought out and inspired. And honestly, the tracks I heard, do live up to their hype. Both the Delfonics throwback and the Ghostface project benefit from the in-depth backstory Younge described. It makes you want to listen for the nuances and subtleties Younge successfully embedded within the structure of the beats. And even though he says he doesn’t like hip-hop that much anymore, you can tell from his comments about being “…that guy who wants move the music forward by looking back,” just where he comes down on the preserving Hip Hop question. Adrian Younge is really a True School Hiphoppa, who is actually making hip-hop the classic way…with originality, concept and skillz.