What Happened to Skillz?

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The idealistic principles of Hip Hop at its core are Peace, Love, Unity and (safely) Having Fun (Afrika Bambaataa, KRS ONE). peace-love-unity-fun-fatnice-vinyl-lead

It is expressed most often thru other principles like Originality, Concept and Skills. Originality was the lynch pin distinguishing us from them, Hiphoppa from non-Hiphoppa, originators from biters.


Originality was a clearly observed rule at one time in hip-hop music. Concept, in addition, is what drives a person to make a song. In the beginning of rap music, the concepts were admittedly weak party rhymes. They were made mostly of catchy phrases and trendy rhetoric strung together in rhyme to keep a party-goers limited attention. Then “The Message” performed by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, solidified the idea that rap songs could have a concept and message. This became the most powerful aspect of a rap song. Rap has the ability to convey a message and provide a formerly unheard of perspective, to those immersed in the mainstream. It was a way for those in the mainstream to see what took place in the minds and lives of those in the Hip Hop Kulture.


Melle Mel


Lastly, Skills is what separates the dope emcees from the OK rappers. Skills, is what made Rakim a legend of wordplay. Skills separate those who do rap from those who should be rapping because of their gift. Skills, is the difference between a professional and an amateur.

In becoming popular, rap music lost what made it truly Hip Hop Kulture and settled for what makes it more acceptable to a mass which does not care for depth or distinction. Pop music has always been that. It is meant to appeal to the widest audience thru generic, surface level concepts which borrow from other genres. Today’s popular rap does this by borrowing from hip-hop music. This goes against the ideas of originality and concept because the pop artist seeks only to appeal to the formulas which have already proven successful. That, by definition is unoriginal. That is biting.

* from the book Hip Hop know what I’m sayin by Kurt Nice (paperback available on Amazon.com)

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Kurt Nice

Kurt Nice aka Kurtiss Jackson is a behind the scenes pioneer in the Hip Hop Kulture, creating the first nationally distributed video mix tape series, Shades of Hip Hop, in the late 1990s. Since touring the country with the Stop the Violence Movement and the Temple of Hip Hop as KRS-ONE’s National Marketing Director, Kurt Nice has been a constant commentator on conscious Hip Hop and its relevance to the new rap music of today, through radio and cable appearances. contact Kurt at info@hiphoplives.net

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