The overwhelming commercialization of hip-hop shouldn’t hide the gems from sight, just like a famous Kenny G doesn’t mean jazz is dying. There’s value in popular mediocrity though: you can quickly tell whether someone knows anything about the genre they profess to love (my readers who praise Eminem will recognize themselves and silently shame themselves into acquiring some taste).
This week I listened to Cee-Lo‘s first album and to a Sixtoo compilation released earlier this year. Both are well worth the attention, the second is significantly darker than the first (not unlike a DJ Shadow for instance – not that’s there’s anything wrong with that in my book!). What else? Dizzee Rascal’s second record was good so there’s substance behind the hype while De La Soul’s latest was underwhelming. This tells me one thing, I have to discover other new names who got started in the last 5 years or so. Seems there’s a whole wave of quality indie hip-hop I’m only peripherally aware of.
Being an ecclectic music lover (the soundtrack for this post is Limehouse Blues by Grappelli and Kessel) is a blessing but it also gives you the true measure of your ignorance. It’s a long road before you’re anything but a dabbler in any genre. My mp3 collection is currently at about 61,000 tracks but if I look at the jazz slice within it which accounts for about 21% of the total, well that’s only 1,400 albums or so. Jazz alone is so big that this is but a drop in the sea. Ok, probably a good sample because I started from best-of lists of supposedly essential records and I took it from there in several directions (be bop, fusion of various strands, soft jazz, there are many ways to dice jazz). To put things in perspective, there were 8,000 new jazz CDs published last year alone.
And of course there’s not just jazz, or just music, or just art, to learn and enjoy and create. The idea that we humans have to die only a little less ignorant than at birth is revolting and it’s our destiny to do something about it.