By Ace Ha
Cliches are prevalent enough that there is a term describing them, and there is no shortage of them in hip hop. Having cut my teeth during rap's Golden Age and fully adopting the era's ethic of not biting, I'm probably more sensitive to the phenomenon, though. There are a grip of these tropes that have been crawling their way onto wax year after year, but these are the five that I hate most.
1) Little kids saying grown shit.
This was cute when I first started hearing it on some of Ice Cube's early solo joints; it has worn out its welcome in the twenty-some-odd years since. In much the same way that Another Bad Creation and Illegal fell flat, this trope was not built to last. The appeal is dependent on the juxtaposition of innocent child voices with words that would sound better from the mouth of your drunk uncle. Presumably, these kids are related to the artists themselves. Call me old fashioned, but I'm thinking that your kids' time would be better spent playing outside or reading than saying "motherfucker" on wax.
2) Songs about the craft.
Maybe some of you cats don't know: songs about the crafting of art is the CLASSIC sophomore cliche. It's a well-known joke that artists high off the success of their first joint wanna run out with an exposÈ of the industry. Artists ranging from Lynyrd Skynrd, The Rolling Stones and many other classic rock acts all the way up through GZA, Kid Cudi and Macklemore have gotten in on the act. WE GET IT, LABELS SUCK AND MUSIC AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE. Remember that the majority of people you hope to attract to your project don't give a FUCK about the nuts and bolts. Also, it ain't nothing new, so knock it the fuck off.
This ain't summer camp. The thing about skits is this: they don't hold up like songs do. Jokes offer diminishing returns with each repetition, and little gangster skits lack the visuals of a movie, so what the fuck? If you absolutely insist on a pun-filled comedy routine ("Joe mama," "Deez nuts") or gangster fantasy (the "drug deal gone south") at least have the decency to put it on a separate track on the album so I can skip it after the first time. There's nothing worse than "skit as intro!"
4) Long preambles.
It's been going on long enough: too many songs start with a crew of cats yelling indisciminately about their location and affiliations. Anybody not clear on where The WU is from? How about NWA? Is Game a Blood? If I'm listening to your album, there is a good possibility that I know what fucking borough, neighborhood, city or set you get down with. If I don't, I won't need every intro to every song you do to tell me; I'll get it after the very first time.
5) Psalms 23:4.
C'mon man: why is it that only the darkest shit from the Good Book ever makes appearances on rap albums? With all the uplifting joints in the bible, it's always the blood and death that gets play again and again. I get it, you're trying to create a mood or whatever, but at least could we drop something other than Psalms 23:4? There is a TON of other grim shit you can use. At this point it ain't even dark, it's just corny!
I guess that I"m just old-school, but why do something that has already been done ad nauseum? Bring something new to the table, for fuck's sake. Taking risks is what made the legends great; be a legend!