SOTBMusic: Diversity is Key

In the month-plus since Nipsey Hussle was tragically gunned down, I have had his track “Rap Niggas” on repeat. Interspersed between the latest indie jam that hits my ear, 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, and a few other gems, the track has become a rally cry for being different than your typical artist/person for me, as well as for being realer than real.

That’s not to say I’m Nipsey. Never that. I don’t have the time or stupidity to make Jussie Smollett-level claims about who I am. Besides, people like me being the only SOTB and not “the new” or “the short” or “the Baltimore” someone else.

As my intro may indicate, this could get a bit rant-y. Apologies in advance and I’ll try to keep it focused as possible.
Originality is something that, while it appears in the game these days in spades, is somehow still missing in the actual music distinct talents put out. Either you’ll have someone making an Auto-Tuned turn-up track, someone dismissing that style/calling it wack, or someone being overly raunchy to the point of parody on tracks. Even in the underground/indie scene, there seems to be not as much distinction in artists. I love hearing artists who aren’t like “these…rap niggas,” not rappers who, while they look different, sound just like what you’d hear on the radio.
I get why people like Blueface on some levels. The kid has an E-40/Lil B off-kilter sort of flow to him. It’s unlike most of what’s out there. However, his subject matter is still your typical mainstream rap trappings. 
“But, Speed, people should talk about what they know. Anything else is fake,” you may say. I get that. However, I’d like to think that people want a mix in their music–mainstream and otherwise. There’s a place for raunchy sex lyrics, there’s a place for getting high AF and turning up, there’s a place for horrorcore lines about your opposition. Do you. All I’m saying is that there’s a place for diversity. Nothing needs to sound the same. We already have many artists who look different. We have rappers with different hairstyles and colors, different sizes and shapes, different genders and sexual identities. Now, let’s put that originality into the actual music.
With that in mind, people gravitated towards “Middle Child,” even folks who aren’t your typical J. Cole fans, makes perfect sense. 
The man positions himself as being right in the middle of the stuck-in-the-90s rap fans and artists and the kids on drugs he wants to preach to. This middle ground explains why songs like “A Lot” work so well. He talks to the kids and the old heads in a way that isn’t condescending, showcasing the best–and worst–of each mindset. Although, sometimes it feels like neither side really wants to hear what the other’s putting down.
Hell, I feel like a middle child myself at times. As a writer (and former artist), I want to like the latest songs, but I also enjoy lyricism. I want to turn up at times, but not many people turning up to Lupe Fiasco or MF DOOM or Joey Bada$$. I want lyricism, but Migos isn’t necessarily about “BARS.” You’re not going to see anyone strip to “Get By” and you’re not going to have many thought-provoking conversations while “Bands’ll Make Her Dance” blares from the speakers. I don’t want a catch-all artist, though, because different people are good at different things. 
My hang-up with music these days is that I crave originality in my music. You can talk about the same things, but there’s got to be a different approach to it. No two people live the same life, even if they’ve gone through the same things. I’ve been homeless and been involved in dark things, but I’m not going to rap about it like, say, a Future or an XXXTentacion or even a Jay-Z. Lil Wayne has money but he’s not going to rap about his riches like a Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre has his hand in various enterprises, but he won’t rap like a Diddy. Do you see my trepidation with newer artists and where my disdain for music comes from at times?
What makes it worse is that media outlets, as they get money for the amount of traffic they bring in (and what’s “hot” brings in traffic–also, what stupid things people say, but that’s another story), we can sometimes get countless pieces on the same artist or the same song or the same “wave.” I believe that people should be able to do what they feel makes them happy (or what they can live with). I just wish for diversity in music.
I guess it comes down to people talking about their interests, stories, lives, and so on and continuing to do so even if it doesn’t exactly fit a mold. Again, I’m not saying turn down your turn up or “dumb down” your rappity-rap. I just like diversity and your fans will appreciate you talking about different things at different points. To the sites, let’s try to talk about every style of rap–not just the ones who make you the most money. You’re in control of narratives, so let’s try to get more than two or three narratives out there. Audiences will thank you for it. Who knows? You may end up making more bank for that.

But, what do I know, right? I’ve just lived on both sides of the music fence for a good twenty years.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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