Thursday, February 25, 2010



Ok, don’t laugh; I know what you’re thinking. The term 'genius' is usually reserved for those intellectual types, the ones who changed the course of history through years of hard work and dedication. Well, although there is clearly that aspect to the term, nothing in life is that black and white. True hip hop comes from the same source as a lot of the men who shook up the world, the people that didn’t conform to society’s norms. Genius can be found in the creation of music which continues to endure, inspire and set standards.

It was Shopenhauer who said “The work of genius may be music, philosophy, painting, or poetry; it is nothing for use of profit. To be useless and unprofitable is one of the characteristics of genius; it is their patent of nobility”, while musician Karl Hyde (Underworld) describes genius as “People who continue to astound, astonish, surprise, delight, challenge, not conform and yet somehow keep body and soul together.”

I would say Mos Def is the emcee who best fits this description, besides his obvious rapping abilities, his body of work includes; performing spoken word poetry, singing to a high standard and reinventing himself further as an actor. His ability to think outside the box and show a level of excellence in whatever he chooses to pursue makes him to my mind a genius.

He has released music rapping over such diverse sounds as heavy metal and jazz, yet can do a convincing job of recreating country and western music. Through his complex lyricism, the feelings of entire demographs of people resonate within his music. His ability to put into words the struggles and worries of the poor makes him a valid champion of those without a voice in ways politicians could only hope to achieve, while Dave Chappelle even proclaims him to be a fine comedian.

Of course he is not the only example of a genius in hip hop, Rakim is an emcee who took the simple rhyming patterns of artists in the early 80‘s and dashed it with similes and uses of assonance, he can be considered a true innovator of the art, while KRS-One managed to define the music articulately through his philosophy and teachings over hard-core hip hop beats. To miss out on a generation of skilled emcees is to be ignorant to a culture which although misrepresented in mainstream media is relevant to the lives of so many.

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