What would hip-hop be without them?
Rich in word play that is executed with precise precision and and told with the tightest technique. Double-entendres that hold weight, leaving you to press pause for a minute and wait. Wait so your mind can catch up and correlate, to the mind fu*ks you were just given in the name of the great, hip-hop debate. Similes that are as vivid as your deepest memory, like keys to the piano and strings to a guitar – a necessity they are. Metaphors filled with words that bite you – cure you – feed you. We need the lyricist to really hear the beauty that captures the good, the bad and the ugly.
The lyricist is one of the most significant ingredients in hip-hop because they give us substance, content and challenge us to really use and open up our minds when we are listening. The entire listening experience and process compels you to analyze critique or just relate.
Can you name the last album or track, or even verse that you listened to when you had to stop. Rewind. Then play again to catch the meaning, the purpose behind bars so packed full you got lost between each breath? The lyricist that takes words and manipulates them into something so forceful that you are now mentally breaking down each verse like a riddle – decoding – pulling each piece apart to put them back together again. When you finally get to this point you have a deeper understanding of what the track is a bout – its interpretation can be subjective, like a piece of art.
When you hear a verse that is so creatively complex or an album that is built on concept you are able to step back and see it in its entirety, appreciate it as a full body of work. The lyricists can do this because, like poetry and literature, it is captured through words that create vivid imagery that intensifies a person’s reaction and increases the desire to listen closely. When a picture is painted to you through words and a beat that keeps you full, you can not only hear the words, but you can see them.
Everyone has one or more lyricists that they regard as the greatest. That’s the point. It’s an art form that is completely individual to each artist that some will praise while others will dismiss. That’s the point. Like all great literature it seldom comes without its critics. A lyricist that speaks on a topic has often crafted a track with such a clear vision and sewn together each piece so carefully that it materializes into what we now argue as some of the greatest and classic records of all time.
We need the lyricist because without them there is no debate, no deeper meanings explored or wrongs being exploited. We need the lyricist because they are the ones that tell stories in a way that others can’t. We need the lyricist because hip-hop is one of the only genres that prides itself – and rightly so – on a raw skill that sets the bar for genres of music. Long live the lyricist.
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