To quote Lupe Fiasco, "I used to hate hip hop." Before I stumbled headlong into the world of battle rap and the west coast web of MCs thanks to Eminem and Dr. Dre, I only viewed rap as a novelty genre. Far removed from the gritty streets that begat rap's 90s incarnation, my suburban ass found rap's opulence-focused and repetitive subject matter odious and inaccessible. However, once I heard "My name is" by Eminem, I became a fan. That's not to say that I immediately recognized Eminem's proficiency as a wordsmith—not at all. Eminem just made me laugh. Unlike other rappers that constructed an impenetrable and rugged persona, Eminem didn't take himself seriously and loaded his bars with jokes and topical humor. It wasn't until I started to learn his songs that I realized that the only thing Eminem took seriously was his lyrics.
Through Detriot's favorite white boy—sorry, Ted Nugent—I became immersed in the mechanics of MCing and lyrics. Stacking as many syllables as possible in a punchline that contained triple entendres became the hallmark of quality lyrics in my eyes. Anything else was just "party rap" or "commercial rap." For a while, my opinion was the prevailing one in the culture, but through the rise of Southern hip hop in the 00s, the genre's tectonic plates began to shift underneath my feet.
Cut to today, and rappers are barely intelligible and focused on melody first and "penmanship" last. Rap no longer cares about "lyrics," and I couldn't be happier. Even before I dropped my bias around what "real rap" was, I began to grow tired of having to scrutinize my music upon every first first listen. The process of decoding oblique pop culture references concealed behind a Rubik's Cube of syllables started to become more tedious than enjoyable. I still enjoy artists like Kendrick Lamar and Tech N9ne, but I'd be lying if I said Young Thug and Future don't dominate my playlist based on the sheer amount of fun they're having on any given verse.
In the video linked above, Hip Hop Madness explains how lyrical rap lost its luster, why so many "old heads" resist the change, and how this change in perspective has challenged artists on both sides to broaden their ideas of rap.