How important are lyrics in hip-hop music?

February 20th, 2009

I guess the the answer to this question will depend on who you ask. An MC will probably tell you it’s the lyrics that make a song a good song, while a hip-hop DJ will most likely say it’s the beat.

Being a DJ, I share the second opinion. I really appreciate a good rhyme and a creative message/story. But I’m really sick of the most commonly used topics? My problem with lyrics nowadays is that a lot of hip-hop lyrics consist of boring “mine is bigger than yours” type of punch line crap. There is nothing wrong with battle lyrics and punch lines… at an actual battle. Even on a record it’s alright, as long as they have something about them that makes them interesting and gives them at least a bit of depth. Unfortunately, that’s pretty rare in today’s hip-hop music. Of course there are exceptions and I am aware that there are quite a few MCs and crews out there who do decent stuff, but compared to the amount of crap you find out there… it’s the ratio that’s not right . As Jeru the Damaja put it: “99 point 9 percent of you niggaz ain’t shit!” Sad, but true.

When I started collecting records I didn’t give a shit about the lyrics of the tracks I gought. In fact I didn’t understand them, because my English wasn’t good enough at the time. So I could care less. I bought records because the beat sounded good to me. As my English got better though, I couldn’t even listen to some of my older 12″s, coz they didn’t have an instrumental track on them, and the vocal version just made me wanna poke myself in the eye with something sharp. They all had to go in the bin eventually.

So I guess my conclusion to this topic is: Lyrics can potentially add real value to a track, but if they don’t, leave them out and don’t ruin the beat.

A plain beat with no lyrics can still be good music. Lyrics without a beat is not even music.

Just my opinion anyway.


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