Whenever i’m talking music with people its inevitable that difference in taste, style, genre and whatever else makes its way into the discussion to reveal deep set contentions people have with certain musical spaces. Generally, the most splitting reactions has come when country or hiphop is brought up. Which is interesting as both genres insist on the added element of race, is deeply rooted in American history and carries with it a certain level of cultural significance and stereotyping that places the ‘listener’ of such music in a box of their own. Don’t worry, this post isn’t meant to be a lecture, but still i’ve been thinking about if people have adverse reactions to music, is it just because it ‘doesn’t sound good’, or if dislike can stem from a miss-communication of the genre itself, a misrepresentation if you will of what it can offer combined with an ignorance of why it exists. And its important to know why music exists. Its important to know where a style was a birthed and why, and more importantly why it continues to flourish. For instance, with the vast world of hiphop, with its roots in the 70’s of New York City, mixing a heady cocktail of violence and poverty, it is fascinating to note that the genre is now one of the most popular, with an excessive focus on, well, excess.
Many people though do not note the sheer gigantism of the genre, which has room in it for the 50 cents, The Game’s, and DMX as well as the Lupe Fiasco’s, Gambino’s and Nas’s. Today, alongside this mini-discussion on the worth of hiphop, or my attempt to persuade people who have not given it a chance to listen to it I would like to introduce Clear Soul Forces. Hailing from Detroit, and made up of four young rappers, Laz, J-Roc, E-Fav, Ilajide (also the producer), the group excels at fresh rhymes combined with simple production. They are what some would say is ‘real hiphop’. Now i generally don’t like saying that about any artist. I don’t believe you have to sound like you grew up in the Bronx on the streets to be real hiphop (because fuck constricting labels even more than they already do). I also don’t believe hiphop is dead. Which seems to be a cool thing to say now. Groups like Clear Soul Forces, even if they sound more like the ‘golden age’ of the genre than A$AP does, their presence suggests a respect for the roots rather than a statement on the death of the genre itself. And in regards to what is and is not hiphop, anyone should be allowed to engage with a genre and bring their own flavor into it. With that said, hiphop is nothing without poetry, and an overpowering beat combined with an banal autotune phrase being repeated is not hiphop. You can’t take out the most important trait of a genre and still be a part of it. It would be akin to not wearing tap shoes when one tap dances. GET IT???? -__-
Clear Soul Forces though do play up the idea that they embody the genre wholeheartedly. Their looks are simple enough, seeming like comic book boys from the 90’s, without much focus on enormous wealth but highlighting their ability to rhyme fluidly to old school melodies. Even their music videos stress the simplicity of their ‘act’, rapping on street corners and parking lots, their whole ‘thing’ is being able to truly embody rhyme and rhythm. My whole spheel before on understanding a genre before deciding if you like it or not relates to Clear Soul Forces because i guess they make a fairly good textbook example of what hiphop ‘sounds like’, to the point where I think if you don’t like them at all, you probably will never really like hiphop as a whole. A Clear Soul Forces song carries with it all of the primary parts of the genre that come together to give a piece of music that distinct hiphop texture. So I suppose this is the crossroads, dear listener. I want you to give hiphop a chance, if you haven’t already, and do it by getting to know the basics. Good rap, good flow, good beats. Here’s a group that checks all those boxes.
Their really good.There’s also that. With themes focusing on lyrical bravado, a throwback to the old days, a narrative of the underdog rising up against the odds, projected through 4 distinct voices over smooth nostalgic movements of music, Clear Soul Forces are made up of all the things that make hiphop so damn good. And i have a real soft spot for rap that can illustrate how powerful poetry is without much gimmicks. Don’t get me wrong, I will wholeheartedly listen to Tyga’s ‘Dope’ on repeat for an entire Saturday, but my love for the genre comes down to hearing good flow, cheeky lyrics and sincerity. The ability to be both poetic and entertaining in an age where rudimentary quantifiable talent is no longer as clear cut as it once was. Simlpy put, hiphop is a genre in which I can tell most easily if someone is talented or if someone is just an asshole (I’m looking at you PAPOOSE).
I havn’t spent much time dissecting Clear Soul Forces as a group, but I think that might be the point. If you need much convincing to like what this group makes, I suppose then the genre of hiphop really isn’t your cup of tea. Whereas I could make the argument that you could genuinely dislike a Drake track while still being invested in hiphop music and what it brings to the table. For everyone who still hasn’t made up their mind on hiphop, I suggest exploring the reasoning behind the genre, and why it so consistently is used as a vehicle of asserting ones own worth. If we are to look at the roots of hiphop, deep into the street corners of the South Bronx, perhaps what we will see is an area of restless communication in which all the participants are looking for a vehicle of change, some way to express worth and value to a majority culture that had once deemed those communicators as irrelevant to the dialouge of the nation. Hiphop is a driving force of not only expression, but it is one of the most revealing genres of music, giving insight to the culture of a day and age, working to entertain as well as present the tension in our society, whether that be through word play, or sometimes through the superficiality of a song itself. I ask that you open your HEARTZ to Clear Soul Forces if your impressions of hiphop have all been confined to radio rap, or if the words hip and hop conjure up the image of only G-UNIT and the infamous magic stick. I mean, yes, thats hiphop too, and even that reveals something deeper about the 21st century. But take a minute and listen to the smaller guys, think about why someone is making music, how it involves history, talent, culture and the ability to tell a story. Don’t throw away a genre without getting to know all parts of it. I’m hoping this group can sway you just a bit to my side. I promise it’ll be sweet.