It was the summer of 2012. I don't remember the exact date, but I do remember the events leading up to it.
There was a three or four week stretch when Chief Keef's name kept popping up. On Facebook. And Twitter. And thinkpieces. And in conversation. He was the hottest new name in hip-hop; divisive, polarizing, dangerous, gifted, charismatic, and prophetic. At least that's what I kept hearing. I couldn't make any judgments because I hadn't actually listened to any of his music yet. With new artists, I have a tendency to wait until I've heard their name mentioned 27,474 times before I decide to give them a shot. I do this because there's just too much new stuff to keep up with everyone. Also, I'm a lazy, old, grouchy hater.
Anyway, once the Chief Keef mentions reached a critical mass, I went to YouTube to listen to some of his work. Admittedly, I was anticipating it. There were so many strong opinions about his music that I'd figured, at the very least, it would be interesting.
I was wrong. Very wrong.
I didn't see the talented and dangerous iconoclast I'd been reading about. I just saw a shitty rapper whose only real talent was making eye contact with the camera. He sounded (I know you're not supposed to use this word, but it's the only word that fits)…retarded.
The main criticisms I'd heard about him had to do with subject matter, but that didn't deter me. Growing up with a steady diet of Wu, Mobb Deep, and Big L give me an affinity for "murder rap" — ultra-vivid and ultra-violent rap music. Basically, I enjoy listening to the rap music you don't want your parents or children listening to.
But, after actually listening to him, I actually got angry. Angry that the tens of thousands of words I'd read about him up to that point left out the most important part: THIS MOTHERFUCKER CAN'T RAP!
It is now the summer of 2014. And everything I just said about Chief Keef in 2012 can be said about Bobby Shmurda today. Yesterday, after weeks of hearing about his new Sony deal…and the Shmurda dance…and how he's going to save New York City rap, I finally watched a few of his videos.
And I wanted to scream "THIS MOTHERFUCKER CAN'T RAP EITHER! HE'S WORSE THAN CHIEF KEEF! AND CHIEF KEEF FLOPPED! DOESN'T ANYONE NOTICE THIS? I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!"
Apparently, others have, in fact, noticed this. In the aptly titled "The Music Industry Hates Black People", Rap Rehab's Sebastien Elkouby writes that a deep seeded hate for Black people is the only conceivable reason a company would give someone like Shmurda a million dollars.
I'm not as pessimistic as Elkouby is. I think these companies are just very, very desperate to find the next big thing/trend. But, you do have to wonder why the answer to "Who's the next big thing in rap?" often seems to be "a rapper who can't actually rap."
Maybe I'm just getting old. After all, I am a lazy, old, grouchy hater. But, please do me one favor: The next time you tell me about some hot new rapper I need to listen to, just make sure he's not fucking retarded.