Nick Grant and The Hip Hop Cultural Divide
A lot of hip hop’s most important cultural “beefs” are forced onto it from the audience and not actually a problem the artists have. The west coast/east coast beef comes to mind as an example. What is happening right now is the great splitting of the world of hip hop into two schools: mumble & trap rap vs. emcees that stand by their lyricism. Back when I was young we would have seen a rapper like Schoolboy Q and a rapper like J. Cole as oppositional; one representing the grim and grit of street life and the other middle class suburbia now they are on the same side and on the other you get Fetty Wap, Lil Yachty and the like.
Fans of each feel insulted by the presence of the other. Media outlets are split in a very odd way. All kinds of people are referred to as “throwback” artists just because they are focusing on rapping and don’t have a strong southern accent. The problem with throwing all lyricists on one side is that Nick Grant bears no resemblance to Cole or Kendrick. He isn’t necessarily lacing you with save the world lyrics, his album Return of The Cool is just that. On the title track he says “Cool N_ I’m here to break the monotony,” which is a perfect summation. He’s great at rapping and picking beats, doesn’t do a lot of singing his own hooks or finger snap turn up. This isn’t to say he is your classic low energy lyricist. Just listen to Get Up featuring WatchTheDuck and enjoy the classic James Brown sample brought into new light and his energy matches it. It is a fun song and the album is my favorite of 2017.
He released some pretty great mixtapes. A Seat At The Table (+1) took four songs from Solange’s album and rendered them limb from limb. Over the gorgeous minimal landscapes he burst forth reminding me of Do or Die AZ. That project and his mixtape 88 were all about establishing the level at which he spits and getting us as an audience comfortable with that.
The mind numbing part of the Nick Grant experience for me is that I’m reading reviews that this type of lyricism is boring, that I should be listening to Migos instead. Leave it to hip hop to demand of me that I only listen to one kind of music all the time. Hearing someone with confidence in their delivery and great ear for beats never gets boring. Nick Grant is exciting, so are Migos. I will listen to both and don’t let yourself be steered one way or another. Take every artist as they come. We should be excited by the choices we have and not pit them against each other.
Here is your Nick Grant start up kit:
If you like what you hear there, seek out Return of The Cool (buy or stream)