Rap artist, 50 Cent, the ex-crack-dealing nine-bullet survivor of a drive-by shooting is by definition $9.50 short of the full sawbuck. 50 Cent was discovered by Eminem, another rapper, so at least we have someone to blame for the damage he has inflicted on music. By coincidence, fifty cents would be my evaluation of what Hip-Hop is worth as an entire genre.
They say Hip-Hop, which includes rap music, is a way of life. But so is sleeping face-down on a bed of nails like an Indian mystic. Personally, I’d rather spend time on death row in a Columbian prison.
The genre started with New York block parties in the 70s, when the musically under-endowed, bored with daytime television, gathered en masse in the ‘hood to make music on the borough's dime (They wired their record decks to the street lighting). Entertainment-wise, this was marginally better than watching Sesame Street in a baking hot apartment, and at least got you out of the house.
Sadly, neither Hip-Hop nor rap show any signs of disenchanting the downloading public any time soon. Worse, many fans still want to become rappers and Hip-Hop stars, even after listening to the stuff.
It looks like I'm swimming against the tide here, so if I can't fight City Hall on this, the least I can do is offer a step-by-step guide to becoming a rapper, in the forlorn hope that some will see the error of their ways once the details are laid before them.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A RAPPER
1. Pick a name
Pick something that says ‘This is me’—Schmuck perhaps, or Dork. It’s always good to add a title to your chosen name: Professor, Lieutenant; Emperor even. For added emphasis tag 'grand' on at the front. So, Grand Emperor Schmuck becomes a possibility.
2. Choose a catchphrase
Anything will do. 'Booyah!’ for instance. Shout it out at random, Tourette's style: On the subway, 'Booyah!' In the lunch queue, 'Booyah!' In the dentist's chair, 'Booyah!' This will get you noticed and possibly arrested. If you are arrested, don't worry, rejoice. This will only add to your notoriety—a big plus in Hip-Hop, where being mown down in the street in a rain of bullets can double record sales overnight.
3. Adopt a signature look
Wearing a Spitfire pilot's WWII headgear covered in gold chain and Hip-Hop graffiti is but one of limitless possibilities. Some swear by a pair of MC Hammer parachute trousers with the crotch four inches off the ground. Anything that gets you noticed will do.
4. Eliminate meaningful speech
Practice making speech unintelligible (Really chew up those syllables. Spit them out as vehemently as you would a swarm of flies swallowed while cycling.)
5. Choose a rapping style
Rap comes in more flavours than Baskin’ Robbins. From ‘Whisper Rap’ to ‘Angry Rap’. Speed rapping (formerly called speaking quickly) is popular. Here, what you say is far less important than how fast you say it. If this is where you're headed, mimic the best of Australian sheep auctioneers. Work on doubling this speed, then doubling it again until your lips are vibrating faster than a hummingbird’s wing.
6. Act as if every line of your lyrics is a Confucian aphorism
One last thing about culturing a Hip-Hop personality: It is essential that you act as if your lyrics challenge Plato, Aristotle and—dare I say it—50 Cent, in the profundity stakes. Don't panic. You don't need to be profound, you just need to sound profound.
If you have taken the steps listed above, you will be well on your way to Hip-Hop stardom. All that remains before signing a recording deal is to master two essential skills: Scratching and beatboxing.
The evolution of sound reproduction that started with the wax cylinder,
stalled in the 80s when DJs began to come out of denial and admit that musically, they knew diddley-squat about nada. This made them angry.
They took their anger out on their record decks by systematically interfering with the speed a turntable must rotate to produce a decent sound (33 1/3 r.p.m.). This is achieved by monotonously shuffling and re-shuffling a vinyl disc backwards and forwards under a stylus.
Exponents of this art make loud noises with their mouths (formerly called shouting). Words are avoided in preference to gargling, rasping, spitting and raging (formerly called meaningless shouting, a practice which is still the preserve of street crazies the world over) into a microphone held close to the mouth.
By this method, an 'expert' in the technique can simulate any sound, from the landing of a jumbo jet to a hippopotamus fart. Though some see beatboxing as a musical form, the world still awaits a beatbox version of Bach’s toccata and fugue in D minor.
Job done. If you really want to become a rapper and lead a Hip-Hop life, this short guide will help you get there. From the title of this article, I trust it's clear where I stand on the matter. You can make your own choice. Choose wisely.