“Rap Rehab” Day 8 – Lyric Digestion Disorder

Whutupdoe? Rap Rehab is still going strong, although it’s been tough. A corrupt security guard slipped the new Joell Ortiz and DJ Premier song under my door on my first damn day here,  but I’m still handling my business and avoiding rap music for 30 days. The new music and letters have been getting me through, so I’d like to thank everyone for their support. Posts reviewing your suggestions are on the way, but in the meantime, visit The Urbane Life for an entry that reviews personal classics from Gnarls Barkley and Van Hunt.

I asked for a doctor yesterday, because I’ve been having an allergic reaction to my prescriptions of new music: I subconsciously tune out many lyrics that aren’t rap. On many of the albums I’ve branched out to — MGMT’s Congratulations, Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Quadron’s self-titled album — the singing blends with the instrumentation so much that I have to listen extra closely just to get the song’s message. I feel like one of those closed-minded rap fans that “likes the beat” of anything outside of hip-hop. I needed John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme to raise my spirits; since most jazz doesn’t have vocals, I can lose myself in the music without the guilt of missing the song’s lyrics. But I know that soon, I’ll have to go back to my real treatment and embrace these other genres for what they’re worth.

Follow the jump for two doctors’ analysis of my condition, Lyric Digestion Disorder (LDD).

One doctor said this:

One reason behind Mr. Ketchum’s LDD might be hip-hop’s foundation in contrast. Rappers’ vocals are generally just talking voices with extra emotion/authority, and their changes in pitch and tone are more subtle than singers’. By juxtaposing those vocals with melodic backdrops, the voices will stand out because they aren’t built to blend in like a singer’s. Since Mr. Ketchum’s ear is untrained, it may take a while for him to get used to harmonies that go beyond the beat.

Since I’m serious about my musical health, I went to another doctor for a second opinion. He had another way of looking at it:

Who’s to say that these songs aren’t designed the way that Mr. Ketchum is listening to them? Some hip-hop out there has rhymes that are undecipherable to anyone outside of the artist’s crew or region. Ketchum may be so caught up in the idea of other genres being a whole new world that he’s over-analyzing the music he’s listening to. Maybe some of this stuff really is style over substance. If that’s the case, he should just appreciate it instead of digging for meaning that isn’t there.

Either way, both doctors prescribed the same methods to battle my condition: balance. Keep my humility toward other genres, but remember that the confidence of what I like and how I interpret it still counts for something.