This past Friday, we at Regal offered our initial salute to J Dilla, to whom many hip-hop heads offer the month of Feburary up as tribute.
Feb. 7, Dilla’s birthday, is the unofficial “Dilla Day,” but Feb. 10th shouldn’t be forgotten either, as it is the day of his passing. Though no one wants to salute death as much as life, in the case of James Yancey death did offer honor and reverence that alluded him in life. And the story of his dying days still featured a soundtrack that he provided himself, allowing for a sort of messianic angle to his final transition that runs head on to the already-established (yet cynical) belief that death can be a hip-hop artist’s best friend public relations-wise.
Contrarians exist who say that Dilla is an acute case of “Life After Death” PR magic, but not everyone who dies in hip-hop has been heralded to the upper echelon. When it comes down to it, the reason why Dilla and Pac and Big and ODB and Big L and Big Pun (the latter two we also mourn every February) is because in some way they all either raised a certain bar or expanded the creative view of hip-hop and nothing else infuses the art form with life more than doing either of those two things.
The music business and the people who run it are capricious to say the least, it doesn’t take much to make a once vital artist into a relic. Hip-Hop is changing the game in many ways, if you are at the age of 30 or above there’s a good chance that at least five of your top 10 (MCs, producers, whatever) are in their 40s and 50s — age is less of a barrier to earning a living in the game nowadays, but nothing puts you on the sidelines with more effectiveness than death.
The guys I mentioned above should be helping change those same dynamics. Whether they’d be doing so as moguls or independent hustlers, we’ll never know, it’s something left only to the imagination now and it is there, the imagination, where those guys first hit us, where we first learned more about ourselves and our culture with their works. As we grow as people, so will the legacies of those who helped made us, while a banging soundtrack booms in the background.
Plopping down in the middle of the already-established remembrances of February was Monday’s recounting of the legacy of Kanye West’s debut solo album, The College Dropout, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its release.
You had no chance of avoiding reference to this album on social media today, which surprised me a bit, but that may have been more because nothing really led up to it outside of the kamikaze-like dropping of the Red Octobers over the weekend.
What ‘Ye has meant to society over the 10 years since his first full reveal as an artist has been astonishing, it also has muddled up the true significance of that first album. West topped himself his second time around (and depending on who you ask, a time or two after — they would be wrong though) but the Dropout was indeed him at his most unhinged and honest spiritually — willing to do any and everything to prove himself after years of being put to the side as a rapper — while still being relatively grounded. What resulted was a great work of art that provoked discussions on education, religion, black consciousness and self-awareness among other things, while also opening mainstream hip-hop thematically in ways that only albums like Raising Hell, The Chronic, Enter the Wu-Tang and Aquemini have before it.
Now he’s a reality star as much as anything else, many people are awaiting the second part of his proposal extravaganza to Kim Kardashian to air later this week on E! Still, on Twitter today, he gave up a good deal of humility and gratefulness that he got as far as he did then and that he continues to go farther, breaking down whatever doors stand in his way along the way.
He says he is still the same kid from Chicago, and I believe him as does the rest of his hometown. And if there’s one thing that the entirety of Ye’s career is a tribute to it is the power of belief. With that said, please, keep the Yeezys but no more Yeezus‘s, bruh.
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