I once protected hip hop’s values –– I was the one championing supreme lyricism. My favorite rapper is Lupe Fiasco, so if anyone wasn’t in that same wordplay stratosphere, I immediately called them trash. If I could decipher an artist’s lyrics in under two listens, then what was the point of listening to the song at all?
“Listen, my favorite rapper is Nas,” Schoolboy Q, the Top Dawg Entertainment rapper, said on Snapchat recently. “But if you think I just wanna listen to that style of music all day, every day, you’re a f—in’ idiot. And that’s probably why you in the same spot you been stuck in, ‘cause your mind ain’t open to new s–t, different s–t.”
Q never minces words, and he perfectly sums up the current rift that exists within the rap community: The stigma of “mumble rap.”
It’s hard to pinpoint who created the term, but in a Team Backpack video called “The Idiocy of Mumble Rap,” B-Doe, a video personality, states that artists like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert should label their music something other than rap, because what they do isn’t up to par with what “actual” rappers do. He also asserts that Yachty’s “lack of hip hop knowledge is disturbing,” and claims hip hop doesn’t need people like him making it appear as though skill is unnecessary to become a successful rapper.
It’s pure ignorance.
Music is art, and all art is subjective. Each individual has a unique taste, and no matter what someone says about it, they can’t decide what you should or shouldn’t like.
B-Doe also includes an argument in the video that dismantles his entire stance. “With being a hip hop artist comes the assumption that you are competent, proficient and gifted at words,” B-Doe said. “Some synonyms for artist is virtuoso, genius. Do you think you’re a genius, or are you just riding a wave?”
B-Doe tries to equate hip hop art with artistry in general. This is a meaningless and detrimental attempt at making a point. For one, he says “assumption,” meaning there is no concrete, factual list of a rapper’s components. Second, there are various forms of genius ability. Why can’t thinking of a catchy melody or a flow that makes people flip out with excitement be considered genius?
Delivery, cadence and flow are just as important as lyrics themselves. It doesn’t matter how profound the words are if they’re said in an unappealing way.
Vince Staples, a rapper from Long Beach, California, is known for having more controversial perspectives. In an early 2017 interview with radio station WE 96.3, Staples said, “Mumble rap just means you have a Southern accent, which is foul as f–k. Because all that means is we don’t understand what you’re saying because you have an accent.” Staples continued, “How is 21 Savage mumbling? This man is over-enunciating his words.”
21 Savage, a rapper from Atlanta, has been lumped into the “mumble rap” category at times, as Staples mentioned. He has a fairly strong southern drawl, but he doesn’t slur his words.
In a July 2017 interview on Complex’s show “Everyday Struggle,” Savage made his viewpoint known about the judgmental gatekeepers of rap’s foundation.“Music is art, right?” Savage began. “So if what I’m doing appeals to her and not you, how can you categorize it as not rap or rap?”
“Art is broad, it could be anything. As long as it’s appealing to somebody,” Savage said.
That’s the crux of the issue. The term is a way to demean certain rappers because they don’t align with what some believe is “traditional” rap. Belly, a signee of The Weeknd’s XO label, dropped an album called “Mumble Rap” on Friday, Oct. 6. He discussed the idea behind the title in an interview on Tidal’s Rap Radar Podcast.
“I love the lingo, style, dress code. And they’re putting numbers up,” Belly said, referencing the targets of the term. He wanted to find a way to deflect the negativity, so he got innovative.
“When I get into an interview and everybody’s like, ‘So what do you think about these mumble rappers?’ It just got annoying to me after a while,” Belly said. “I was like, you know what? I’m gonna create a project and call it ‘Mumble Rap.’ And hopefully, God willing, if it becomes some classic s–t, then every time people a few years from now think of the words ‘mumble rap,’ they’re gonna think of a classic rap project.”
He chooses to have a wider range of appreciation, which is what people like B-Doe lack. The detractors of the new-wave rappers think that you can’t rap if you don’t have four double entendres, 12 similes and five metaphors within sixteen bars.
Being close-minded is extremely detrimental to improving in any field. The more you know and understand, the more you can expand on those existing ideas, put your own twist on them, or create something brand new.
The only thing I see the use of “mumble rap” doing is making the users of the term look stupid.