Do rappers ever ACTUALLY retire?
It is well documented how Jay-Z spent the prime of his career discussing his retirement plans. If anyone remembers it right, it was supposed to be Volumes 1-3 and ride off into the sunset. Vol 3 failed to best 2 in the quality department, so he had to make The Blueprint, which bit him with that "classic album" flu, then he piggybacked with a horrible Blueprint 2 and even horribler 2.1. We all know what happened from there, one more great album since (The Black Album, for the record) and 2 "retirements" in the meantime. Now how he speaks non-specifically about how long he will do this, almost as if threatening to retire is some kind of a game.
This game was so fun that lesser rappers had to get on the bandwagon. Nerd rapper Lupe Fiasco decided that he would do the same, amidst his not-THAT-great releases with 12 fucking minute outros thanking people who had nothing to do with any fucking thing in the universe, poorly chosen guest appearances and terribly written hooks. Apparently, he wants to release one more album and ride off into the sunset, like the Big Homie apparently claimed he would, but never made good on.
There is a difference, between, though... Jay-Z albums go platinum, even when they suck. Lupe Fiasco albums don't even go gold. This seems less about a power grab or "preserving" anything about the game, but more like someone who was never as popular as he pretended he should be, thus taking his skateboard (which, by the way, very few people have actually seen him USING) and going home to the internets. Say what you will about "underground" and " mainstream" music, but the fact of the matter, here is that one gets into the business of commercial releases without the intentions of selling records and making money. That being said, when an artist decides that renting a van for himself and his weed carriers to travel the country playing shows for not much more money than a call center job would net them is not the business, and will seek a deal to make some decent money. Sure, selling 350 and 450k is not bad money when one considers that show money becomes more lucrative with a major deal, but what has one earned to the ends of calling their leaving the game a "retirement" with such paltry numbers, as opposed to just "quitting"?
Cosigns from Mike Shinoda and Jay-Z himself REALLY should have netted the boy better numbers, no? Hype and buzz should ALWAYS equal commercial success on the planet I come from. Hell, even I own Food And Liquor, and I really can't listen to it cover to cover, not that I ever could after my customary introductory 3 listens. Guess I was right when I said it just wasn't that great after all.
To those who I KNOW will defend this shit, notice I said "great" up there. I say what I say not to suggest that it is bad, just not as good as it purports itself to be.
What, then, with rappers who have epic careers and a ton of releases? Think Ice-T with 8 albums released in his 23 years in the game. Think Too $hort, with 18 in 27 years. Neither has released an album in 3 years, and none of their more recent releases match the RIAA-Certified pedigrees of their predecessors, but each remains in the game, not claiming some sill-assed retirement.
Too $hort has remained relevant enough to have been Punk'd when I was spinning channels just yesterday and Ice-T? This one is best stated in photograph:
The "retirement" bug seems to be contagious, having been caught by rappers who have literally done nothing to make a ripple in the game and more than likely won't get around to doing so. Yes, I am talking about Kid Cudi, proprietor of a groaningly boring skinny jean hipster emo mohawk fag rap album that I would sooner think was about crying and possibly cutting himself -- oh, and weed -- than about anything that hip hop fans should actually want to listen to. He started the "I eventually want to retire, there is just too much drama in music" bullshit BEFORE HIS FIRST FUCKING ALBUM DROPPED!
Pot, meet kettle. Seems the drama created in this particular case is all self-inflicted. Of course he would later backpedal, since no one can ACTUALLY retire from music, especially rap music. Even when they should.
In August of 2009, Scarface -- who has 11 solo albums and 8 with The Geto Boys released in 22 years now -- was interviewed by Allhiphop.com and it went like this:
AllHipHop.com: With your contribution to the game you have our respect and our ear; what would you say about the evolution Hip-Hop? How would you describe what it was in its infancy to what it has become today?
Well, with any kind of music that you f*** with, you got some great music and you got some not so great music. That’s Hip-Hop, that’s R&B, that’s Rock and Roll—let me give you an example. A Rock guy, his name is f***ing Meat Loaf, right. I think that he’s the absolute f***ing worst! But, people love Meat Loaf. You can think of the worst MC you’ve ever heard and people love it, you can think of the worst R&B singer you’ve ever heard and people love it. So, it’s all in one’s preference on what’s great and what’s not…
AllHipHop.com: What would it take to get you out of “retirement” or this just a self-imposed hibernation period?Scarface: I don’t know. I don’t like it no more. I don’t like the powers that be at all. I don’t like it.
AllHipHop.com: Are you so disgusted with them that you’ll stop making music, period? So personally, you’ve stopped all recording, or you won’t make another track for the public to hear?Scarface: That’s hard to tell.
"I think the business side of Hip-Hop pissed me off. You know, the business side, the political side— the business side and the political side of Hip-Hop pissed me off."-Scarface
AllHipHop.com: After your work on Emeritus have you made any new tracks?Scarface: No.
AllHipHop.com: Have you been back to the studio?
Scarface: Nope, and I don’t plan on going either.AllHipHop.com: No? [stagnated silence] How can you love Hip-Hop and feel like that?
Scarface: I think the business side of Hip-Hop pissed me off. You know, the business side, the political side— the business side and the political side of Hip-Hop pissed me off.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel as though you’re equipped as a business man to handle what was going on in the industry?
Scarface: I don’t want to be equipped for it.
AllHipHop.com: You just don’t like playing the game?
Scarface: Yeah, I didn’t like playing the game, you know. You got to play the game fair. If the game ain’t played fair then—you could have it all and still lose everything. They don’t play the game fair. You got to play the game fair, man. Any game that you decide to play in life; you got to play the game fair. If you don’t play the game fair then nobody will play the game with you no more.
AllHipHop.com: Is it inevitable for our respected MCs to stop making music because they’re disgusted with the bogus practices in the industry?
Scarface: It’s so many things on what the industry is. Why would you buy somebody’s s*** when you can download it for free?
AllHipHop.com: But that’s just one aspect. Some of these rappers don’t deserve to get their album purchased when they only have one good track and maybe a funny skit. I know you personally don’t get down like that; but, you have to look at it from both sides. Besides that what other industry practices don’t you agree with?
Scarface: Like I said, I just don’t like the way that these record company owners and executives are playing god with a n**** career.
AllHipHop.com: Why not embrace the indie route?
AllHipHop.com: You will have full creative control; you’d be able to do everything on your own. You wouldn’t have to rely on the puppet master’s approval to get your creativity out there.
Scarface: You know what’s so cold about the puppet masters?
AllHipHop.com: What’s that?
Scarface: The puppet master won’t admit to being the puppet master. That’s what’s so cold about the puppet master. Man, I’d rather not, there’s so many other ways, for me to— I’m so talented in other areas; so, f*** Rap, f*** Hip-Hop! I’ll say it again; f*** Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: But what about your fans; how can you say that?
Scarface: My fans should say f*** Hip-Hop, too. Hip-Hop doesn’t even exist no more. Does it; is it Hip-Hop still? Is there such a thing? Define the word.
"You was proud to go and buy a f***ing Ice-T record— “6’N The Morning,” Power. You was proud to go and pick up A Tribe Called Quest or N.W.A. You was proud of an Ice Cube or Kool G Rap record....you was proud to own that s***."
AllHipHop.com: To me, Hip-Hop is a cultural element of expression. It expresses lyricism, dance, art; it gives insight into our community. Why do you think Hip-Hop is losing that essence?
Scarface: Any two ways that you get a White boy singing the Blues; somebody’s lying somewhere. You know, the Blues—have you heard the Blues before? For a White boy to put the Blues out, and says what’s hot in Blues, it’s a lie; because, he doesn’t even have no idea. He doesn’t have no idea why this is done and why we feel how we feel. You cannot expect for a 45 year old 50 year old White boy to dictate what’s hot within the Black community.
Why the f*** are they in charge of what we put out? Well they are. But, why the f*** do we allow them to be in charge of what’s put out. That’s not Hip-Hop, man. That white boy is not Hip-Hop, you’re f***ing 50 years old, man. How could you even think that?
AllHipHop.com: Will the public ever reach the point of critical mass to where we will demand that Hip-Hop stop being manufactured to fit one certain sound and fit one certain image? Will a boycott work?
Scarface: Let me tell you what Hip-Hop is [and] let me tell you what Hip-Hop was. Hip-Hop was The Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Lovebug Starski, and Kool Mo Dee—you know. Hip-Hop was LL Cool J and Whodini, and Run-D.M.C. Hip-Hop was Blastmaster KRS-One, D-Nice, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, MC Shan and Biz Markie. You was proud to go and buy a f***ing Ice-T record— “6’N The Morning,” “Doggin’ The Wax,” Power. You was proud to go and pick up A Tribe Called Quest or N.W.A. You was proud of an Ice Cube or Kool G Rap record. You was proud to own AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted; you was proud to own that s***. I agree that 2 Live Crew made a mark in Hip-Hop, you know. I believe that a lot of states in this country have dope MCs that made a huge impact on Hip-Hop. The minute it turned into a business and not a culture it became too watered down. The essence of Hip-Hop is not in the music anymore. The element of Hip-Hop is not in the music anymore.
AllHipHop.com: With that being said, and as a veteran MC, shouldn’t you feel some sort of responsibility to bring it back to what it was? The kids coming up now, they really don’t know any better unless they invest that time to go back to discover Big Daddy Kane, to go back to MC Shan, to go back to A Tribe Called Quest, to actually discover what it was then to what it is now—
Scarface: I really think that N.W.A. made the best Hip-Hop records ever! I mean if you define Hip-Hop like you define the Blues; they made it a way of life rather than just a fad. You know, JJ Fad, MC Hammer, Big Kid Flash— I know you’ve heard of these people, right?
"Hip-Hop ain’t no “booty-dew. Do the booty-dew, do the booty-dew—do the so and so, do the so and so-you know. Don’t get me wrong; every genre of music is going to need their dance records... ”
AllHipHop.com: What will it take for Hip-Hop to get to back to embracing creativity and delivering a message rather than being a number’s game?
Scarface: It ain’t no number’s game no more. Nobody has any numbers no more. Hip-Hop is changing; it’s a money thing. Until the power’s that be start taking it seriously it’ll continue to be in the state that it’s in. It’s some s*** that’s out today that wouldn’t have ever made it before the change. I think that today radio and visual played a huge part in what “they” say Hip-Hop is. Middle-aged black people and middle-aged white people make up Hip-Hop; when honestly, youth is Hip-Hop. I hear some f***ing MCs that will forever go unnoticed because of the way that the game is. [Ed.’s note: Scarface mentioned the greatness of K-Rhino and Z-RO as prolific Southern MCs.] But they always tell us the truth, the story. Hip-Hop ain’t no “booty-dew.”
Scarface: [chants] Do the booty-dew, do the booty-dew—do the so and so, do the so and so-you know. Don’t get me wrong; every genre of music is going to need their dance records. You’ll have to listen very very closely to what I’m saying. I feel like, the power’s that be, that control what’s being heard in black music and what’s being signed in black music, you know, as far as—the people who put that s*** out there, man. They don’t know nothing about our craft and our culture and our struggle. It’s impossible for Henry Fartburger to know what’s hot in Hip-Hop. It’s impossible, he don’t know the culture, he’s not familiar with the culture, dude. He’s never been to the f***ing hood, unless he signed one of these goofy ass n****s and they took him to out there, on a pass. Them mutha****ers don’t pass through the hood, man. They’re not from there. They don’t know anything about us. They just sign a check. If you ask me it’s a f***ing conspiracy to destroy black music—to destroy the craft.AllHipHop.com: Will Hip-Hop preserver and escape this stage that it’s experiencing now?
Scarface: With the 360 deals in place and people putting out songs that don’t make no f***ing sense—rather than giving the great s*** a chance? Let’s say that Eminem did between 6 and 7 [hundred] thousand the first week. Man, f***ing Eminem is brilliant. That’s a f***ing artist. It ain’t no f***ing way he shouldn’t have did a million or two the first week. That muthaf***er is dope, man. But then you go to what we call that assembly-line Hip-Hop; muthaf***ers is going crazy for that s***. We’re not hearing Eminem on mainstream radio. We only get to hear that on XM. They’re not playing Jadakiss on mainstream radio. We hear a lot of Wayne, which is good, to me Wayne is one of the dopest artists that is out. What about Outkast? I’m not hearing them on mainstream no more. Are they trying to repaint the picture of what Hip-Hop really is? Are they trying to put another face on Hip-Hop? How could you?
AllHipHop.com: Did these feelings propel you to retire after you released Emeritus?
Scarface: Nah, man. Dissatisfaction, I’m cool. I’m going to have my fanbase. I think it was a lot of bulls*** between me and my record company that made me not want to f*** with it no more, in all honesty.
AllHipHop.com: Is this just a phase? Can you really stay away from the mic that long?
Scarface: F*** the mic. Man, f*** the microphone. I’d rather watch from a distance. I don’t want nothing to do with it. I’m done with that s***. That was a phase of my life that was good to pass on. I’m just glad that it’s over. I’m done.
Riiiiiiight, he never used the word "retire" himself.
Just how DOES an entertainer who is not an athelete "retire"?
We understand that there is a shelf life on athletes, usually directly in line with the shelf life on an individual's knees, word to Cheese Eyes on the bench at the end of Wizards games with ice on both knees 6 years ago.
Know what? Eventually actors get old and/or fat and/or unattractive, comparatively speaking and cannot perform up to the standard of the niche that they have carved for themselves, and they eventually fall out of the public eye and eventually go away quietly. Either that or they take that role without many lines as the old/fat person in movies. That or as someone's debilitated grandparent on their deathbed. The point is that the reduction of the role is very evident.
What, then, about rappers who sit with careers stagnant for many many years at a time, who didn't have much of an output even before stalling?
[Phlip note - Rakim is a prime example, if you didn't catch that]
They release a mediocre-at-best 3 albums in 10 years, they jump from label to label without so much as a single or meaningful feature, but they don't claim "retirement."
What, then, of the rappers who fathered the styles of many, who have released classic and acclaimed (critically and commercially) albums, but just haven't bothered in over 12 years?
[Phlip note - Big Daddy Kane, who remains as one of my all-time favorites]
You move down south to Durham, NC where not many people know you and you can slip into and out of shopping malls until one day you walk into a mens' store being attended by the person typing this blog who Stans the fuck out over you.
[Phlip note - true fucking story]
While your plight seems most like an actual "retirement," with only 19 appearances since -- one of which was to perform a verse you'd written years prior -- you never CLAIM retirement.
What, then, of someone who spends 6 or 10 years in jail with career on pause over some shit that you probably didn't do, or wouldn't have been convicted for if your dumb ass hadn't recorded it?
[Phlip note - act like you didn't know this would be Shyne and Mystikal, respectively]
This SHOULD be a teaching moment... What these gentlemen SHOULD do is use their respective situations to score a reality show on VH1 or Black Embarrassment Television to talk to children about the ills of what they did (Mystikal) or the position they allowed themselves to be placed in (Shyne).
... oh, and retire from rapping.
However, both are trying to get back in the game like they still matter, or even terribly mattered when they WERE in the game. Let us not forget that Shyne's draw was the fact that he sounded like Biggie and was on the same label that Biggie was on. Mystikal's stretch was that he released the same album SIX times with different album/song titles (only barely with the songs, at that) and only slightly altered wording of the songs.
[Phlip note - don't believe me? Google and download them before Google pulls the blogs offering them and see for yourself... Or don't and take my word for it]
Think with me for a minute... I have an aunt, one of my dad's older sisters -- I think this would be his oldest sister -- who has been a Registered Nurse my whole life and 75-80% of hers as well. Accepted was that she was one of the best in the hospital, he work and appearance showed it and she rarely if ever missed work. Well, if pops is 57 as of a couple weeks ago, she is in her 60s, evident because she retired on the Tuesday after Christmas...
Now, she happens to live about 3 blocks from me, and whether they know it or not, I circle the neighborhood about once every day or 2, never longer than 48 hours, past the house to make sure no fuckery is afoot. Her car is ALWAYS there, no matter when I pass -- be it 7am, 7pm or any of the witching hours between 11pm and 5am (keeping in mind that she always worked 3rd shift) -- her car is always at the house.
This means, to me, that no one is calling her from the hospital with something like "look, I know you're retired, but we need you to come back and help us with this one little issue, we'll pay you for it."
For those of you who missed that metaphor, think of it on a parallel with how so-called "retired/retiring" rappers make guest appearances on other peoples' shit.
Get it now?
When one retires, they collect their pensions and cash out their 401k, make sure the bills can be paid until they enter end-of-life preparation and do whatever it is they didn't have time to do with the hindrance of "work" standing in the way, not go and do more of the same fucking work they did for 40something years.
All of this comes back to my opinion that the only retirement plan for a hip hop artist that actually sees to it that one stays retired is the one taken by Biggie, Tupac, Freaky Tah, Big L, Big Pun, Jam Master J, J. Dilla, and whomever else who died that I can't think of right off the top of my head.
One could argue for The D.O.C., but he maintained a career enough to write for people, teach Snoop to actually make songs and be one of several rappers to leave a baby inside of Erykah Badu's cooze, so he was and is not retired.
[Phlip note - am I the only one surprised that Lil Wayne isn't one of the individuals meeting this distinction?]
All this adds up to one thing... Rappers -- and probably popular musicians in general -- lack the benefit of being able to actually "retire," like us 9-to-fivers. Need MORE proof? Michael Joseph Jackson. I guess that is what Blackthought meant when he mentioned inflation on the price for fame.
I will take rich (well, preferably wealthy, word to Chris Rock) any day, keep the fame, I like this world I live in where I am a generally non-popular cat, it makes those times where I have to be an asshole to people that much easier.
Now Uncle Face, I defnitely cosign, but if, as a man of such legendary status, you're not prepared to usher in the necessary changes, then that's no better than the powerless fan screaming about bring that real hip hop back. If the higher-ups throw in the towel, the playing field evens out, & all hope will be eventually lost. As far as I'm concerned, Face should've been retired, to a position where he drops Emeritus just as a bonus to us who grew up on him, & does so every few years from his office or boardroom. Not the other way around. I'll stop, because I can go on & on about this one...