It pains me to even feel the need to write a post about this subject. After over forty years of evolution, the current state of the MC is in sharp decline; so much so that in today’s landscape, sharp, talented, witty, and storytelling MC’s are often overlooked due to a lack of comprehension on behalf of the listener. Whereas, artists of yore like Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, Nas, Biggie, and Ghostface were lauded for their well rounded arsenal of said attributes, nowadays such strengths are at best ignored, and in most cases where a major record label is involved, looked at as a hindrance. If it doesn’t include some sort of inauthentic shimmy in the video, there is a good chance it won’t be promoted. Thankfully, with the continued evolution of the internet, at least the listener has a choice, and although the method of selling music has changed drastically, the viability and value of a well rounded MC in any era remains high.
I have always been a lyrics heavy guy. As much as production is going to allow the MC a welcome mat of sorts for the potential listener, if the words the MC is saying are meaningless and nonsensical, the replay value of the record is immediately diminished. A big trend recently has seen a reemergence of a punch line heavy style, similar to the style Lord Finesse and Big L mastered in the early 90s, with a modern twist on it. I enjoy this style, however, it is the master MC who can extend his metaphors and concepts further than two bar couplets, and weave intricate tales, motivational lessons, cautionary anecdotes, and humorous adventures into rhyme form. Nas and Black Thought, in my opinion, are the two MCs that stand out as the pinnacle in this area.
Flow is almost an intangible factor, but one that weighs nearly as heavy as lyrics, in my book. Some MC’s have one particular flow they are known for, and some even claim to invent a new flow that others in the industry then emulate, with varying results. The master MC, however, has a plethora of flows for all occasions. The ability to adapt the rhythm of the rhyme to the tempo and style of the beat is a masterful tactic. Three masters of the flow that immediately jump out are Jay Z, Biggie, and Pusha T.
Words are a beautiful thing in that they can be used in the exact same order and combination by two different people and come off sounding like two completely different things. In hip hop, that is the meaning of style. Its not so much what words are being used, it’s the way they are said, and the overall demeanor the MC is projecting and painting of himself through the words. Rather than a simple self description, like, “Yo I’m mad tall and kind of thin but chicks like me,” the master MC will string together a series of quips and non sequitors that cumulatively allow you to understand this fellows general vibe in a more vivid manner. Two masters of this trait are Ghostface Killah and Action Bronson.
It is no secret that the concept of rhyming words together is no elaborate idea. This is also true of making a speech. Saying words one after another is common and pedestrian. It is what is being said that is of note to the listener. But with so many voices and so many common themes amongst us, what is it that separates legendary orators from their counterparts who may have voiced similar ideas themselves at one point? The secret is integrity. Integrity stemming from a core of beliefs at the heart of the artist, that consistently plays a part in the development of all the work they construct. Although the content may vary, and at times even appear contradictory, they are all coming from the same part of the artist- the heart. The human experience is one of great variety in its emotions and feelings, and the ability to articulate from the varied positions of one’s psyche is a blessing, and one that will indelibly leave a mark on the listener. The master of this trait was undoubtedly Tupac Shakur.
In closing, Presidential Powers is a combination of all of these traits, and the aforementioned legends.
Get the album! Salute!