I need a break from my real work, so it’s time for time wastin’. Anyone who follows startups knows who Ben Horowitz is, well-decorated VC and…hip hop fan. His obsession with hip hop has been over documented, quite frankly, which is what brings me here. Bruh, we need to recalibrate your approach to sharing the 16-bars love.
First, let’s clear the inevitable “Aw man, Dave’s just a hater” talk. This is not going to be a dissertation on why radio-play rap is weak, and how lame fans of Drake are. Although, I’ll surely get my shots in. This is about using your podium to further the underground movement, keep what you first loved about hip hop alive and hungry (emphasis mine):
…I was in New York City in 1986 and there was an explosion of a new kind of music called Hip Hop. It was unlike any other kind of music because the rappers were celebrating having nothing while aspiring to have everything. The songs were about growing up in the housing projects, surviving in the streets, and how great it was and how great they would become. At the time, Rock n’ Roll was about rejecting the world, but Hip Hop was about embracing it with all of its flaws. In an era of super groups and over production, rap groups didn’t even need instruments. It was mind blowing and I was captivated.
I actually didn’t know the background on your love of the genre, so props for sharing it. I remember exactly when I fell in love with hip hop, too, specifically underground. There was (still is?) the best college-run radio station I’ve ever heard up in Rhode Island, 90.3 WRIU, with the 3-6pm slot filled with indie rap and hip hop the likes I hadn’t known existed. Shit man, I even know the two songs that are responsible for infecting me with the bug: The Woman With The Tattooed Hands and Climb Trees.
Though we discovered hip hop more than a decade apart – you in ’86, me in the late ’90s – we both were drawn to it for the rawness, the creativity, the honesty. Slug rhymed about heartbreak and self-doubt, Sage Francis waxed poetic on politics and emotional insecurity.
What the hell happened here? I took a ride through your last 75 blog posts, in which you infamously quote hip hop songs as a lead-in and theme presenter, and, well:
- A third of the artists you reference are from the uber popular Maybach / Young Money crews
- You include songs from six of the best twenty hip hop albums of 2013, according to Rolling Stone
- Five of the top twenty best selling hip hop albums / artists of all time are represented
- Jay Z, Wayne, Rick Ross, DMX, Drake, Drake, Drake, Drake, Nas, LL, Wayne, Rick Ross, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco, and so on
I mean, c’mon, you reached so far into cliches that both Hustlin’ and Started From The Bottom make appearances. What’s next, Iggy Azelea? I’m sure if I looked hard enough I’d find “climbed the ladder to success, escalator style” somewhere. Over production? Shiiiit, a sizable chunk of artists you reference led the ushering in of that horrific autotune experiment.
Are there relatable business lessons in some of these lyrics? For sure, for sure. Do I catch myself bobbing around to Drake every now and then? Guilty. But Nicki Fucking Minaj is far from raw, The Game isn’t rapping about flaws, and Wiz Khalifa hasn’t blown any minds outside of his choice in pants.
As someone who professionally aims to find the diamonds in the rough out there in Startup Land, someone who inspires creativity and courage and scrappy hustling and innovation, can we get some love for the underground? Hell, I’ll even be happy with “not on the radio” stuff.
I’m pretty confident in saying you’ll find much more impactful lyrics in an Eyedea song (R.I.P.) than one from 2 Chainz.
Here, man, I made you a playlist. There’s a pretty big chance you know most of these guys, and you may be a bigger underground fan than we know. I’m just asking you to bring that to your millions of followers more often. Further that indie movement we’re pushing at MusicBox (along with many of our music brethren).
And because some of the better ones weren’t on Soundcloud, here are a couple more: