5 Verses

I listen to a lot of rap music. I even spent a few of my teenage years jotting down lyrics of my own and performing them at various open mic sessions. The thing that amazes me the most about rap music is the skill certain rappers have to describe everyday life, the extraordinary people they know or their superior skills on the microphone with melody and high definition clarity. I must quickly make the clear distinction between a rapper who simply lines up rhymes and catchy choruses along a beat and the emcee alias M.C. a.k.a. the Master of Ceremonies a.k.a. The Mic Controller who is more of an orator with a message that carries more importance and substance that a simple call to dance. A lot of people can use complicated metaphors and technical rhyme structures in their lyrics, but the true masters of the art form are the emcees that talk to you without you realising they are rapping. The descriptions and attention to detail reach a point where the listener almost forgets about bars and hooks and simply listens to what the mic controller has to say. Flow is critical for a good emcee, but the real skill is when they can match words so naturally that any other combination or syntax seems illogical. There is no need for repetition, ad-libs or proverbial mannerisms. The emcee talks and you listen.

On a side note, I remember having heated debates with friends about the real talent of 90’s duo Group Home. My peers adored their album Livin Proof, but I had difficulty listening to Lil’ Dap and The Nutcracker rapping their tales of inner city life because the lyrical clout just wasn’t there. That said, Lil’ Dap had one of the most recognizable nasal deliveries and DJ Premier’s beats and production are what really place Group Home’s album among the classics of a bygone era in Hip Hop. Maybe it’s because I wrote some of my own rhymes and felt I had an idea of how difficult it is to lace lyrics together, that I saw through the strength of a good instrumental.

Here are a few verses from the Nineties that still have me in awe. The rhymes, metaphors, delivery and flow come together to create some of rap music’s strongest lyricism to date. The first is Nas with New York State of Mind – the opening song from his debut album “Illmatic”.

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When you’re down the only way is up

My primary attraction to rap music is the clever wordplay the emcees use to describe situations, emotions tell stories. Unfortunately I find a lot of today’s rappers really lack in this discipline. I can’t recommend enough a rapper named KA from Brownsville, Brooklyn. A lot older than his peers, KA had anything but a good life growing up but he managed to work his way through all of the pain, loss, struggle and strife to concentrate on his passion for words and the way they helped express his emotions and share his knowledge with the listener. An independent artist publishing, producing and promoting his work, KA is not seeking a wide audience but rather the select few who scratch beneath the surface of mediocrity in search of something pure, original and great. KA’s brutal honesty and stark depictions of living day to day in the face of adversity is a real inspiration and motivation for listeners like myself to keep pushing and writing rhymes about the things that have influenced us both positively and negatively. My life has definitely been a lot rosier that KA’s, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced loss of loved ones, struggles with self esteem and other obstacles life threw in my path. Thankfully I’m focused on seeing things through and know that there is always an upside to everything getting me down.

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Gimme Shelter

The following is an article I wrote explaining the survivalist tactics of the Brussels skateboard community to ensure a roof over their heads when it rained because nobody else cared. Thanks to the dedication of Youssef Abaoud, Bart Rapelberg and a few others the Byrrrh DIY skatepark still exists. As a post-scriptum to my article, the park relocated from Tour et Taxis (where another concrete bowl is getting its finishing touches as I type) to the old RTL studios also known as the Pyramid at Avenue d’Ariane 12 in Woluwe St. Lambert. Open everyday 6-11pm with kids sessions on wednesdays and sundays from 1-5.30pm. Support your local skateboarders!

Thanks to The Creative Book and Sanj at The Quarterly for listening to our story and getting it printed. Also thanks to Lee Kirby for the photos and Chris Turner for the film!

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