10 RAPPERS FROM HIP-HOP'S BLEEDING EDGE
THEY MAY NOT BE ENJOYING HEAVY ROTATION ON HOT 97 FM OR BLASTING UP THE POP CHARTS, BUT THESE PROVOCATIVE, UNCOMPROMISING,UNIQUE MCS ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF HIPHOP. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.
IN 2003, SOME OF THE NICEST, MOST PROVOCATIVE MCS to touch the microphone will never rocket to the top of the Billboard charts. Their names won't linger on the lip's of America's hip-pop and R&B fans. And the all-powerful cabal of mainstream magazine journalists and publishers, DJs, label owners, concert promoters and radio show announcers who control the rap industry will isolate them as "critics' darlings," then dismiss them as "too abstract"," silly "backpackers" whose virtues are doomed to elude the masses and would probably be feasted on by Jay/Nas/Cam'Ron if those corporate linchpins designed to acknowledge them.
Such MCs lie on the bleeding edge of an art form in constant flux, a culture that refuses to be kept within the confines of any single ideology or ruled by a self-appointed spokesperson. These wordsmiths' styles take many forms, from deceptively simple battle rhymes to head-scratching verbiage, yet are bound by a desire to pursue their inner voice instead of the industry's voice whispering in their ear, exhorting them to make up a gimmick, then stick to the script. Their work celebrates a society inspired by hip-hop, not defined by it. Here's a selection of our favorite uncompromisingly unique MCs.
Aesop Rock is an eloquent cynic. When he raps, "Life's not a bitch, she's a beautiful women/ You only call her a bitch because you couldn't get that pussy," he's more than likely addressing himself as you. He has a voice that sounds like a gutter with the wind being sucked out of it, all whiny New York slang and menacing growl. He flips metaphors alongside terse reprisals, questioning the world and sucker MCs around him. "Life's not a bitch," he rhymes on "Night Light", "life is a beeyatch who keeps the villagers circling the marketplace out searching for the G-spot."
When this LA rapper opens his mouth, laconically cryptic verses like "I've been up all night/ Sleeping all day/ My father wasted sperm when he made me" tumble out in a drowsily narcotic timbre. AWOL One, also known as Awolrus, is the only rapper who sounds as if he's asleep while reciting the contents of his notebook. The lyrics he rambles are deceptively direct, yet there's always the nagging feeling that something far more sinister lurks beneath the surface, a hunch he likes to encourage: "I know my enemies like I know my own nuts/ They're like a sheep in wolf's clothing."
Busdriver is a mainstream rap cheerleader's worst nightmare. He raps so fast you can barely understand him, and his exaggerated, motor-mouth style of speak is pure comedy, all the better to spew offbeat affirmations like "I'm a party pooper!" The cumulative effect is frightenly insular raps that bewilder all but the most perceptive listeners, allowing Busdriver to slip miscellaneous critiques, disses and putdowns under the radar. "Go ahead and spend," he says on "Idle Chatter," "but the dollar bill is nature's suicide notes."
Since nearly beating Eminem at the 1997 Skribble Jam and debuting with his hermetic-sounding Hemispheres two years later, Doseone's career path has beguiled even his most devoted fans. Initially pigeonholed as poetically inclined rapper with an unusually affected voice, Dose has evolved into a human sound collagist. He crafts broken verses, then applies them to various musical environments - whether it be Hood's glacial indie-rock or Boom Bip's junkyard electronics - by singing, whispering or speed-rapping them to near-incomprehensibility.