22Jan/110

Levels Of Imagination

Stream: Leaders Of The New School ft. Cracker Jax & Geranimo “Mt Airy Groove (Levels Of Imagination)”

Kevin Beacham’s interview of Leaders Of The New School affiliates The Cracker Jax and Boothe’s response got me thinking about how fans and critics tend to undervalue imagination and creativity in rap music. Although these traits are often mentioned as essential components of artistry, they are usually praised as catalysts for completing and refining songs and albums, and not as the building blocks of raw expression. This makes sense because rap has been a commercial, globally distributed artform for most of its lifetime. But when we focus the vast majority of our critical efforts on artists who completed albums and gradually refined their styles for the sake of commerce, we miss out on celebrating the ones that burst on the scene with the energy of their youth intact and floated on before it was spent. In their brief discographies we can sometimes hear the practically unadulterated spontaneity, optimism, and enthusiasm that has always been the driving force of this genre.1

The Cracker Jax are one such group that were unusually fierce in their commitment to the idea that rapping is a Wordsworthian “spontaneous overflow” of emotions and thought. They are featured on three Leaders Of The New School posse cuts that are built around this concept: “Mt. Airy Groove,” “Sound Of The Zeekers,” and “Spontaneous.” On each song their rhymes are fast, stylized, highly visual, and unapologetically whimsical. Like hyperactive children, they are fascinated by flavors, colors, and foodstuffs, which they have learned from artists like Ultramagnetic MCs and Organized Konfusion are potent symbols of unbridled imagination. Although the rap blogosphere has developed a small lexicon of negative terms2  to describe rap that is fixated on the creative process (“rapping about rap” or more obnoxiously “rapping about nothing”), was not commercially successful or critically lauded (“random rap”), or as recorded by the associates of better known groups (“weed carriers”), I feel that rap like this is part of a tradition that spans from The Sugar Hill Gang to Ghostface and E-40 to Young Dro and Lil B’, and is well worth your time.  — Thun

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  1. Granted, some artists that fit this description were just in it for the money and the drama of being a rap star, but we’re not focusing on those artists right now! []
  2. All of which are typically deployed in a transparently biased manner. []

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