Throughout the last year or so a new hip hop movement has emerged that many critics and fans of the genre has deemed “weird hip hop”. With their nonstop release of free mixtapes, weekly YouTube videos, and a new more accepting audience with an eclectic taste, weird hip hop has really become an underground phenomenon that’s bursting from every corner of the web. Beyond the relatively young and more tech savvy artists, weird hip hop has had a long and elaborate history in its rather organic and experimental evolution. We’re going to give you a little primer on the most important artists within the movement and exactly how they fit into some of the most exciting and next level music that’s being released.
If Cam’ron was white and from Portland, there would an endless amount of students writing their Graduate thesis’ about him instead of Beckett. Cam’ron and his Dipset compadres effortlessly cram as many Theater of Absurd non sequiturs and bon mots into a 3 minute song that makes Endgame look like Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. He weaves complex narratives and nonsensical witticisms from intricate syncopated homonyms, self-created inside joke slang, and tongue twisting alliteration, all while maintaining the most astute anti-hero / stand up comic persona that’s ever been put on record. He’s from Harlem but his Dada overtones are straight out of the marrow bones wafting out of every Paris brasserie.
E-40 has been recording and releasing music longer then most of us have had fully developed ear drums. He personifies the authentic, never contrived brand of west coast experimental gangsta rap that is seen as an absolute pinnacle within the genre. From his use of extremely off kilter flows / cadences, and his creation of the some of the most innovative and commonly used slang has made him an absolute legend within the genre. He’s probably one of the most original and inimitable rappers to ever come out of the west coast gangsta rap canon.
The Wu Tang Clan has been creating some of the most innovative and absolutely avant garde east coast rap music since their inception in the early 1990s. From their use of eastern philosophy, martial arts metaphorical life lessons, and some of the most obtuse and abstract slang ever put to record, they’ve always been ahead of the curve compared to their mainstream counterparts, while at the same time being able to crossover and attain mass fandom. Every member contains their own amazing idiosyncrasies, but Ghostface Killah has some of the most avant garde and wtf rhymes that have ever been uttered. You could spend months just dissecting their catalogue and you would only be able to grasp a small portion of their prolific output.
Some might argue that Freestyle Fellowship doesn’t necessarily fit in with some of these other groups, but their progressive and next level records have decidedly laid the groundwork for every contemporary MC that might mildly pass within the “weirdo” conglomerate. They have some of the most mindblowing flows / cadences that have ever existed in rap music, which were very often based on the scatting and improvisation commonly associated with Jazz music. Every single member has their amazing individual flourishes, and especially Aceyalone and Myka 9 are two of the most important MCs as far as the legacy of their influence. Everyone from Bone Thugs to Anticon would have never had a blueprint if wasn’t for what Freestyle Fellowship was recording over twenty years ago.
Anticon took the blueprint laid out by Freestyle Fellowship and the entire west coast underground and expanded upon it into absolutely unheard of territory. For the last 15 years Anticon has released the most experimental and progressive hip hop that has probably ever existed in the genre. Besides the releases on their own label, if you sought out the solo albums and group affiliations of each member, there is an endless array of records one more mind-blowing then the next. Even if the collective never released another album, their catalogue will always be known as one of the most forward thinking and next level discographies in possibly the entire hip hop genre.
Essential Listening: Anticon – Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop,
Southern Rap has always really had a special place in experimental and progressive hip hop. Over the last decade or so it’s really become more popular and radio friendly, but there’s so much innovation and raw energy behind so many artists that could easily be seen as the origins of the weird hip hop movement. Outkast has been releasing some of the most otherworldly and highly listenable rap music for the last nearly twenty years. Way before southern rap was accepted as a genre staple on the east coast, Outkast was making music that they wanted to hear, without contemplating if their fans would understand it. They’ve effectively created an amazing formula for themselves incorporating some of the best aspects of the diverse hip hop landscape; the raw 808s of Miami bass music, the experimental synth lines of Bounce and electronic music, and some of the most interesting flows and cadences that have influenced generations of Southern Mcs. Not to mention “Hey Ya!” by André 3000, is probably considered one of the best pop songs ever recorded; they can really do it all and make it seem effortless.
No mention of weird hip hop is really complete without talking about Kool Keith. He was almost similar to a golden era Lil B before the Based God was even able to lace up his Vans. From his early output with the Ultramagnetic MCs, to his increasingly strange solo albums, Kool Keith is a rapper who never ceases to amaze. Just a short listen of his outer space gynecologist concept album “Dr. Octagonecologyst” to his amazing smooth R&B 808-centric “The Personal Album”, you’ll begin to realize his catalogue is just as diverse and outlandish as the multiple personas he creates for nearly every album. He would have been right at home with Dali and Ernst in the Surrealist movement, eating snails out of a conch shell while coming up with non-sequiturs assembled from discarded napkin fragments.
Lil B has just as many fans as he has detractors, but no matter what you think of him, his massive online fanbase and prolific output has become one of the most substantial catalogues in experimental rap music. From his creation of the “Based” genre, a philosophy that incorporates free association rhymes gathered from your subconscious, he’s taken the innovation of the last 30 years of hip hop, put it all in a Cusianart and out comes the most amazing smoothie that appeals to even the most discerning of palettes. Through his innovative and steadfast approach to Social Media, he’s garnered a massive cult following that crosses all cultures, ethnicities, and demographics. He’s making some of the most progressive and experimental music that’s ever been released in any genre, while completely utilizing every tool within the hip hop canon. He’s abstract like Rothko, a maximalist like Hirst, with a touch of the tongue in cheek humor of Warhol or John Waters to boot; every song he releases is innovation in its purest form.
These are a few other important artists or labels that need to be mentioned. They’re all just as impressive in their amazing experimental releases: