Trinidad James has become the latest hyper-buzzed about rapper of 2012, with his single “All Gold Everything” landing over a million YouTube views and the simplistic lyrics have been popping up everywhere — from Rihanna’s tweets to the Atlanta Falcons’ locker room.
But is everyone singing the praises of the Trinidadian born, Atlanta-based, gold-loving new rap star? Not exactly.
Critics deride his song’s simplistic lyrics, brain-dead refrain and tacky materialism. James is the latest in a long line of “this is the problem” rappers that care nothing about hip hop’s storied past and have no artistic ambition other than to make cheesy, dumbed-down music that seems to mock the genre itself while insulting the intelligence of its audience. Like Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka— James is a reminder that Atlanta trap/party rap (“trap-party rap?”) stars have traditionally been extremely polarizing both within hip hop circles and throughout the more “serious” corners of the musical spectrum.
But, why are some fans using these artists as “evidence” that hip hop is dead and has lost its way? Why do we pretend that these artists are some new phenomenon that never existed in previous eras?
The great-grandfather of the Trinidad James’ of the world, could be musically and thematically traced to acts like 2 Live Crew and Poison Clan, southern pioneers that emphasized trunk-rattling beats and raunchy lyrics designed for dark, hole-in-the-wall nightclubs with dirt parking lots and pretty girls booty- popping in corners.
Later on, a more obvious antecedent of the Guccis and Wakas of the world exploded onto the national stage from out of New Orleans. Master P’s No Limit Records was not known for lyrical virtuousos nor musical iconoclasts—the music was repetitive and monotonous, preoccupied with gangsta clichés and buoyed the same rat-a-tat Beats By the Pound production. The marketing of the sound was so crass, that the label printed up and advertised album covers for projects that hadn’t even been recorded yet (many of which never were.)
Hip hop wasn’t anymore dead during those previous eras than now. There are alternatives — options, both in the mainstream and indie circles. Rhymer-singer Drake provides an option, quirky Compton wordsmith Kendrick Lamar provides another one. Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Brother Ali, Curren$y, Azealia Banks, Rick Ross, B.o.B — there are more voices, styles and perspectives be heard than just Trinidad James. And they are being heard.
Just as they were back in 1997.
So stop all of the hand-wringing and finger-wagging.