Back in 1994, before Chicago rapper Common linked up with Kanye West to become a household name, he released the best song of his career, "I Used To Love H.E.R.", off the best album of his career, Resurrection. Even today, "I Used To Love H.E.R." is probably the most beloved ode to hip-hop ever. In the song, he personifies hip-hop as a beautiful girl he grew up with. He describes her as she goes through different phases in her life, mirroring the different phases in hip-hop. Eventually, she's led astray and he mourns her loss of innocence.
Even if you're a cynic who distrusts nostalgia (like me), this is a beautiful song. Unfortunately, 90% of hip-hop artists since then have taken to rehashing the very same concept without adding much, if anything, to it. "Oh my gosh, hip-hop is such a darn lovely, frail woman! We have to learn to take care of her!"
It's not until recently that I've heard different takes on the concept. Last year, Scarface, the greatest rap writer alive (ever?), spit about falling out of love with hip-hop, personifying it almost like a hurtful, estranged wife that he realizes he must divorce (and he did it on a DJ Khaled track, no less...go figure). No frailty here -- this woman will stab you in the heart and twist the blade.
Finally, we get to Oceanside rapper-producer Veks, who just released a music video for his song, "Hip Hop Dreams" (watch it here). Veks's song is like a combination of Common's "H.E.R." and the Geto Boys' "My Mind Playing Tricks On Me." (Coincidentally, Scarface was in the Geto Boys and this song was also his first classic song.) Taking place in one of Veks's bad dreams, the first verse is where the song's protagonist falls in love with this chick from the New York slums (hint: that's hip-hop), even though his mom worries that she'll kill him. In the second verse, he gets into a fight with some other kid trying to battle him. Then Veks wakes up and dies in bloody fashion, presumably from the violence in his dream.
I think the moral of the story is that this rap s--- will kill you, which is particularly pertinent now since 2012 seemed to be the year that electronic music eclipsed hip-hop as the dominant music of the generation. It's become harder and harder to survive as a hip-hop artist (not to mention as someone covering hip-hop artists). It's an interesting update on a concept that has become borderline cliche. Hopefully, hip-hop will not actually kill any of us or die away itself.
Quan Vu Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog sdRAPS.com. He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.