While we love Motorhead, this needs commentary:
Never one to mince his words, Motörhead front man Lemmy Kilmister recently shared his views on the state of modern music with Atlantic City Weekly. When asked to express his thoughts on hip hop, the metal legend had the following to say:
“Why should I do that when it’s not music… There’s nothing creative about doing that [rapping] over music someone else created. They go out and take John Bonham’s drumming. I don’t call that music. You think they [rappers] could come up with sounds of their own, even some basic sounds and they can’t do it. Sad.”
Not to offend one of the gods of metal, but:
- We disagree: we think hip-hop is music. It is organized sound; it uses rhythm primarily, but also incorporates some melodic snippets. That it is borrowed and requires less musical ability is somewhat irrelevant. Compared to Beethoven or Mozart, who could improvise structured pieces with ease and even re-configure to change the emotional direction of the piece on the fly, we’re all just about that untalented and derivative.
- The bigger point is that type of music determines the audience it attracts, and says a lot about them. People who like hip-hop are blockheads. They’re the same blockheads who were listening to disco in the 1970s, techno in the 1980s, grunge in the 1990s and nu-indie in the 2000s. They follow the trend because it’s “different” and have zero clue that the trend is actually just the latest manifestation of the same average stuff that people always chase. Hip-hop isn’t revolutionary; it’s no different than rock, if you replace the guitars with samples. Same song structures, roughly the same topics, even the same type of person producing it. These guys aren’t out there committing crimes and accidentally having musical careers; they’re committing crimes as a calculated status boost for their musical careers. They probably played first violin in high school band. It’s about the money.
- Populist music sucks because it chases trends and thus has no depth. It’s all appearance, nothing under the surface. But that’s what is called for. If you want music many people like all at once, it has to be similar to other things they already like but so they don’t feel cheated, it has to appear to be “different.” You win the multi-million dollar lottery if you take yesterday’s songs and make them seem fresh and exciting today. Whether that music is rap, rock, techno, indie, emo, screamo, disco or hip-hop, it’s all the same crap. Metal is the exception.
Sensible people know that elitism in music means you value quality over quantity. If you want quantity, you chase trends and get more of the same old crap, tricked out to be new. If you want quality, you are very careful about what you listen to and keep the best around. This however means you’ll never be trendy, which is why metal is inherently elitist: we don’t want to be part of the trends not to be “different” like hipsters/poseurs, but because we want higher quality music so we have a more intense experience.
If you want to know why rap, rock et cetera are incompatible with metal, that’s a good place to start your thinking. Lemmy is kick-starting the process to warm over a little tepid controversy to sell Motorhead’s 415th album, which is due out next month and is titled The Argle-Bargle of the Whatdumacallit or something similarly gnomic.