Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why I left the Game Years Ago

Respect.  Thank you for reading.  For those of you who know Doc Sinn well, you remember that at one time I was an emcee. I was once a part of one the most influential underground Hip Hop groups in the Carolinas.  If you've been following me long enough, you also remember that even before that I  had a record deal and my group was distributed by Atlantic records.  There was a time in my life where Hip Hop music was all encompassing and there was nothing more important to me than writing rhymes and making songs.  You also know that I abruptly left the game in my early 30s and started focusing strictly on producing, writing, and social activism.  Many have theorized why I left the game and I've never talked about it much.  I've heard people say I did it because I wanted to focus on my family.  I've heard people say I became disgruntled with my associates and bandmates.  I've heard people say a lot of things.  Well I want to clear the air.  Just for my own benefit.  It's just something I want to write about and something I want to do.  And I want to do it now.

I didn't leave the game because of family.  My wifey and family are the ultimate support unit.  They'd follow me and stand behind me no matter what.  I had all the support that I needed.  They didn't take me away from Hip Hop.  I also didn't do it because I fell out with my people.  I love them.  They are my brothers and sisters.  Sure there were tough times.  Sometimes there were cross words exchanged.  But those were also some great times and I don't regret a second of it.  There isn't a single negative feeling I have about anyone I shared a mic with.  In fact, right now I want to acknowledge Shef Seenya, Mr. Rozzi, TreZure the Black Widow, Big Ski, Dreadswaye, LS, and Doc Hairston.  They are family.  They will always be family.  I will always be there for them and they for me.

I left the game for one reason.  The game changed.  Or should I say, the direction of the game changed.  When I was going hard and emceeing heavy, emcees were considered artisans.  We were wordsmiths.  We were judged by our ability to create rhymes.  By our ability to formulate our thoughts and weave them into verses.  Emcees were lyricists.  Not only that but Hip Hop was more than a business, it was a culture.  I immersed myself in that culture.  I was an apex predator.  My goal was to be the most prolific lyricist possible.  To manifest every aspect of Hip Hop culture.  I loved it.  I lived it.  Then, as I said, the game changed.

At first, life was good.  Hip Hop became mainstream.  Hip Hop artists were enjoying massive success.  The type of success one can only dream of.  Double and triple platinum records.  Multi-million dollar deals.   Endorsements.  You name it.   Hip Hop music had arrived.  It was what we thought we all wanted as artists.  Unfortunately there was also a horrible side effect.  Record labels and music companies who had neither care nor interest in Hip Hop culture saw the music as simply a cash cow.  As such, min/maxing became the law of the land.  Labels wanted maximum profit for minimum effort.  Music became disposable.  Artists became disposable.  Hip Hop culture became disposable.  The seeds were sown for what we see today.  A broken genre.  A mirage.  A facsimile of what Hip Hop was and what it used to be.

At first the change was gradual. The DJ was phased out as an integral part of Hip Hop groups. Song production became more and more simplistic. Then the floodgates opened.  The standard bar plummeted for what qualified as an emcee.  This had a massive impact on female rappers in particular.  A woman's skill on the mic meant nothing.  If she wasn't selling her ass, she wasn't selling.   As such, the female emcee went from prominent to nearly extinct within a few short years.  The culture was no longer a focal point.  Getting as much fast money as you can was all that mattered.  Suddenly it didn't matter so much how skilled you were.  Or how hot your 16s were.  If you had the right gimmick and could turn a fast dollar, little else was important.  Now I love fast money as much as anyone.  But I also love Hip Hop culture.  I knew at that moment I had to make a personal decision.

I am a proud man.  I am a principled man.  I live by my own code  I live by my own sense of honor.  After everything I had invested in the game, there was no way I was going to dumb down who I was.  What I was.  What I do.  I couldn't.  I couldn't be a part of it anymore.  I also realized that as long as I was still emceeing there would always be a part of me that resented what the game became.  I would never love Hip Hop the same way.  So I unplugged my speakers, dropped my mic, and walked away.

I still write.  I'll likely write until I die.  But I don't ever think about coming back.  For one, I'm too old.  I'm in my early 40s now.  Hip Hop is a young man's game.  But more importantly, I'm just not inspired anymore.  I don't love it like I did.   Maybe one day that'll change.  Maybe something will hit me and I'll pick the mic back up.  But as of yet, that hasn't happened.  

I also want to be clear about something.  This isn't some old man's rant or an older man whining about the "good old days".  To be clear, as I said before, Hip Hop is a young man's game.  When I was 20, I wasn't going to let some 40 year old cat tell me how to rock.  So now that I'm that 40 year old cat I'm not going to try to talk down to the youth.   It's not about old vs. young or new school versus old school.  It's about the quality of music.  There are several artists near my age rocking who quite frankly sound terrible.  I still see Hip Hop through the eyes of an artisan and the art as been lost.
Emcees should care about their music.  They should work at it and that work should reflect in their music. I don't see it.

I don't pass judgment on those who are still grinding in the name of true Hip Hop culture.  I applaud them.  I don't set myself above them.  In fact I admire their fortitude and willingness to press on in the name of good music.  I just couldn't do it.  In many ways they are far better than me.  To those emcees I say "Keep rocking.  Keep doing what you do."

Twenty years ago if you told me that mainstream Hip Hop would be little more that sugar coated pop music in a hard candy shell I'd have laughed at you.  If you had told me emcees today would be a joke compared to emcees then I would've told you to go fuck yourself.  But that is where we are.  I made a decision.  This why I made it.  I don't know if it's the right one or the wrong one.  But it's the one I made.  I stand by it.  I live with it.  Thank you for reading.

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