It’s Time For A Universal Rap License
By Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur
Straight up, I propose that Hip-Hop adopt a universal Emcee or Rapper’s License that consists of a series of tests that a rapper must pass to enter this thing we have created.
Why? For just about every job, you need to fulfill certain requirements to become a master of that trade or to practice professionally.
For example, to be a doctor or lawyer, you must go through extensive schooling, college and other higher education. Doctors don’t want some fool in the operating room and patients don’t want to be sliced by an amateur! To drive an 18-wheel truck, you cannot just jump in the seat of the big rig. Who wants a guy that drives a Jetta to suddenly switch to a Mack Truck? Even basic things like flipping burgers, require a period of training.
Hip-Hip is most compared to sport, because of the fierce level of competition. I remember how Kimbo Slice was treated when he walked off the Florida streets as a ‘hood legend into the sport of professional Mixed Martial Arts. He had raw talent, but he wasn’t quite ready for the big time. (He’s training for the UFC now, but had to go back to basics after a terrible KO loss.)
I feel like a lot of rappers are like Kimbo Slice, only most are less talented. They need training to be emcees and we need to collectively lobby for this new Emcee Rap License for all artists claiming to be artists.
Now, this isn’t some old head, purist jibber jabber. This is simply a theory on quality control. Everybody gets better with my proposal.
Sports figures like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Julius “Dr. J” Irving practiced hours and hours and hours before and after they stepped on the court as professional ball players. How well would they fare if they didn’t put in so much work before the game?
They would fare about the same as most of you rappers floundering around the internet trying to get “on.” It would seem that people forget that there are some universal principles to success that don’t change even though the times do.
The universal Rapper’s License would force people to adhere to rules and set standards. It would keep “unsafe drivers” off the road. If your stage show is weak, you fail and must go back and step it up. If your flow is trash and your “teacher” doesn’t think you are ready, you must return to the basement (or wherever you practice). Get it right! When your baby sister beats you in a rap battle your license may get flagged as somebody forbidden to freestyle. Only after you pass the series of tests and read certain texts can you be allowed to rap professionally.
Here is a confession. I failed the written part of my driver’s exam. I failed again. I finally buckled down and studied and was permitted to drive. Since then, I’ve never had an accident to this day (Knock on wood), because of the skills my dad showed me on the road, the stuff I learned in driver’s ed.
The point is, most music genres require you to have a number of skill sets to be accepted. Even though Britney Spears can’t sing, her stage show is reportedly crazy. She knows better than to bust out an acapella like Aretha. Lenny Kravitz was heavily criticized, but he can play that guitar. He went through the fire and came out on top, some 20 years later. The same applies to the greats of rap. Those that established a rock solid base are still here decades later.
We need that universal Rapper’s License asap.
Until then, here are some tips for your aspiring rap artists. I also recommend you study the other elements of Hip-Hop like Graffiti, B-boying, DJ’ing and even peripheral elements like fashion and beat boxing.
1) Practice over and over and over and over.
I recommend practicing at least one year intensely before even doing so much as a talent show.
2) Learn how to perform in front of a crowd.
KRS-One and Busta Rhymes are two of the best live stage show and they will always have an audience because of it. A lot of other great rappers don’t have any more streams of venue, because they are wack in concert.
3) Have a good team.
I don’t mean your “mans” either. I mean have a strong team of diverse, skilled individuals that can market/sell/promote your product once it gets to that level of quality.
4) Know the in’s and out’s of technology.
Just because you now can get on youtube and spit doesn’t mean you should. Protect your image, because your career depends on it. Learn how technology can work for and against you.
5) Know your history.
Like I said, this isn’t some purist rant. But, to know the past is to learn from it. Rappers of old have made strides and mistakes. It would be good to know this. Mike Tyson didn’t just pop up and turn into a champion boxer, he used techniques from everybody – Ali to Liston.
Chuck Creekmur is the founder of AllHipHop.com, a cultural critic, public speaker and all around good person.