December 5th, 2008

eyecon

on HOVA, hooks and hip-hop princesses...


Rihanna
Yep, I'd chop off my arm to hit that...
I haven't really talked about pop culture in a while. I just hadn't really had anything to say. But I've been thinking about something weird the last couple days and thought I'd just rant about it here a little here and see other people's input on the subject.

Have you ever noticed that at any given time there is only one crown princess of hip-hop? Sure, there's lots of female rappers, but that's not really what I mean. In the beginning, back in the day, in the before time, in the long long ago, there was Michel'le. Michel'le was part of the World Class Wreckin' Cru. And by part of, I mean she was fucking Dr. Dre, and someone was like "Dayumm! Dre's girl is hot and can sing, someone should get her to do hooks on this song" and they gave her four lines to repeat over and over again and then had her standing around looking all hot and stuff.

Before you turn off the lights let's get one thing understood
If you plan to make love to me you've got to do it good
Cuz I'm a hell of a woman and for me it takes a hell of man
So don't you dare turn off the lights unless this you understand


It was lightning in a bottle. But much like Dre frequently is, The WCWC was WAY ahead of it's time. Nothing really came of it. Sure there were females in the rap game. You had your Salt-N-Pepa, your MC Lyte, even your Roxanne Shanté, but they were all actually rappers. Then you had your female acts tangentially related to hip-hop: En Vogue, Nia Peeples, Pebbles. But they were more just R&B singers who happened to hang out with Rappers.

And then came Aaliyah. It is my sincere belief that God so loved the world that he saw fit to take the very concept of sexiness and pour it into the fleshbound vessel of a 15 year old girl, whom he allowed to walk the earth. The idea of the hip-hop princess was born.

Hip-Hop had long played with fusion between itself and other music styles, not only with the World Class Wreckin' Cru, but you had the likes of Run-DMC and Aerosmith teaming up. Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. Public Enemy and Anthrax. But now, in this earthbound angel, you had the genesis for what would become the standard of the musical style. Get a talented (or at least semi-talented) rapper to spit some rhymes and then toss in hooks by a sexy soul singer. Like I said, lightning in a bottle. And as all of the predictions of the great prophet Phil Spector would come to pass, God is a young black girl who can sing.

Like all messiahs, Aaliyah's time on this earth was very brief and seven years later she was dead. But she made way for others, mere mortals who would fill her void.

In her wake came Brandy, but Brandy didn't have street cred, so she was replaced by Monica. Monica was here for but a cup of coffee and she was in turn replaced by Mýa. Mýa probably could have done ok with her career, but the mighty juggernaut that is Jennifer Lopez decided she was "street" so she changed her named to J-Lo, started using the word "nigga" and took the spot. J-Lo then decided she didn't want to be street anymore and turned her attention to acting (and later back to other non-hip-hop music styles) which left a void. That void would be immediately filled by Ashanti, who actually coined the term "Princess of Hip-Hop" for herself, coronation in the A-T-L and all. The problem was Ashanti, while hot was quite negroid in appearance and so her spot was usurped by Christina Milian, who was just as good a singer and 10 times sexier and more marketable to a caucasian audience. The people being fickle as they are, Milian's album falls from the charts and she was in turn replaced by Ciara. Ciara takes up the baton and runs with it, but then like J-Lo before her, the machine that is Beyoncé simply decides one day that she is the new hip-hop princess and Ciara is banished to obscurity. Again, like J-Lo, Beyoncé bores of the role and looks for more interesting solo opportunities than just singing hooks. Furthermore she decides to get involved with Jay-Z, who secretly is actually the current living avatar of God(-MC) himself. HOVA so loved the world that upon taking Beyoncé for himself, he saw fit to give us a new messiah, and once again took sexiness and made it incarnate and set it upon the earth in a teenaged female form, and thus the world was given Rihanna.

HOVA-damn!

So anyway, my point is, given the popularity of the style, sexy female hooks over street gangsta hip-hop verses, you'd think there'd be a huge market for hook singers. There have always been duets with hot female singers. Everyone from Diana Ross to Britney Spears. From Dolly Parton to Whitney Houston. But in other music styles, any number of females singers can be in demand at one time. Indeed, others like Missy Elliot, Faith Evans, Mary J Blige and even Mariah Carey have attempted to kind of horn in on the action. But it never really works out. They all do better as solo artists, and none of them have ever been as ubiquitous as the princesses I mentioned above. There's even been situations where you'd have a Pop or R&B artist who'd bring a rapper in to spit a verse in the middle of the song. This was the whole base formula behind using the Left-Eye in TLC.

But I find the whole hip-hop princess thing curious. I dunno why, but somehow the fact that there is only one at any given time just makes it seem more magical. That and I'm pretty sure that the tears of Rihanna can actually cure disease.

So does anyone have any idea why that is? Also, jameel and I were talking about all this yesterday, and I think I've been able to trace the entire lineage back as far as it goes, but did I miss anyone? Did it not really originate with Aaliyah? And does this phenomenon happen in any other music style? Or for that matter any other art style at all?