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Arm Wrestling

Rock Or Hip-Hop

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My Uber driver was a rapper. Told me about signing with a production company, going to SXSW, buying his beats online.

So I told him to play me his tracks. Not bad, but a lot of references to other rappers and a lot of profanity, not a lot of substance, but is this the new rock and roll?

Everybody had a band back when. And most of them were terrible. But people dreamed, and got fulfilled, as their lives fell into place and the goal became hazy and then drifted into the distance.

But many still play and they all go to shows.

And when he dropped me off the driver told me he was a liquor salesman with three kids and that’s when I realized, it was a hobby.

But we all need something to keep us going.

That was the debate last night at the initial Lefsetz vs. Flom show. Rock versus hip-hop.

Did you read the WSJ article about live grosses?

“Hip-Hop Is Huge, but on the Concert Circuit, Rock Is King”

(Behind a paywall. Information is not free, and those who pay are the best informed, proving once again we live in a two-tiered society.)

It’s a bit apples to oranges. There are not enough heritage hip-hop acts. And Jay Z sells out stadiums, albeit with Beyonce, then again, hip-hop has been around for thirty-odd years, so…

Then a member of the audience brought up country, which bridges the gap. Turns out there are two country radio stations in Boston, and never forget this is where Kenny Chesney’s No Shoes Nation started, at Gillette Stadium.

And if you’re anti-hip-hop you’re a racist.

And the right keeps appropriating old rock tunes to make its points, now Prince’s estate wants Trump to stop using “Purple Rain.” So what is going on?

I don’t know.

But one thing’s for sure, no sound is dominant today.

An ex-Berklee student, a young woman still in her twenties, loves Petty and the classics. Went to see Flo and her Machine and complained the songs on the latter albums are inferior.

And listening to the rapper’s tracks in the car one thing was for sure, the beats were good.

And our school music programs are inferior and it costs nearly nothing to rap. Beats are free online and all you need is a computer, you can even do it on a smartphone.

Then again, the School of Rock people were there last night and they now have deals with Mike Caren and Lollapalooza. Is this the future of performance rock?

And no one in the industry will take responsibility. At this point, the majors labels are all hip-hop all the time, being the sheep that they are.

And streaming companies take no responsibility in breaking outside acts. There are no unknowns on their homepage. We used to rely on radio to break acts, is this now streaming’s responsibility?

And we used to have a new sound every three years, and now we haven’t had a new sound this century.

And just like in politics, the two sides have contempt for each other.

Then again, one of the biggest acts is Ed Sheeran. How come we don’t have more of him? Same deal with Adele, not a difficult formula, great singer with great songs, but all the majors keep purveying is hip-hop.

And has it all shifted to live anyway? Is it truly about the show, the experience? And, once again, there rock is triumphing. As the WSJ article says, Drake does four MSGs and Phish does seventeen. And I won’t say there are more Phish fans, but it appears they’re more rabid. What does this mean?

Maybe hip-hop listeners are more fans of the genre than any specific artist.

Maybe it’s the same Phish fans going to every show.

It’s not as simple as young people wanting a new sound. Boomers never listened to Perry Como, abhorred Frank Sinatra until they embraced him decades later. But so many hip-hop fans love AC/DC and…

And it’s nearly impossible for rock acts to fly up to the top. We’ve got Imagine Dragons and Dave Grohl. And Grohl’s songs aren’t even that good. And then there are acts like Tedeschi Trucks which don’t fly on the mainstream radar but tour incessantly and just made a deal for residencies in New York and Chicago.

And the vaunted festivals are good for promoters, but don’t break acts.

We are in a position of transition folks, and change always comes from the bottom up. What will it be?

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