You remember Kiss right? From their iconic black and white face paint to their ornate, bedazzled outfits to their…completely subpar, braindead brand of formulaic glam rock that is remembered by most of society as a mere novelty. Their one-note lyrics and simplistic riffs sounded like a budget version of AC/DC, but the elaborate pageantry of their live shows was, admittedly, impressive on a pure entertainment level. Was their image gimmicky? Indubitably. But they managed to get inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, and their reunion tours still pack in thousands, so what do I know?
Look, they had their merits; “Detroit Rock City” and “I Wanna Rock n’ Roll All Night” are standards in the “fun and dumb” classic rock category. And their frontman, the imposing, freakishly long-tongued, Gene Simmons, is one of the most memorable figures from that period of rock music, for better or for worse.
Recalling the aforementioned Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the always-outspoken Simmons took issue with RUN-DMC and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s inductions, saying “if you don’t play guitar and you don’t write your own songs, then you don’t belong there”. Now, ignoring the fact that neither of those acts employed ghostwriters, penning all of their material themselves, neither of them played guitar; so Gene’s got a point there, I guess. But to take the name of the Hall of Fame so literally in order to be “genre-ist” against anything that’s not rock seems like a thinly veiled attempt to take away the merit from the art form and culture that is hip-hop.
Fast forward to 2016, and Mr. Simmons still can’t stop dissing rap music. In a recent Rolling Stone interview, the Kiss frontman said that he “looks forward to the death of rap”. He’s not the first old rocker to do so, as walking corpse Keith Richards discredited the genre (also in Rolling Stone) last year, saying it’s made for and by “tone deaf people”. “All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy”, Richards scoffed, sounding like every racist, out of touch grandfather in the country.
Of course, it’s not surprising that guys like Gene and Keith feel this way; they’re old as fuck. These men come from a generation that predates hip-hop as a genre completely, as the height of their relevancy was before rap music was even created from borrowed scraps of soul, disco, funk and R&B. It’s understandable for them not to ‘get’ hip-hop, but to go as far as to condemn it is simply hypocrisy. In 2002, as a guest on The O’Reilly Factor, Simmons went as far as saying that hip-hop “did tremendous good” musically, albeit in a backhanded manner. It seems hip-hop’s defiant survival has frustrated ole Gene so much that he’s gone back on his own previous word.
When Kiss and the Rolling Stones were popular with the youth, rock n’ roll was still pretty new; younger than rap music is now, in fact. It came into its own as a genre in the 1950’s as an evolved, more danceable version of blues music, with pioneers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard at the forefront. During its rise to popularity (even when performed by white men like Elvis, who is wrongfully credited as the ‘king’ of rock n’ roll), most parents denounced it as not “real music”, banning their children from buying it and swearing to all who would listen that the genre was a flash in the pan which would die out in time. Sound familiar, Gene?
Just like rock n’ roll, hip-hop has not gone anywhere, evolving and changing with the times year after year, gradually being accepted by the Grammy Academy and the aforementioned Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It’s branched out into multiple sub-genres, from ‘trap’ rap to ‘conscious’ rap, just as rock did; except not all sub genres have stood the test of time, as, ironically, Kiss’ brand of glam rock fizzled out by the late 80’s. For years, those in denial of hip-hop’s proven legitimacy and staying power have sworn it would go the way of disco, a trendy genre that would flourish for a decade or less; but, here we are more than 30 years after its inception in south Bronx, and hip-hop is bigger than disco (or arguably, any genre) ever was.
So far, veteran emcee Talib Kweli has been the most notable member of the hip-hop community to speak out against Simmons’ admonishment of his art form, calling him out on Twitter for his comments, asking “would it be fair to wish [Simmons] dead or nah?” When the rocker tried to backpedal, claiming he was merely commenting on how all music is ‘cyclical’ and rap fading out would just be following the repeated trend of all music over the years, Kweli quickly shut down that flimsy disguise of what Simmons was really saying.
Pointing out everything is “cyclical” is different than “looking forward” to things dying. Do better Gene. https://t.co/7OJHZLHPdf
— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) March 18, 2016
His specific disdain for rap is obvious, as Simmons said he was “looking forward to music coming back to lyrics and melody, instead of just talking”, which is a direct shot at rapping as a craft. However, the 66-year-old singer obviously hasn’t done much research on hip-hop before speaking on it, as melodies are more used in the genre than ever before, with artists like Drake and J. Cole employing harmonizing and pop songwriting techniques in the majority of their hooks. Even the unorthodox cadences used by Young Thug and Future are examples of melody. Also, to imply that lyrics are not involved in the creation of hip-hop songs is completely laughable.
So, with all due respect to Mr. Simmons, he should have either done more research on the genre he criticized before commenting, or preferably, just not commented at all. But he did, and his out-of-touch, non-applicable critiques have merely served as a testament of how defiantly long hip-hop has not only survived, but thrived. It’s not going anywhere, and there’s nothing that Gene Simmons, Keith Richards, or any other bitter, change-resistant hypocrite can do about it. The most-nominated artist at the Grammys this year was a RAPPER, Kendrick Lamar, who composed an album that left more impact on the societal conscious, both sonically and lyrically, than any Kiss or Rolling Stones album ever did. Hip-hop isn’t dying, Gene; it outlived your overrated band’s relevancy (exponentially) and it will outlive you, too. And if you don’t like it, then “kiss” my rapping ass.