Sunday, August 16, 2009

The 10 Rap Commandments

So, seventeen years after "The Ten Laws of Rap" came out, Mad Skillz followed that up with "The Ten Rap Commandments." Of course, this wasn't intended as a sequel to The Showboys' record, but rather a play on Biggie Smalls' 1997 record, "The Ten Crack Commandments." Well, it was an album track in 1997 (from Life After Death), but it came out on 12" with the instrumental etc. in 1999.

That's worth noting because for "The Ten Rap Commandments," Skillz completely jacks Premiere's instrumental, including the scratching etc. He's literally just rapping over the instrumental version. That's why they probably label this specifically as a "Freestyle" on the label... Rawkus' way of asking Bad Boy, "please, don't sue us."

So the concept is pretty obvious from the title, right? Skills changes Biggie's ten commandments about dealing crack and turns it into a ten point manifesto on the rap game. But i thought it'd be fun to see how Skills' ten differ from The Showboys'. How far did the hip-hop scene come between 1985 and 2002? How would the ten most important rules for an MC have changed? Well, again, Skills has a whole (albeit short) song to break it down, so I'll paraphrase:

1) Don't trust your A&R
2) Don't play rough mixes of your songs for your label
3) Don't trust anybody who makes you promises
4) "I know you heard this before: do what your label say. They the pimp; you the whore."
5) Stay true to where you're from
6) Charge everything you can to your label
7) Pay your taxes
8) Don't trust your label mates
9) "You don't work at your label, so don't go there a lot."
10) Keep your publishing

...Now it's debatable how much of this can be attributed to a change in the times, and how much would simply come from personality differences between Skills and The Showboys when they wrote their songs. But it's interesting how much more cynical and business-oriented this new list is compared to the old one. Have rappers gotten more mercenary? Or have they become simply more jaded and aware of the shady side of the music industry? The answer is probably the age-old, "a little bit from Column A..."

So, there's nothing to this pseudo-white label (it looks like a white label; but Rawkus still puts their brand on it and catalogs it) besides the one version of the one song. Side B is exactly the same as side A. Of course, it would've taken some kind of lawsuit-tempting nerve to include the instrumental mix here... If you want that, just get the "Who Shot Ya?" or "Kick In the Door" 12"'s. Maybe you can make up your own "Ten ______ Commandments" rap. ;)

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