We like to discover prodigies. When they rise, we are there, waiting for them. We marvel, cheer their talents and accomplishments, and live vicariously through them.
They are regarded as proof of the American dream’s validity, these chosen ones. They emerge from some humble clay, somewhere, and use their gifts to build musical empires, like Puff Daddy, and to save economies, like Bill Clinton.
Sometimes, they do things on a smaller scale. Sometimes, they simply rap their asses off. Like Royce da 5’9”.
We like to see prodigies fall. When they do, we are there, waiting for them. We step aside as they tumble, hands behind our backs, a safe distance kept from any issue related to them. We have seen their faults all along, of course. We always said they would never reach their full potential unless they dealt with their shortcomings.
They become proof of the American reality. We watch them fly, we watch them spin out of control. They come down, and none of us catch them.
These felled ones, having overstayed their welcomes, or overplayed their positions, disintegrate, like truth denied. They are indicted, like Puff Daddy. They get blow jobs in the wrong place, at the wrong time, by the wrong intern. Like Bill Clinton.
Sometimes, they do things on a smaller scale. Sometimes, they release debut albums that are poorly promoted. They stray from their signature sound. They get into intense conflicts with the employees of the No. 1 rapper in the world. By default, this causes friction with the No. 1 rapper himself. They receive death threats. They get arrested. They withdraw, the weight of the streets and Internet chat rooms on their shoulders. Like Royce da 5’9”.
We love to see prodigies redeem themselves. When they do, we are there, waiting for them. We stretch our hypocritical arms, and say we knew they could do it.
They become proof of the American spirit, in all its supposed resilience. They change their names, secure MTV shows and run clothing companies that make dumb amounts of money. Like P. Diddy.
They open offices in Harlem, and do more than 150 20-minute speeches in their first post-presidential year, with an extravagant honorarium for each address. Like Bill Clinton.
Sometimes they do things on a smaller scale. They spend a year sleeping four hours a night, writing and recording up to 14 hours a day. They then sneak preview a highly anticipated sophomore album, Death Is Certain, which is set to come out early next year. The release will make or break a career.
I hear it, and four songs into the project, realize it’s not only some of the best hip hop recorded in Detroit in two years, it could become one of the most well-recorded, thoroughly conceived and best-produced albums all of 2004.
These resilient ones, they man up. They grow up, exorcise personal demons. They reunite with DJ Premier, the producer behind “Boom,” and track “Hip Hop,” a ridiculous collaboration that ups the ante on Gang Starr’s “Skillz.” They record no less than ten songs with Carlos “Six July” Broady, the boardsman behind Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death album. The result is a collection of songs with all the musical intensity of Biggie’s classic.
They get honest with themselves, exhale on record. They drop the “King of Detroit” moniker, and decide it’s better to be respected than crowned. They wonder if Columbia Records will make the same mistake it made with 50 Cent, taking him for granted until he grew tired and built a successful underground campaign.
They decide it doesn’t matter. They’ll promote it themselves by releasing an EP/DVD package prior to the album. The EP will have unreleased tracks, and the DVD will chronicle the recording process for Death Is Certain.
We love to see prodigies come to terms with themselves, especially when it makes them better artists. That way, it reflects in the music we spend our hard-earned money on. We don’t hold these artists up. We just learn to appreciate them.
Like Royce da 5’9”. Come 2004, you might feel the same way.Khary Kimani Turner is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org