The Future of Rap?

The N Word (Nativetongue Productions)

By Kory Wilcoxson

Chuck D raps on John Mellencamp's latest CD. A sign of the apocalypse? Maybe, but more likely a sign that rap has ripened beyond its trouble teenage years into an accepted musical art form. Having struggled through its gangsta rap adolescence, rap has found an identity in the musical world, which has opened up new opportunities for rap artists to showcase their styles. Some may scoff and call that assimilation; I call it maturation.

Local rapper Nacirema could be the poster boy for this development. Rappers are more frequently leaving behind the testosterone-driven need to outmacho everyone else. Nacirema certainly doesn't fall prey to this kind of grandstanding, instead letting his rap skills and his intelligent rhymes speak for themselves.

Nacirema also displays an impressive creativity in his beats and lyrics. "Piece of Paper" invites the listener into Nacirema's creative process, as he and his brain work together on filling up the blank page. It's the kind of behind-the-scenes look that past rappers wouldn't have risked; through his vulnerability, Nacirema connects.

Other songs display the same kind of fresh thinking. "Private Property" boasts a sweet Marvin Gaye-like backing vocal, "Beautiful Place" delves into social commentary without the straightforward preachiness of other rappers. Even when Nacirema does revert to one-upmanship rap, his imaginative styling kicks in: he tries to one-up himself, rapping against his "Multiple Personalities." If this is the future of rap, I like it.