Why Mumble Rap Really Isn’t That Bad (Video)

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Without giving specifics, I am probably just as old or a little bit older than most of you. I can remember telephones with chords, smoking sections in restaurants, cars with tape decks, and life before cable television and the glorious internet. And I’ve been a part of Hip Hop for as long as Hip Hop has been Hip Hop, if that makes any sense.

*Insert old man emoji*

I’ve digested tons of music, mostly rap, over my lifetime. And one thing that I’ve always heralded as an important aspect of any musical genre is its lyricism. Seriously. What’s the point of having a song if the words don’t mean anything? Well, that’s what I used to think. Then one day, along came the fantastic, terrific, effervescent phenomenon known as Mumble Rap.

The term “Mumble Rap” was allegedly coined by rapper Wiz Khalifa during an interview sometime in 2016. In short, Mumble Rap refers to the current wave of rap songs where lackadaisical lyrics meet muffled and mispronounced delivery equaling eerily simplistic, yet infectiously melodic material. Rappers like Desiigner, Chief Keef, Future, 21 Savage, Playboi Carti all meet or exceed the qualifications for Mumble Rappers. (That qualification is to sound like you’re spitting bars with a mouth full of piping hot oatmeal.)

Playboi Carti “Magnolia”

But while many in my age bracket dismiss and deviate from this un-understandable rap trend, I’ve chosen to embrace it. Greedily. Like an addict with a fresh bag of dope. Often I catch flak from my peers, who mock me for attempting to be a part of something that isn’t welcoming me. These are the same people that call themselves “old.” I’m not old. My grandmother is old. Mickey Mouse is old. I’m just saying. That’s when I scoff, dust that dirt off my shoulder, and turn Lil West up a little bit louder. As a father, husband, and positive force in my community, I proudly profess that I like Mumble Rap. And I’m willing to bet I like it more than my teenage children. Why, you ask?

Allow me to explain…

For what feels like a thousand years I’ve been clinging to Hip Hop music’s ability to be dexterous and flamboyant with the English language. Think E-40. One can’t deny the fact that there’s nothing in this universe quite like rap music. Those who excel at it make it well worth the price of admission. Rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, and Ice Cube (1990s Cube, not Are We There, Yet? Cube) arduously used words to create intricate stories, living speeches, breathing illustrations of their collective perceived reality. Guys like Tung Twista, Eminem, and Tech-9 took their words beyond the average listener’s stagnated attention spans. Now, after so many years of being bombarded with high-volume intellect, I’m a little tired, nay, exhausted. At this point, I can appreciate a well-timed yodel as much as an unexpected punchline. Mumble Rap takes the pressure off of me, the listener, to be a sonic snob and allows me to be just as ratchet, thotty, and carefree as the others. Quite frankly, listening to mumble rap feels a lot like having a really easy day at work. And who doesnt love an easy day at work?

On a larger scale, outside of work and family, I like to think as little as possible. Mumble Rap provides me that guilty pleasure. A lot of Hip Hop’s gatekeepers and tastemakers frown on our music being dumbed down but the culture wears many hats. Has dozens of faces. There is more than enough room for un-enunciated foolery, especially if I can Milly Rock to it, bro.

No matter how appropriate the tantrum or how violently we shake our fists at the proverbial heavens, in social terms, the old must always make way for the new. Evolution is purposeful and necessary. And there’s no way around that, especially with something as fragile and precious as hip-hop music is.

In the meantime, though, you can catch me bobbing my head furiously to some song I can’t understand the words to without a sixteen-year-old translator present. And that’s fine with me.

Words by Tony Grands
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