The only dude I wanna see is big Ben Franklin.
I stack him and fold ’till my ego grows,
Embracing the hate from backpackers and hoes…
Coming from a time when lyrics were conscious and samples were jazzy, we have the backpacker. Usually white and usually wearing a hoodie and a fitted cap slanted off to the side, you will see him with low-slung trousers and skate shoes, listening to the latest Spank Rock remix through headphones that seem far too big for his head…
That’s the image I usually get when I hear the phrase anyway. Like a lot of other slang, the real meaning isn’t exactly concrete. But it implies a couple things: A sense of fun, more conscious lyrics, a more eclectic source of sample material, a shirking of all things “gangsta,” and an underground sensibility that usually comes part and parcel with a lack of commercial success and/or appeal to a wide audience. There’s also a nostalgia for the “purity” of the old-school of the medium, when hip-hop wasn’t about bitches and bling, dealing and gun clapping. Certain artists tend to ride the fence between the mainstream and backpack worlds (Kanye and Lupe Fiasco come to mind), but for the most part the term seems to be one of derision in the hip-hop world, as if appealing to the backpack/underground audience alienates you from “the streets.” It kinda reminds me of all the denying De La Soul had to do on and after 3 Feet High and Rising, saying over and over that they weren’t hippies, just into something different. But then again, you’ve also got someone like Ghostface Killah embracing the underground sound, hiring a producer like MF Doom for Fishscale. So who knows.
Either way, I’m not even gonna pretend I’m up on the underground, but the hip-hop I own does tend more towards the “backpack” than the gangsta (though even I know those huge headphones look foolish). Here are some good ones. Enjoy:
Jurassic5 – Concrete Schoolyard (Buy It) The Hieroglyphics – You Never Knew (Buy It) Madvillain – All Caps (Buy It) DJ Format – Vicious Battle Raps (feat. Abdominal) (Buy It) DangerMouse & Jemini – Taking Care of Business (feat. J-Zone) (Buy It) Lupe Fiasco – Slow Down (Buy It)
posted by Adam