Open letter to Damainion Ewell

I have never been moved to write to your site before – but having read this open letter I felt the urge. I am a Hip-Hop fan also and have been listening to the music for about as long as you. I can remember when beats DIDN’T all sound the same, when there wasn’t an […]

I have never been moved to write to your site before – but having read this open letter I felt the urge. I am a Hip-Hop fan also and have been listening to the music for about as long as you.

I can remember when beats DIDN’T all sound the same, when there wasn’t an East coast, West coast or Dirty South sound (in fact there wasn’t even a “dirty” south). I remember when lyrics counted for something and skills were the most prized part of the art from – whether on the mic or decks.

I really got into Gang Starr with the album Daily Operation and Primo’s ability to hook up classic, jazz, soul and funk breaks is unique and I would say even true genius. But as Van Gogh learned in his lifetime – genius doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. It could be argued that Dre and Primo are the two greatest hip-hop producers of all time – but their respective places in the mainstream and today’s hip-hop fan base is reflected by their different directions. Primo’s position definitely doesn’t make me think he’s in it for anything other than the art!

While in your article you argue that primo shouldn’t make beats for Limp Bizkit you don’t mention major and arguably mainstream artists like Biggie(RIP) and Jay –Z, who Primo has both laced with his tracks. Both of these artists, no matter how legendary, can both be offered up as contributing to the decline of hip-hop into the current “cancerous, empty, and in a state of lifelessness” you describe. Many of their verses read like department store shopping lists, but maybe at the fear of being labeled a “hater” you decided not to include them. Funnily enough I [enjoy] both of these artists but the point I’m making is that an artist like Jeru – who I agree, fits primo beats like a hand in a glove – doesn’t sell units and consequently in order to even continue making records with artists like that, a producer needs to pay bills with artists who can sell.

The way you describe the industry it’s like you are blissfully unaware that it is an industry – there’s big money at stake – hip-hop is arguably the music version of Hollywood – and we can see how many deep and meaningful films with artistic integrity come out of there! The masses don’t want integrity (and the majors definitely don’t want to give it to them) – they want cheap thrills and spills – guns, sex, drugs – hip-hop provides all these in abundance – it’s just that we’re missing the Spike Lee or Cohen Brothers are even Woody Allen type films, if you like, in hip-hop – because that’s where artists like Jeru fit – they are, were and always will be on the edge and there is a place for them in my mind – but not in the industry’s.

Primo has stuck with Guru – so in many ways you defeat your own argument – as you said guru’s albums have not set the world alight (though his Jazzmatazz tours have brought in cash) but primo remains loyal – but you can’t do that with everyone! Primo’s been lacing MOP – another uncompromisingly underground act no matter how Dame Dash tries to clean ’em up with plastic beats, so I don’t think primo aint been staying true. But label A&R’s make deals – not artists. They decide who laces the tracks so maybe you should be urging artists and producers not to sign to labels and just seek each other out – so they have the freedom to work with who the choose – one problem you wouldn’t probably hear their music. Labels are the outlets and it’s the deals they have with radio that determine what listeners hear in the first place.

The Rakim situation at Aftermath says it all, Rakim – the god left (dropped, or a mutual decision? – outcome is the same), from what I heard he got tracks from Primo and Interscope wasn’t so happy with that direction. Reading between the lines money-maker Dre and the company and the rest were trying to gangstafy Ra – or club him out – Ra is just Ra – but in the ECONOMIC str8jacket that is today’s hip-hop, just being Ra ain’t happening.

If Primo was the way you describe him he’d be Dre – “respected” by all – making beats for 14-year-olds who thinking shooting “n#####” is cool!

One last point – something you seem to have missed is that all these artists are real people! They are not their images, they are real – no matter what they do in public. By real I don’t mean “thugs” are “street” I mean flesh and blood – breathing, eating shi**ing – like us all. That means they fall out – like us all, they grow together and apart – like us all. The fact Jeru and primo don’t work together might be something hip-hop fans like you and I can’t feel but people can’t always get on even for the sake of big cash – let alone the sake of art! Because believe, if labels thought Jeru and Primo would make millions they’d be trying to get them together.

As for Meth and the likelihood of him getting into a shiny suit – who gives a f**k – you want to listen to real hip-hop turn off the radio and listen to joints up to 1996 after that forget about it! We all need to come to terms with the fact that we loved has changed beyond recognition – I mean rappers weren’t even talking about platinum b4 – even if they sold a million records – Dre and cube used to diss the radio – Sam Cooke said “a change gonna come” – I guess it did! By the way the letter was still kinda dope – or I wouldn’t have written this!