Guy Lochhead, 11/09/10
American barber and rapper El Tysheikh comes from the second biggest project housing unit in the US – Brownsville, Brooklyn. He started out breakdancing, then moved onto graffiti, before settling in rap. This attitude towards hip hop as a cultural movement rather than a musical genre filters into his lyrics’ concerns with the state of modern hip hop, as well as his regretting missed opportunities to make it big, and fierce DIY ethic. He writes, records and mixes his songs himself on a four-track. Because he doesn’t use producers, he sells his records for as much as people will pay him directly, and he encourages this independent approach in those around him. There is much to admire in El Tysheikh’s attitude towards music and hip hop, and the interview I read with him in Vice magazine is a fantastic, inspiring piece, but it’s still just about hip hop… The man loves hip hop, but he doesn’t retain its original concerns. Before there was hip hop, there were black poets speaking out against the institutionalised racism they faced every day of their life. Rap was adopted as a direct form of (mostly) black communication that didn’t rely on the prejudiced mainstream channels. Some artists concentrated on this new form of communication, others concentrated on developing their verbal delivery and dexterity. Hip hop progressed more concerned with the latter. I feel this is what El Tysheikh has here. His DIY, grassroots enthusiasm encourages black youth to rap and not rely on established capitalist models of production hierarchies. It doesn’t encourage black and white youth to group together and challenge the prejudices that gave/give form to those hierarchies. He loves hip hop for what it was, not what it could resume being, imho. Finally, it’s just hip hop.