The return of the Beat Detective

Posted on September 1, 2009 by


After a long, long hiatus I’m back with a fresh sample example. The song Yay Area by E-40 is probably familar to many West coast Hip-Hop fans. Much of the allure of the song comes from the silky smooth jazz intro transitioning into a heavy Bay beat and the repetition of the legendary line from New York Crew Digable Planets song Rebirth of Slick: “We be to Rap, What key be to lock”. Not only is it catchy but its one of the truly poetic lines in Hip-Hop. What is Rap (or Hip-Hop) without the artist? What is a lock without its key?

Both are literally useless without each other, and the lock even becomes a burden if it constrains the bearer. However i think the songwriter was attempting to imply a deeper meaning by associating those two images.  Hip-Hop is a liberating force at its origin, it allows us to escape, but the commercialization of Hip-Hop seems to have had the opposite effect. Focusing on aspects that aren’t liberating but in fact crippling, losing the essence of the artist. The proverbial “key” to Hip-Hop.