curious collaborative

Carrie Underwood is more Hip Hop Than 2 Chainz

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As part of Idea Lemon's newest project, The Curious Collaborative, my April 2013 is a commitment to listening to only country music. Let me say upfront that I HATE country music.

At least I thought I did, anyway. The goal of The Curious Collaborative this month is to engross yourself in a genre you don't like or don't listen to so that you can find something within the genre that you might actually like. Or, if you find that you still hate it all, at least you can say so from an educated standpoint. So much of what we say we don't like are things that we have never tried, and we steer from trying them because we're afraid we might actually like them.

It's been two weeks into the music experiment and I can no longer make the blanket statement, "I hate country music." I have found certain songs and artists I can not only bear, but actually enjoy. Artists such as Eli Young Band and Rascal Flatts, and songs like If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away.

This brings me to Carrie Underwood, and the reason why you probably decided to click on this in the first place.

When her songs pop up on Pandora, chances are it's going to be a song I'll like. It hit me the other morning that there's a reason I keep enjoying finding her new songs (new to me, anyway): She tells stories. Her songs are narrative compositions with all the elements of a captivating caper. There is a defined plot, rising action, climaxes, falling action, antagonists, protagonists, and sometimes even plot twists.

I had the revelation a few days ago that this is the reason why I like Carrie Underwood's catalog and the same reason why I love hip hop music. In hip hop, punchlines are what hook me, but strong narratives are what reel me in. And that's the foundations of strong rap music. We don't consider 2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, GZA, NWA, Big L, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Eminem, etc. to be the best at their craft because they throw down a funny metaphor or hard-hitting punch line. We hail them as the best because of their uncanny ability to tell us stories through song.

I laugh at 2 Chainz. He has catchy lines and easy to dance to songs, yes. But at the end of the day, 2 Chainz is a joke. He's not clever ("She got a big booty so I call her big booty"), and his songs are an arsenal of random phrases that just so happen to be put together in a song.

I put this same knock on Eminem's 2009 album Relapse. He still raps about the same perverted and demented content as usual, but it's not in a linear fashion. In many of the songs on Relapse you could take one line and insert it anywhere else in the song and not lose the context or (barely apparent) cache.

2 Chainz may be a rapper, but 2 Chainz is not hip hop. Carrie Underwood may be a country singer, but she is on the same plane as hip hop.


Author: Rajiv Nathan 

Rajiv Nathan is the co-founder of Idea Lemon with a background in digital and mobile strategy. He is passionately curious, a people-meeter and lives by the motto, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take."