As our economy continues to decay, it’s strange that mainstream hip-hop grows more ostentatious and flashy, whispering into our ears of what we still don’t have. What’s more perplexing is that we listen to these sensational verses preaching to us about fortune and sex as we go through our persistently ordinary routines of morning commutes, lines at the post office and walks between classes. The ideal image of success is envisioned for us by those who become less relatable by the verse — and little to nothing is being lyricized about the rough, rocky road that lies between us and that reverie.
Rigmarole, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “a complex and sometimes ritualistic procedure,” is the title of the latest compilation by Pep Love — hip-hop artist and member of the music collective Hieroglyphics who has no interest in insinuating the illusion of wealth pushed by pop culture. With lyrics like “got this lint in my pocket/ plus my landlord knocking at my door/ whatever he wants/ I don’t got it,” the album lays bare the challenges of everyday life and the obstacles that deter dreams.
In a phone interview, Pep described Rigmarole as his “homage to the life of an artist.” Pep differentiates this album from his past works. “Rigmarole speaks to a certain time in my life when I discovered that music is what makes me fulfilled, [despite] all the recent trends of hip-hop in pop culture,” said Pep.
Rigmarole matches timeless issues that pervade life with classic beats and instrumental sampling. Gospel and blues serve as the backdrop to many of his crystalline lyrics, and Pep stated that “the album gets to the source and the essence of real hip-hop.” He often references music of the past — when the music industry was less intertwined with consumer culture — and does so with unprecedented style.
“There’s a lot of talk about how hip-hop culture is right now, and not as much discussion of how we can affect the way that it is,” said Pep, “We should be making it move in our vision as creators and pioneers.” Musical diversity is a key focus in Rigmarole, and his earnest admissions in “Hip-hop My Friend” makes clear that he “lives for the bass line and the guitar riffs.” In songs like “Bang!,” strums of an electric guitar set the track’s rhythm, and in “Everywhere,” regal strings of violins surge, interwoven in between his vibrant voice that strikes the melodic foreground.
Rigmarole is Pep Love’s thoroughly honest confession of his love affair with hip-hop — divulging in the album that the romance started before he had even kissed a girl. And like all passionate love, his relationship with hip-hop seems to be a life-long ordeal working towards the innocence of that first love — which in his case is the purity of music.
“Now, music isn’t just about selling music, it’s about selling everything else,” adds Pep, “and music gets fabricated, because advertisements and corporate support get put behind ‘the next big thing,’ and nothing behind other artists who get lost in the shuffle.” Rigmarole talks about how he would rather live the life of a struggling artist, “working his fingers to the bone” for the sake of preserving the free-flowing creativity of hip-hop.
Music is supposed to transport us, but all the glitz of the diamond-encrusted grills has disillusioned us into thinking that is all that hip-hop is. We forget that the most resounding songs are not made by billionaires, but by people who share our life’s soundtrack and understand just how necessary a pair of headphones and good music is in getting through the moldiest of BART rides.