No more breaks, dawg, it’s time to break hearts / I don’t take disrespect, I take charge / I’m in the mirror lookin’ at a work of art / Hard work don’t mean shit if it ain’t smart
Detroit stand up! In the Hip Hop geographical landscape, most people know it all started in New York City (the boogie down Bronx to be exact) and spread into regional pockets, which contributed their own unique personalities and flavors to the artform. Miami is know for its bass heavy dance beats, Los Angeles invented the laid back G-Funk and in-your-face Gangsta Rap, New Orleans has Bounce music, DC: Go-Go, and of course, Atlanta with Crunk that evolved into Trap. But it’s much more difficult to point to what defines the Detroit hip hop scene. The most famous resident, Eminem, rose to prominence with Dr. Dre and the aforementioned Cali sound. So, what is Detroit Hip-Hop?
The Detroit (really all the Midwest) Hip Hop sound is more defined by the themes of the songs, more than an actual sound. Sure, you have musical geniuses like Kanye West, J Dilla, and No I.D. that have produced some of the best rap songs ever made. But their best work has been for New York artists. The common thread that connects Midwest (Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, etc.) hip hop is a feeling of hard work. You can hear it in the lyrics, but more important, the sound. It is the descendant of Motown, which was known as the hardest working label in its era, as Berry Gordy and team pumped out hit after hit after hit. That work ethic runs through the veins of all music and musicians that come out of that region, and in particular, Big Sean. His flow and cadence give the listener the sense he’s racing against the clock, squeezing all he can out of every bar.
Big Sean just released his homage to Detroit, aptly titled, Detroit 2, and one of the best tracks is the straight to the point single, “Harder Than My Demons”. Clocking in at only 2:11, it’s almost an interlude, but the lyrics and production make it an un-skippable track.
I done wiggled out the noose knot / They been lyin’ to me my whole life, I finally found the truth out (God) / Like they don’t gotta love you if they need you / Got angels and demons on a three-way / And they ain’t comin’ to no agreement / And I still be feelin’ broke up, I’m gettin’ money / And my team ain’t gettin’ CREAM until we cremate
The trials and tribulations of Big Sean have been thoroughly documented over the past decade. It’s that perseverance and devotion to God that he raps about on this track, that manifests itself as success despite the obstacles. One of the great ironies of life: the harder you’re willing to work, the better position you’re in to quit your job and find your true calling. Work ethic isn’t about showing up on time, it’s about doing what most won’t, to achieve what most can’t.
The ground on the mountain top feel the same as rock-bottom / Quit my fuckin’ job, that’s when the real work started / Still showed up every mornin’, every evenin’ of every season / What’s the reason? God got me workin’ harder than my demons