This past December, after his 10-minute freestyle on Funk Flex went viral on social media, greatest rapper alive candidate Black Thought sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone, during which he laid claim to the title of mumble rap inventer.
“Lots of people are saying that I shut down mumble rap in one 10-minute setting,” Thought told writer Mosi Reeves. “But that wasn’t my intention, because mumble rap – if we go back – that’s something I invented. I invented rapping without actually using the words.”
Thought, of course, is referencing his handiwork on “Don’t Say Nuthin’,” a standout selection from The Roots’ 2004 album The Tipping Point, in which he inaudibly mumbles words during the song’s hook as a play on the record’s title.
During a recent guest appearance on Touré Show, a weekly podcast hosted by esteemed American journalist Touré, Thought dissected the creative direction that is being taken by many millennial rappers and once again touched on “mumble rap.”
“One thing that the millennial rapper is doing, and this isn’t across the board—every millennial rapper doesn’t do this—but lots of them, have abandoned words,” Thought said. “Like, they don’t use words… literally, there are people who are vocalists who go into the booth who don’t use any words. No audible words. It’s just mumbling.”
Black Thought is a smart man—so smart, in fact, we actually went out of our way to have him pen a guest blog two years ago so that he could share his knowledge with our readers—but this is a very, very broad brushstroke to paint. Words like “Yeah,” “What,” “Fuck” and the like won’t get you very many points in Scrabble, but they are indeed words—literally.
“I feel like the music, the rap music, or the hip-pop music of the millennial, there is much about it that I don’t really understand,” he told Touré, echoing a sentiment that has been expressed by many of his veteran peers. “I feel like because it’s not for me. It’s not being created with my sensibility taken into consideration.”
At 46 years of age, it’s understandable that Black Thought might not enjoy or understand the new hip-hop music being made, while also wishing the artists were saying more or that he could more clearly understand their diction. But to publicize (and believe) that large swaths of rappers have actually completely “abandoned words” because they are not impressive or because they aren’t being rapped clearly or with a great deal of thought is simply untrue.