“Everybody’s got a different way of telling a story – and has different stories to tell.” — Keith Richards
Keith Richards is undoubtedly a rock ‘n’ roll icon. In fact, we’d go as far he is the walking, talking embodiment of the very spirit that permeated the sixties and seventies golden age of rock music. But while the guitarist’s revolutionary spirit can be heard throughout The Rolling Stones’ back catalogue, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is always up for the hottest and newest music. While hip-hop has been around for decades, it’s a genre the guitarist has never got his head around.
The guitarist is famed for having accepted a myriad of influences throughout his career. Richards spent a great deal of time in Jamaica, for example, and cultivated many influences from island living into the band’s later work. He even proclaimed Gregory Isaacs song ‘Extra Classic’ as the one song he couldn’t live without when appearing on Desert Island Discs, but Richards’ doesn’t feel the same way about rap or hip hop music.
Now, just because Richards likes lots of different music doesn’t mean he has to like hip hop. After all, about David Bowie, Richards once said: “It’s all pose. It’s all fucking posing. It’s nothing to do with music. He knows it too.” About Prince, one of the greatest musicians of modern music, Richards spitefully said: “An overrated midget… Prince has to find out what it means to be a prince. That’s the trouble with conferring a title on yourself before you’ve proved it.” It’s clear then that Richards has a scything silver tongue when he wants to.
He makes a similar swipe at the most expansive music genre for the last three decades — hip hop and rap music. “Rap — so many words, so little said,” quipped Richards. “What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there,” said Richards with a glint in his eye. “All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it, and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another.”
Whether it’s the bitterness of being beaten in the charts so readily by hip-hop and rap artists or simply the guitarist stating his preference, it’s difficult not to hear the sharpness in his tone. “Hip-hop leaves me cold. But there are some people out there who think it’s the meaning of life,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. “I don’t wanna be yelled at, I wanna be sung to.”
“I never really understood why someone would want to have some gangster from LA poking his fingers in your face,” he added. “As I say, it don’t grab me. I mean the rhythms are boring – they’re all done on computers.”
That may well be the crux of the Stones’ man disdain. Richards is notably from a different era, not only in pop culture but in music-making too. When Richards was first in the studio, the only real studio tricks there were was overdubbing and playing tapes backwards. Perhaps, it makes sense that Richards would have a spark of jealousy when he sees a new generation using the tools that weren’t afforded to him by technological evolution to make music he doesn’t really understand.