Is it really that serious? Well, I didn’t think so until two weeks ago when Jay-Z released his street single “Death of Autotune (D.O.A.)” as a precursor to his 11th studio album, Blueprint 3, which is scheduled for release in September. There is no question that the track goes hard, I mean it’s been proven that that’s what happens when you put Jay and Kanye in the studio together. (No I.D. is also a producer.) But after listening to it a few times, I started to get a little confused about what the contender for “best rapper ever” was really trying to say. In the song, he bashes autotune users. It’s border-line hating, which makes me wonder why Kanye, an avid autotune user, would even agree to produce Jay on this track. But I guess Hov suspected that listeners would raise these concerns and so he wisely called Hot 97 following the song’s debut to preemptively clarify any misunderstandings. (listen to interview here) The emcee basically declared that autotune is wack, unless of course it is used by Kanye, T-Pain, or Lil Wayne. Kanye West later told MTV that all songs with autotune that were previously set to appear on the Blueprint 3 would be taken off to underline his protest.
Since D.O.A.’s debut on Hot 97, two more songs have come out by big name artists that also contribute to the anti-autotune movement. A few days after D.O.A. aired, Wyclef Jean released an autotune parody called “Mr. Autotune,” in which he personifies the software tool. The song is definitely not his best and only makes Wyclef appear to be jumping on Jay’s bandwagon. Last week, Lupe Fiasco’s song, “Shining Down,” a track off of his upcoming album, We Are Lasers, was leaked onto the internet. Lupe brilliantly incorporates autotune in the second verse for a few bars and then goes on to criticize it.
Now if we autotune that sh*t/ we can hear the songs from that opera grown fat b*tch/ tellin us not to pursue it just to shoo it like a blacksmith/ we trapped and movin round in circles like it’s chapstick.**
I’m sure Jay will also include him as one of the “exceptions.”
I personally don’t understand why autotune has provoked such rabid criticism. Artists have been using voice-enhancing software for decades, yet it is only with hip-hop that it becomes a problem. In the Hot 97 interview, Jay-Z implies that autotune has detached hip-hop from its classic origins. However, Jay-Z’s idea of classic hip-hop is probably very different from Slick Rick or Cool Herc’s understanding. The debate about what is real, authentic, or classic will probably never end. This is because hip-hop, like any other genre is ever-changing and autotune is one of many examples of that.
Don’t get me wrong – I like “D.O.A.” I am a Jay-Z fan and I do not think that everyone should use autotune. However, I worry that he is trying to serve as a hip-hop policeman and that will only date himself.
**Since this song was leaked without Lupe Fiasco’s permission, I have decided not to provide the link.