I USED TO LOVE H.E.R.

BierWax unquestionably loves hip hop. But does hip hop love beer?

As impressionable teenagers coming of age in what many canonize the “golden era” of hip hop, the music and culture greatly influenced our sensibilities and preferences. While I believe most of us stopped short of seeing rappers as role models, they were certainly among the arbiters of cool and taste. So, it’s no surprise that long before embracing the glorious world of delicious craft beer, many nights were spent passing forty ounce bottles of malt liquor around park benches with friends.

Hip hop had us believing that Heineken and Guinness were atop the pantheon of brews and that St. Ides, Olde English, and Ballantine were standard, every day fare. Rappers even made commercials advertising malt liquor. While BierWax is chiefly devoted to beer, I can’t help but also note some of the equally poor choices of spirits lionized in golden era hip hop, such as Brass Monkey, E&J brandy, and Bacardi rum. And, who could forget “thug passion,” hip hop’s Arnold Palmer – a mix of Hennessy and Alize? Craft beer was neither available nor marketed to “the hip hop community.”

As boom-bap gave way to bling-bling, the tastes embraced by hip hop began to evolve, though largely driven by conspicuous consumption as opposed to connoisseurship. Strictly Timb boots and army certified suits were replaced by Versace silks. Henny became Louis XIII. And, somehow champagne became a beverage of choice among a group that otherwise seemed quite concerned with representing itself as alpha males. But, what happened to beer?

Judging from a lyrical content perspective, one might conclude that beer was phased out of the hip hop lifestyle. Absent glamour brands to serve as low common denominator proxies for wealth, one could posit that beer went “underground.” Those with more refined taste in both hip hop and beer were nudged away from the mainstream to find flavors that simultaneously reflected such “purist” sensibilities, yet broke molds and expanded palettes.

BierWax does not see fine beer and consciously curated vinyl music as two random interests, but rather a foreseeable pairing. Those passionate about beer will seek brewers and varieties the way one might “dig” for records. One can grab a six-pack of Bud off the shelf as easily as one can turn on the radio, but the discriminate consumer tends to gravitate toward forms that better capture the essence of the entity.

In that respect, it’s understandable why contemporary rappers haven’t embraced good beer. With a more electronic soundscape for the music, and computer programs replacing turntables, the music itself presents as less “craft.” Good beer and good music strive to leave a signature imprint, while beer and music for the masses seek to be inoffensive, often achieving that through blandness. The notes in a good craft beer can remind me of Large Professor banging out drum loops or the layering of samples in a Bomb Squad record.

Unfortunately, the golden ages of craft beer and hip hop didn’t really overlap. Still, I can’t help but wonder what would have been if they did, since they are something of a natural philosophical fit. Perhaps Eazy-E might have rapped that he had the Imperial Coffee Stout rollin’, and maybe we wouldn’t have wasted so much of our youth drinking bad beer!

What are your beer and hip hop related memories? And, what are your favorite beer-related songs or lines?

Good Hip Hop Inspired by Bad Beer Playlist

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