Sorting Things Out

The amount of music on my iPod continues to grow, as I begin to digitize the more obscure, long-forgotten corners of my sizable CD collection. On top of that, I’m starting to dig through Elise’s rather vast collection and pull in anything interesting I find there. One of the more complex — and fun, in a very geeky way — parts of this is editing the metadata for proper organization. I have become intimately familiar with iTunes’ “Get Info” pop-up.

When I go looking for an album on my iPod, 99% of the time I start from the “Genres” menu. Genre is the one bit of metadata I almost always need to edit on a newly added album, even if everything else there is correct, to keep the genre names in line with my own scheme of classification. The thing is, the larger the collection becomes, the more I feel the need to subdivide my own genre scheme. Initially, pretty much anything related to rock music went into one of four categories: Alternative, Metal, Punk, or just plain Rock. Then Hard Rock entered the scheme, to classify things that dwell in the fuzzy spaces between Rock and Metal. Alternative spawned Indie and Punk spawned Emo. Clearly, Prog needed to be distinct from plain, old Rock. To further ease finding things, any band still in Rock that was predominantly active pre-1980 was split off into Classic Rock. My most recent subdivision, Post-Punk/New Wave, was another split from Alternative.

So for those of you keeping score, now a “rock” song on my iPod could be: Alternative, Classic Rock, Emo, Hard Rock, Indie, Metal, Post-Punk/New Wave, Prog, Punk, or Rock.

One might be inclined to think that everything on my iPod is “rock.” One would be wrong, since I’m working with more than 30GB of music at this stage.

Which brings me to the part I need help with. Hip Hop is currently a single genre, and it is without a doubt the most unwieldy, long genre list on my iPod (although Alternative is pretty bad too, thanks to the tons of single songs I bought to fill out my “W-DRE” playlist). So I need to subdivide Hip Hop. My question is, how? Should I distinguish East Coast from West Coast? It seems there should be a Gangsta Rap genre. Is Jay-Z Gangsta Rap or just plain, old Hip Hop? Is having a Concious Rap genre too pretentious? Should it be Alternative Rap? And what defines Old School? Is it relative to the listener? Obviously Run D.M.C. is Old School, and I feel fairly confident that Public Enemy is too, but what about Dr. Dre? I mean, his best recordings are old, but does that make him Old School? Is KRS-One Old School or Alternative/Concious?

And, the most embarrassing question of all, if Linkin Park is Hard Rock, should Reanimation go with the rest of their albums, or should it be Hip Hop?

I’ve realized that as much as I love hip hop, I’ve listened to far, far less of it over the years than I have all of the various permutations of rock. Making those distinctions between subgenres of rock isn’t always easy, either, but I generally feel more confident about it because I know more trivial minutia about rock’s evolution and the various movements, especially those that would be considered somehow “alternative” to “mainstream rock.” So I’m asking for input, either in the form of answers to the above questions or opinions about hip hop’s various subgenres in general.

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About John Carr

Gamer, comic guy, office drone.

Posted on July 23, 2008, in Music. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Damnit John. i never realized I was a blogoholic…

    And, if we’re gonna be getting all digital music storage, you know I have to chime in. See, I’ve never really been much of a genre chaser in my ipod… But, there are some things which I like to genre-ize… The thing I have to ask, is, what are you doing for, say, Ween? Faith No More? Metallica? Tom Waits? Does each album get its own genre?

    As for hip-hop, I’d recommend going with 2 distinct and easily separated genres. Hip-hop, for your KRS, Mos Def, Del, even Kanye-types. and Grimey hip-hop, for anyone who curses as much as says regular words.

    Are you sub-dividing your metals?

    I’d put Linkin Park under Pop-rock, personally…

    I don’t know, man. This is a whole nother floor of music madness…

    I have to arrange a meeting between you and my external hard drive. There’s like 120gb of itunes on there. You guys will become INSTANT pals.

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