a masterful display?

For those that don't know, Mastermind is the quiz shows quiz show. Regardless of the case some might put forward for University Challenge, in my view it is the pinnacle of 'Boffindom'. BBC's iPlayer, far from being simply a catch up service, is a haven of undiscovered and quite superb programming. Radio 1Xtra is (like it or not) at the forefront of the UK's mainstream 'Urban' movement. But was putting the three entities together to bring about Hip Hop Mastermind my beloved genres dulling down, or certification of Hip Hops universal mainstream acceptance?

Part of Hip Hops attraction to most of its fans is it's edge. The rebellious "you can't tell me what to do" attitude that, in varying degrees of concentration, permeates every aspect of its existence. It was a way for (most of) us to get rid of our anger and frustration and angst. It was a way to build a connection with friends. It still is all of those things for a huge number of the worlds population. Yet, as much as it brought parts of 'my music' to a larger audience, I couldn't help but feel that something about Hip Hop Mastermind.... something I couldn't quite put my finger on, didn't sit right with me.

Maybe it's the fact that the BBC didn't even go outside of it's own talent pool to find the contestants. Maybe its the fact that (and this might be my own paranoia kicking in) host John Humphreys gave off an unmistakable air of "why am I doing this?" Maybe its the fact that if Lethal Bizzle is going to choose Wu Tang Clan as his specialist subject, he really should know the name of the Clans first single and Ol' Dirty Bastard's classic first LP. Maybe it's the fact that the people compiling the questions don't get that just because shady market demographics experts decided to include R&B and Hip Hop in the 'Urban' bracket, it doesn't mean that they are one and the same.

Hip Hop has a habit of facing that type of conundrum. A new fad unexpectedly takes root, or new gimmick is formulated by the inconsistent record label powers that be and the Traditionalists go into a 'traditional' meltdown. The problem with that argument is music and tradition simply cannot coexist and haven't done so since the comet hit. It thrives on opinion. I can dislike David Guetta and Flo Rida collaborations as much as I like but all I have to do is throw on something a more in my.lane and I'm home free.

A part of me has to think that this latest incarnation of man vs chair has been done with the best intentions, and is not merely a self congratulating publicity stunt for 1xtra. Hip Hop is all the things I have previously mentioned but above all else it has always been about breaking new ground. Whether its the birth of yet another new sub-genre, a twist on old school classics or (for better or for worse) tearing the roof off of the genre mashing party, Rap is thee most non exclusive club in music. The brain behind Hip Hop Mastermind (1xtra's Aled Hadyn Jones) is a member just like I am. Universal approval or not, surely the least that those who carry its biggest torches can do, is adhere to club policy.

Click here to catch Hip Hop Mastermind on the iPlayer now

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