A movement which was once intended for the black working-class minority of America has now become the antithesis of it’s origins; white-owned and sold to the middle-class by speaking a new language catered to the promotion of luxury products such as fashion labels and jewellery. Hip Hop is now a vulgar caricature of itself created for and consumed by a generation who ignores it’s heritage and somehow stays blinded to the vapid and consumerist led monster that rap has now become.
This is not to say that rap and Hip Hop has always stayed the same since it’s conception. Hip Hop has always evolved with the times from it’s origins in block parties, break dancing and DJ’s in the late 70’s, to the social commentary in the 80’s. Even when abstract concepts such as blending martial arts with black culture like The Wu-Tang Clan or mixing Rap with Horror as the Gravediggaz proved In the early 90s, the juxtaposition always complemented and acknowledged it’s roots. But we have now reached a time when if you look back at over a decade of Hip Hop all you see is watered down Disco-like, electronically-created muzak lacking any substance or variation.
Old-School Hip Hop fans are not blameless for this shift in tastes and culture. The more we bought Timbaland and Neptunes produced tracks, the more the record companies wanted this production to feature in their Pop acts. So inevitably if you write more and more zeros on a cheque the more there is the potential to sell out. But did we want Noreaga to have the same production as an ex-Micky Mouse Club, ex-N’Sync, hopefully ex-actor Justin Timberlake? Hip Hop & Rock used to be distinguishable from Pop but if they all sound the same, then we have no genre distinctions and the whole thing becomes a mishmash of collaborations between the highest bidder and the most greedy.
This genre-blending trend is not the only source of blame. Years of music journalism by middle-class critics (who only know Hip Hop from what they hear in the Pop charts) have increasingly over-hyped and over-rated mediocre rappers from Eminem to Lil Wayne. Contemporary rappers offer little in the way of lyrical diversity and poetic talent and pander to stereotypes ranging from trailer trash to wannabe-gangster-turned-good. These mediocre MCs have somehow been raised to lyrical genius by the press and are regretfully mentioned in the same breath as the likes of KRS-One and Public Enemy. Music Journalists are quick to praise these aforementioned so-called rappers who have taken over the industry with easily repeatable lyrics and easily reproducible looks. What was Eminem but a white Chino XL-sounding-Wordsworth-wannabe? Journalists and critics however would have you believe that he was some sort of Hip Hop Shakespeare, the same journalists and critics who would look dumbfounded if you mention Black Moon or Smoothe Da Hustler. When Hip Hop was in it’s golden age they were probably listening to Oasis or Blur in their car ride to school. What do they know about Hip Hop?
Don’t get me wrong, to misquote an old and contrived race-related adage; some of my favourite rappers are white. From underground artists such as R.A. The Rugged Man, Vinnie Paz, Necro, to the never released Genovese, and all the way to the well known House Of Pain. If a rapper has lyrical skills and stands out from the crowd, they are worthy of this genre regardless of skin colour.
So skin colour isn’t to blame, just a certain type of person; black or white but an inherently closed minded fan quick to follow trends. These people are the ones who purchase an album instead of stealing it from the internet, so why would the music industry not cater to their needs? They are it seems the only consumer left. And if they want lame kiddie-centric Hip Pop then why not make more of it? Supply and demand is how any business works and it is perceived that nobody wants to hear a Beatminerz track but will jump all over a Nicki Minaj joint remixed by David Guetta no matter how fake this new bubblegum rap sounds to most of us with functioning ossicles. This is why we have a factory line set up to destroy any piece of art and morph it into a sellable product and Hip Hop in the classic sense was not easily mass-marketable to huge sections of society.
With every unconventional song such as Ras Kass “Nature Of The Threat”, a seven minute song about the history of racism, we could feel an A&R’s mind imploding from the mammoth task of pigeon holing such a song in order to promote it to the public at large. The task was possibly so impossible that the album Soul On Ice never sold that well even though it contained lyrics that would fit into ten of today’s Hip Hop Albums.
Freedom of creativity seems to be over in Hip Hop, and just when we thought there was a glimmer of lyrical hope several years ago with Papoose, the lack of a studio album and the overly saturated mixtape production led him to be another potentially game changing rapper that never was, forever in the annals of Hip Hop history with the likes of Lord Have Mercy, Cuban Link, and Jaz-O always to be mentioned in an argument between real Hip Hop Heads about who could have been the greatest MC. It seems from a fan’s perspective almost conspiratorial the way talented rappers never get a leg up whilst talentless hacks seem to flood the charts and award shows with their vacuous drivel.
When the public took the side of Nelly over Hip Hop legend KRS-One in their battle a few years back, we could all feel real Hip Hop die a little. Decisions like this is what spelled the death for talented rappers. It seemed that fans of Hip Hop preferred a shirtless gold toothed rap singer to a Godfather of Hip Hop. It seems we prefer raps about objectifying women and material goods to lyrical prowess. If fans once laughed at Masta Ace’s “I’d rather listen to a Lil Wayne, Lil Zane duet” line, today they’d probably cheer this meeting of mediocrity. In truth it’s not just Lil Wayne’s fault, if you set a standard that’s sub par then nobody wants to over-achieve as long as the money keeps rolling in. And as long as these rappers rap about money it seems they make more of it. Cars and jewellery have become the lyrical topic for the majority of rap acts who are blind to the fact that if you make money for a white record company, using a black art-form intended for creating freedom from an oppressive and institutionally racist society, you are the modern equivalent of a slave, it doesn’t matter if you own the “Biggest Chain” or the “Fattest Whip”. Slang in Hip Hop it seems has a sense of irony.
Gone are Hip Hop names such as Sadat X and Lord Jamar. Afro-Islamic names are being replaced by names like Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz which only reinforces this brand-obsessed culture and ignores any progress ethnic minorities made in history. Rappers and so-called Hip Hop fans now prefer Martin Margiela to Martin Luther King.
BET is now the most misleading and contradictory brand name of all. From watching “106 & Park” it is apparent that apart from the odd mention of Trayvon Martin recently, the whole show is so pointlessly varied that it might as well be on another channel. If I want an interview with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill I’ll watch E! Or MTV. And what part of listening to Robin Thicke is considered “Black Entertainment” (except maybe for Paula Patton)? Point blank; fuck everybody who keeps perpetuating this genre hijacking, I’d rather watch bootleg copies of Yo! MTV Raps.
So, what went wrong with Hip Hop? We did. The fans sold out the genre they once loved, and in turn now regret what it has become. Ultimately it was the rappers that killed Hip Hop but the fans just blindly followed and were complacent in it’s slaughter.
People; bottom line stop buying, listening, or watching this fake shit. If you can afford it, support real Hip Hop by purchasing songs and albums. If you really want to listen to Hip Pop there are plenty of places on the internet to get it for free. That’ll send a message to the music industry; money is the only thing they listen to.