I’m well aware that most cats my age or slightly older that grew up with Hip Hop no longer love it like they once did in the past. I talk to some of my old friends that used to be die hard Hip Hop fans like me back just 10 years ago and it seems like they totally don’t care about the music anymore or the current state of it.
I guess part of the reason I never really immersed myself in the professional world too much or tried to get a job in certain environments was because I was afraid of becoming that kind of person...I now know that could never happen to me. If you have genuine love of the music and culture of Hip Hop it doesn’t matter what your career, job or profession is. You’ll still wanna cop/hear that newness and seek it out like you did when you were younger.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a college professor or if you’re married with kids and have a house with a mortgage. Back when I was a 21 year old Hip Hop fiend destroying cats in ciphers, recording demos, catching tags in elevators, running around with graf writers taking flicks/doing throwups and rocking a backpack all the time I never thought my feelings for Hip Hop would ever change. Then that damn piece of paper got signed back in 1996 and the entire fuckin' world turned upside down.
All of a sudden, most of the cats I used to hear on the radio (the Wu included!) couldn‘t get spins to save their lives. Groups that were on top of the world for years were now getting dropped from their labels because of low sales. The entire face of the rap game changed seemingly overnight and I among other Hip Hop fans were completely turned off by the new shit coming out commercially and the sounds pervading the airwaves and the video shows.
We retreated to college radio stations and the internet where we found out that the fresh “next shit” that we were craving did, in fact exist after all. We were going on 88HipHop.com regularly and frequenting Sandbox Automatic every week to listen to Real Audio clips of 12” singles from labels like Hydra, Fortress, Dolo, Bukarance, Makin, Rawshack, Solesides, Eastern Conference and Brick Records. We were poring through these new magazines at the newsstand reading about these indie artists doing fresh new shit that the major labels and radio stations just weren't checkin' for.
We were buying Ego Trip, On The Go and Stress Magazine instead of The Source. Whereas before the Def Jam logo was seen as a guaranteed quality seal, it now was the Rawkus razor logo and the Fondle ‘Em logo. The former underground Hip Hop fan had now morphed into a new breed of Hip Hop fan known as the “backpacker” and between 1997-2000 it was known as the Backpack Era to many. We were often ridiculed and abhored by mainstream Hip Hop fans and dismissed as being snobs, nerds and assholes who didn't check for that "real shit". Whatever man.
Once the dot com explosion happened and several key Hip Hop sites died (R.I.P. Platform.net) and some Hip Hop publications folded (R.I.P. Ego Trip, On The Go, Stress, Blaze, Elemental, Mass Appeal, etc.) it looked like the end of yet another era. Rawkus had become a shell of its former self due to label mismanagement, Fondle 'Em eventually went the way of the dinosaur and the underground Hip Hop scene was now a completely separate entity from the major label Rap music industry.
This was a complete shift in the Hip Hop scene from before. Artists below and above ground used to meet and test their skills against each other at different venues and frequently engage in ciphers. Common, Big Pun and Nas would meet with the hungry emcees on the underground often for a while..as time passed it happened less and less. The underground scene began to die off little by little as the business and money began to creep in and take priority over the art. Even with all of these changes I was still on board.
As the years went on, the Rap industry seemed to get more and more stale and it became more and more of a chore to find that “next shit” that excited me the way it did when I first heard The Arsonists spitting on “The Session” or MHz on “World Premiere”. Would I ever have that same sensation I had when I first played Scaramanga’s “Special Efx/Cash Flow/Holdin’ New Cards” on my Gemini XL 500’s?
Would I become one of those cats that talk about how Hip Hop died back in 1996/7/8/9, 2000 or after 9/11? Would I still love Hip Hop or will I abandon it and blame it for all of the ills that plague Blacks and Latinos in America? Me? Dart Adams? Nah...fuck no! Never.
How long has Hip Hop been “in trouble” anyways? Was it 1979 when I first remember people telling me that Hip Hop was gonna die because someone went and made a record. Was it 1984 when it broke nationally and “Beat Street” and “Breakin’” came out and Fred and Barney were rappin’ in a fuckin’ Fruity Pebbles commercial?
Was it in 1985 when record stores all across the nation decided to have Rap sections and put them in the back of the store? Was it 1988 when the music world had come to grip with the fact that Rap had been around for close to 10 years and was going Platinum so now they should begin to acknowledge it as a genre of music?
How about 1990 when both MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice both sold 10 million copies of their albums and “Ice Ice Baby” became the first Rap single to reach #1 on the Billboard charts?
I can remember Doug E. Fresh saying that he thought “Hip Hop is on the verge of becoming extinct to me” in his 1993 comeback single “A-Ight”. He wasn’t the only one who felt that way, either. Chubb Rock made “Beef” to address issues he thought could potentially destroy Hip Hop back in 1997.
If I really think about it, 1993 was right at the beginning of what Hip Hop heads universally consider to be the 2nd Golden Age Of Hip Hop (1992-1996) and 1997 was the beginning of Rap/Hip Hop records actually charting high on Billboard and outselling Country music so was the whole situation really that bad after all?
It’s hard as hell to find new Hip Hop that would excite an old head. If you factor in shifts in priority and their lifestyle changes they aren’t really motivated to frequent all of the blogs and websites that I do regularly just to discover music the overwhelming majority of listeners don’t even know exists. I still haven’t lost that same thirst or hunger for that “next shit” that I had back in the days.
I also understand that everything changes. Pete Rock and DJ Premier’s beats in 2009 can’t sound the same as their beats did back in 1993. Jay-Z can’t be the same Jigga from “Reasonable Doubt” on his upcoming LP. Nas will never make another "Illmatic". If you ain't checkin' for Hip Hop right now, you're not going to all of a sudden get excited for Hip Hop after "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2" or "Detox" finally drops. For that same token, we can’t ask Little Brother to be our new A Tribe Called Quest or put all of our hope in Lupe Fiasco, Blu, Wale or Jay Electronica to “bring Hip Hop back”.
Who remembers back when we thought that the “Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star” LP was actually gonna “bring Hip Hop back” in 1998? How did that end up turning out? Are you STILL hoping that they put out a new LP together soon? Do you really think that album will hit you the same way their debut did back in the days?
Either way, I never stopped loving Hip Hop and I don’t see myself falling out of love with it or ever “outgrowing” it. What can I say? I still love H.E.R. and I always have since 1978 when I first became aware of Hip Hop music/culture's existence. I guess I always will, too.