Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hip Hop Ain't Dead...Yet AKA Y'all Know I Got The Cal On Me! (Re-Up From 2006)

Editor's Note: I originally wrote this as the farewell post of my AllHipHop.com blog series "The State Of Hip Hop/Poisonous Paragraphs"on December 29th, 2006. A few days later, I started this very same blog. The following blog received moderate attention because few readers of AllHipHop.com's The Reason section were willing to read the entire thing. It got about 30 responses before it was buried and by the next week it was forgotten and I was blogging up a storm on here.

Funny story is that J-Zone posted a blog called "R.I.P. Rap...Is Hip Hop Dead?" on February 12, 2007 where he explained all of the things wrong with the Rap music industry. He touched on a lot of the same things I did with my blog back in December. Everyone praised his blog and posted it all over the internet. I remember reading it like "I said that same thing months ago!" 'Net heads were carrying J-Zone around on their digital shoulders and I was like "Damn!". That shit is just so funny to me now. Here it is:

History repeats itself. Heads have been crying "Hip Hop Is Dead" for damn near 30 years now and we've already lost Rock & Roll, Blues, and Jazz although for many different reasons (Lack of ownership in all aspects of the business and waning fan support/the youth became interested in other music forms like R& B/Soul and Doo Wop, etc.)

Either way, the music got away from it's roots and original purpose so much that the people who originally made the music and were the main consumers of it either slowly stopped listening to it or jumped to another musical form en masse. Could the same happen to hip hop? I pray to God, no.

That bring us to the question..."What is wrong with Hip Hop?" I do have to make the qualifiers that Hip Hop and it's 4 elements are very much alive and well, this term "Hip Hop" as it's used here refers more to the commercial side of Hip Hop...Rap music. I pinpointed 12 things that need to improve to ensure that there will be MORE generations of Hip Hoppers to come. Here they are:

1. Where are all of the real emcees? Not dudes that used to do something else and just said "fuck it" one day and picked up a mic. I'm talking about emcees that grew up studying the art of emceeing and basic human communication Saul Williams and Black Ice style. They then found their individual niches, evolved and started figuring out how to flip the English language while repping their region. How important is the issue of "street cred" if your ass can't rap in the first place?

As of right now there are too many thugs, hustlers, gangsters and trappers on the mic. There are also too many goddamn 5 syllable word, dictionary quoting, offbeat rhyming over sci fi movie sound effect "emcees" as well. On the real, there are too many goddamn rappers, period.

Anyone with access to a computer or recording equipment can be a rapper and put out slim case CD's with Photoshop inserts of themselves spittin' over industry instrumentals...it's too goddamn bad you don't need any real qualifications to rap. It's not like a profession where you need to be certified to practice...then again, that's what partly attracts us all to it in the first place.

2. The music has become way too corporate/single based as well as becoming too clinical and clean sounding.Technology has made things too simple and in some cases too easy. Some of the best hip hop songs in the past had record pops, grainy samples and so many classic tracks were made by/started out as mistakes...in this ProTools era those kind of records are a thing of the past since they can be cleaned up and digitally "fixed". We have people digitally placing themselves on remixes with established artists and passing them off as official. Who stole the soul?

Battles aren't even what they used to be thanks to corporate interests, just look at Fight Klub which airs nationally on MTV2 now. Hip hop battles are supposed to be a spontaneous thing and only set up in the case of the settling of a grudge/battle for lyrical supremacy...now they happen with celebrity judges for a purse of cash, taped for a DVD audience, backed by record labels and different corporate sponsors and after the DVD gets ripped, posted all over YouTube and OnSmashTV.

3. Way too much whining about/focus on sales. I understand that sales are important, but regardless of if an album sold or not, it can still be a great album that underperformed. I'm sick of seeing people posting on messageboards or talking on the train about how someone flopped or "So and so lost" because they didn't move X amount of units...

We all know that everyone downloaded the shit instead of copping it at the store, right? That's why I hear The Clipse album playing in everyone's iPod but they're only hovering around 150,000 units sold...Keys open doors, but so do Rapidshare, Megaupload, Zshare, Sendspace, YouSendit and Filefront.

4. Keeping it real has gone wrong. There is no more space for creativity in hip hop. People value "street credibility" more than actual talent nowadays. Does he bust his gun? Does he have people locked up in the feds? Has he ever done time? Shit. I got some questions, too.
Can this dude spit 16 or more bars without boring the shit out of me? Can this muthafucka even spell the brands he's name dropping on this verse? Does he even write his own material?

Dudes take themselves so seriously that can't even smile in pictures or dance to their OWN SHIT in their videos. Cats can't even afford to lose a battle or their careers could be over, that's why cats snuff dudes out if they start stylin' on 'em...even if they might have the cal on 'em.

5. No sense of history of the culture. The youth don't have respect for the architects of Hip Hop...Why is that? I have to say it's partly my generations fault for not properly bridging the gap between the 2nd Golden Age (1992- 1996) and the post Telecommunications Act Era (1997-) . After Big and Pac died and Diddy started owning the radio with his shiny suits, I grabbed my backpack, a computer, some turntables, threw on my headphones and went underground like the Morlocks.

I thought to myself "I'll let this era go it's 3 to 5 years until it dies out and I'll come back later" and didn't even look back like I'd turn into a pillar of salt if I did. I fell back and waited for the Cash Flow/Bling Bling Era to end...that was back in 1997, it's 2007 NOW. My bad, y'all...But I wasn't the only one that did it.

6. Be original...or at least try to be (beatmakers). Every time somebody makes a soundalike or copycat beat, hip hop dies a little more. Now we have sites like FutureProducers.com and BeatTrader.com where "producers" are selling EXCLUSIVE beats for $20....are y'all fuckin' stupid? Value your material! If you are selling exclusive beats for $20 YOU ARE FUCKING UP THE WHOLE GAME FOR EVERYONE.

While we're on the issue, please stop making beats that sound like other producers styles and then market it as a "Neptunes/Alchemist/DJ Premier/Nitti Beats/Cool & Dre/Luny Tunes/Large Professor/Mr. Collipark/MF Doom/Mannie Fresh/ Madlib/Jazzie Pha/Just Blaze/Timbaland/ The Runners/9th Wonder/Dr. Dre/Pete Rock style beat".

Also, if you have a website, put your beats on your official WEBSITE and stop providing a link to your 39 beats on a Soundclick page...cut that shit out, please.

7. Stop looking for saviors in hip hop that are going to "save it". Hip Hop is thriving worldwide and it doesn't need saving. All that happens is that fans and the media alike hype and build them up and then drop them later to move on to another one and lather, rinse, repeat...Just ask Lupe Fiasco if you think I'm joking. FNF Up!

8. Too much division, not enough unity in hip hop...stop all of the goddamn finger pointing and let's get down to preserving hip hop culture for future generations. New Yorkers are heated because they feel they need to "come back". Cats on the West Coast are heated because they feel like they need to "come back".

Southerners are heated because the spotlights FINALLY on them and instead of everyone else enjoying the music the way they did back in the days when they had to wait their turn to be recognized all anyone's doing is crying foul, bitching and complaining. Meanwhile, the Midwest is like "What about us?"

9. Hip Hop is afraid of having it's artists grow up. When Andre 3000 started singing, heads were heated. When Jay-Z and Nas decided to squash their beef and conduct their business together on some grown man shit, heads were heated. When Jay-Z released "Kingdom Come", cats were expecting to hear the same Jay they heard on previous projects.

Some fans had forgotten that he'd been gone from the game for 3 years, heard the album and called it garbage because he was talking about adult shit from the perspective of a label president. heads were heated..Did y'all forget that he's 37 and a label president? It's a good thing to grow up, people. The only things that don't grow and evolve/change with age/time are already DEAD.

10. Hip Hop journalism/criticism is dead (Not really)....We need to do more serious introspective writing and less shock posting (Bol). Where are the next generation of great hip hop writers at? Are they all becoming bloggers instead of working for hip hop publications? Has hip hop blogging become the equivalent of the dude at the train station selling his Photoshopped insert slim case mixtape for $5 while claiming he makes that "crack music"? I fuckin' hope not.

11. Ageism in hip hop...There should be an age limit for rappers like Remy Ma said? She claims that no one over 30 should be allowed to rap...Oh word? Because in that case, she can go tell Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Ice Cube, Ice T, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX, Scarface, AZ, LL Cool J, Rakim, UGK, Ras Kass, 8Ball & MJG, Snoop Dogg, Daz, Kurupt, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, GZA, Method Man, RZA, Q Tip, Redman, 50 Cent, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Twista, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch, Styles P, E 40, B Real, Common, Sean Price, Buckshot (Where is he now?), Pharoahe Monch, Camron and Jim Jones that they ALL need to hang it up. Sounds pretty damn stupid now, doesn't it?

12. Where are the ladies at? The lack of prominent female voices in hip hop is helping to contribute to the problems in the genre. Back in the days we had Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt N' Pepa, etc. I can name a hell of a lot of female emcees, but none of them have a had a real impact on the game in years. This generation barely has any female emcees that male audiences are feeling...that's a serious problem, son.

Labels don't want to put money into female artists unless they fit a certain profile...one that few hip hop fans are willing to take seriously, leaving female emcees in a weird Catch 22. At least Jean Grae's still around.



Mr. Johnson said...

it's funny reading this now, especially the part about Buckshot (i'm not sure where he was, but he's putting out shit all the time now) and Jean Grae (we'll miss her if she's really gone).

Goes to show how much changes and how much stays the same in hip-hop.

Dart Adams said...

@ Big Rils:

The reference to Buckshot (where is he now?) was about Nas mentioning Buckshot in the song "Where Are They Now?". EVERYONE knew where Buckshot was hence the joke (remember that the blog was written in 2006 after the album leaked).

Jean Grae didn't and isn't going to retire, it was a practical joke. Didn't you see the words "SIKE" written across her fingers in the picture accompanying the MySpace blog?