Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dart Adams presents Project: Wideawake: Hip Hop's Generational Divide

With the recent events involving Ice T calling out Souljah Boy for "single handedly destroying Hip Hop" and then having Souljah Boy respond by calling him an old ass hater and then having Kanye West come out and side with Souljah Boy in the dispute I decided to put in my 2 cents about the whole issue.

My take on the whole debacle is a little different then what you'd think as I see it as a symptom of a much larger issue in Hip Hop: The generational chasm/divide that plagues urban music in general. I offer to you readers yet another themed post entitled Project: Wideawake because too often we focus on the wrong things and lose sight of he real issues and problems that affect Hip Hop and our communities. Here we go:

As far as Ice T saying that Souljah Boy is singlehandedly destroying Hip Hop, he's plain wrong. Souljah Boy isn't affecting Hip Hop culture negatively in the least. Hip Hop is just fine...the Rap industry is on life support, however. All Souljah Boy is doing is taking advantage of the current landscape and climate of the music industry. He's merely a by-product of the YouTube/Dailymotion/OnSmash movement and the Digital Age. Souljah Boy's song caught on online and the song exploded all over the internet until it went from just a regional sensation to a national one and finally, a global phenomenon.

Souljah Boy not only produced and marketed himself through available social networks but he managed to have the most downloaded song in the history of digital music (which means what?) and the #1 ringtone of all times (say what?) and a Grammy nomination. If I was a certified Hip Hop icon like GZA, AZ or Ice T I'd be heated as well if I couldn't turn on my television without seeing Souljah Boy half retarded ass coonin' and shuffling his way into the record books while I had to rely on show money and settle for record deals on indie labels.

Then Kanye West weighed in calling what Souljah Boy did "Hip Hop" and comparing him to Nas...people jumped down his throat for it. For the record, I agree with Kanye on that one point.

When Schooly D first made "P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?), he recorded it himself, programmed the beat while he rhymed and then he mastered it and pressed it up all by himself. That's Hip Hop! Ain't that the same as what Soulja Boy did in essence? EPMD produced their own tracks and rhymed with a slow ass style when other rappers were getting super lyrical and spitting their bars faster and faster. That's Hip Hop.

Joeski Love did the "Pee Wee Herman" for God's sake and guess who was in the video jammin' alongside him? Ice T! I hate to break it to you but that shit is as Hip Hop as you can get!

Do I even like Souljah Boy? Hell fuckin' no! Do I blame Souljah Boy for today's audience's musical tastes? I can't. Do I blame Souljah Boy for not being The D.O.C./Ice Cube/Big Daddy Kane/Kool G Rap 2008? I can't. Why has the overall aesthetic of Rap music changed so much? We all know the answer to that question so the actual question should be why are Hip Hop artists of the past mad at today's rappers when it isn't their fault that the music industry and the overall aesthetic of Rap music is the way it is?

To me, it boils down to the Willie Lynchism of old versus young. This was a game that I at one point played into but I completely refuse to do it anymore. Ice T is a Hip Hop legend who never should've mentioned Souljah Boy's name in the first place because he is so far removed from him. Souljah Boy should've never responded to Ice T's comments because Ice T is a legend. We all never should've fed into it and fueled the fire so this non issue was given life that it didn't even deserve in the first place. It all happened because like Kanye said "There are no rules anymore".

Hip Hop as we oldheads knew it had definitive rules, regulations and guidelines that were uniform across the board that everyone tried to adhere to for the most part. Ladies and gentlemen, those days are now long dead and gone. How can you expect a kid born in 1990 to feel and think the same way about Hip Hop culture that you do if you were born in 1978? You both have completely different experiences, when one was 8, Rakim ruled the radio and when the other was 8, it was DMX all over the airwaves and music video channels.

What did we do to bridge the gap between the pre and post-Telecommunications Act Era of Hip Hop listeners besides retreat into our vinyl bags full of Rawkus, Fondle 'Em and Def Jux releases? What did we do to reach out to the Rap fans that became listeners after 9/11 besides scour the internet for imported DJ Spinna and Madlib albums or Jay Dee instrumental CD's? While our nephews and nieces were rocking white tees dreaming about rims were we too busy listening to Sean Price's "Monkey Barz" to educate them about the beauty and full diaspora of Hip Hop culture? Well, were we?

Think about it. If a kid can't read or write by the 1st grade do you blame the teacher or the parent? If you picked "the parent", then the reason that these youth today don't respect their elders in Hip Hop is waiting to stare back at you in the mirror. To me, the issue wasn't who's right or wrong, it was "Why is it that we still haven't actively tried to close the generational gaps in the Rap/Hip Hop community instead of feeding into it?".

I know that urban music has a new generation every 3 to 5 years but we haven't totally given up or the youth so that shouldn't be an excuse. Or have we and we just don't admit it? In which case, we have no one to blame for the decline of Rap's quality but ourselves.



brandon said...

Woah. Excellent post!

S-Diggy said...

just had a conversation about my brother on this.
he took Ice-T's side and i told him Souljah Boy didn't do anything wrong. he's not a good rapper, but he's just a young dude tryna eat.
we were talking about how nobody wants to hear anything else these days and they were complacent with whats on the radio. and i told my brother not to complain unless he wanted to go search for music. which is what i do.
you think thats playing a part? this complacency with whatever is given to the people?

Dart Adams said...

@ brandon: You've been kicking my ass lately so I've just been trying.

@ s-diggy: Complacency is a problem, but if we didn't all bounce once the Wu couldn't get on the radio anymore and we became satisfied with going on 88 Hip Hop.com and Sandbox while our little brothers and sisters were jamming to Puff Daddy & The Family.

There was a generation rockin' Arsonists and Non Phixion 12"s while the little kids were singing "Bling Bling" and "Back Dat Ass Up". It's no surprise that they love Lil' Wayne...they grew up with him!


Anonymous said...

Great post. I agree with you that even though I don't listen to Soulja Boy, you have to give him credit for creating his own beats, writing his own rhymes, and taking the initiative to become successful in the music world.

P.S. I've been reading your blog for a while now (I found it off a link from Dissensus) and on that forum, you mention that Detroit has the best underground hip hop scene in the world. I was wondering if you could devote an article breaking down all the movers and shakers in the scene, and letting people like myself who aren't as familiar with it know about what is happening there. What happened in Detroit that made it a mecca? Anyways, great blog, and thanks for all the new insight you drop with every post.

Mad Static said...

I can't lie dude...this was on point from beginning to end. I guess at this point, after all this, I'm just gonna enjoy what I enjoy, because for every artist, I know what my purpose is when listening to them, whether for inspiration or recreation. And good looks responding to my blog also.

Anonymous said...


GREAT POST!!! I had this argument at 215hiphop.com where I essentially laid down your side: both dudes were wrong and it never should've taken place.

As far as taking initiative to inform younger fans on great hip hop...I'm personally not around younger fans like that, though I always recommend dope shit to people's younger brothers, whether it be Aesop Rock or "No Country for Old Men." However, as a young fan back in the 90s, I didn't have anyone pointing me in the direction of great hip hop that came out before I was listening. All I had was The Source, which was the Bible. I think once the Source died and XXL became G-Unit Magazine, tastes shifted permanently.

If the 2 biggest hip hop publications are putting clowns like Flo Rida and Bow Wow on the cover, what realistic chance does Ghostface ever have of appealing to anyone under 24?

I've been saying this for years, but if you had classic hip hop radio format, alot of kids wouldn't be resistant to tap into the "old school." Play "Shadowboxin" for a 15 year old and I guarantee he'll be impressed.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Dart--if you want to collab on a piece about how amazing Detroit hip hop is right now, I'm game!

Dart Adams said...

@ zilla: Damn, you were gonna do a piece about Detroit Hip Hop, too? I guess great minds think alike.


Anonymous said...

So I should be looking out for that Detroit post soon? Awesome.

Mike Evans said...

Nice post.
Interesting, I have
to agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Really insightful stuff man! Good points all around!

Anonymous said...

damn Dart...all points takin and co-signed...first I jumped the gun and was like wtf is SOulja Boy doin and how dar ehe tlak ish on a legend...but if you chill, take a second to see both sides, I cans ee why SB did what he did and said what he said. Yeah mainly it's our faults that we didnt teach these kids better on this Hip Hop ish, ...and lettin it become too much of a business instead of music and a culture. We Lost.

gordon gartrelle said...

There's one main reason that today's wackness is our fault: the tail end of our era didn't do enough to fight the "hater" defense. As soon as the rule "if shit is wack, you call it out" was smothered by the "hater" defense, it was all downhill from there. That's the main thing that ruined the general quality of rap--more than money, more than corporate control, more than media consolidation, more than sampling laws, more than the rise of the retarded parts of the South, more than kids' bad taste and laziness.

On a related note, it's funny how the semi-literate Soulja Boy fans as well as those from the hipster school of garbage taste and authentic negro fetishism always want to pull this "don't be a hater," liberal arts relativist bullshit when it someone points out how wack their icons are, but they have no problem judging either older rap or current rap made by 80s/90s icons.

Dart Adams said...

@ Gordon: The reason I didn't mention the hater defense is because there was a thread of truth to it. I HATED the vast majority of the major label shit that was on the radio during that era because it didn't sound that "real shit" that I liked.

Since I hated those No Limit songs and those Beats By The Pound tracks I was called a hater because they were what was poppin' and the music I loved wasn't.

Since skill isn't the benchmark for who's "the best" anymore the game is upside down. Now Weezy is the "best rapper alive" and I'm like "Did Rakim, KRS One, Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Ice Cube, etc. ALL DIE in a tragic accident?"