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Friday, May 6, 2011

What happened to Hip-Hop?

What happened to Hip Hop?

You know that music with the lyrics that rhyme? Rhythm and Poetry? The music that originated in the South Bronx in the late 1970’s? The music that defined the brothers and sisters of Generation X?
I don’t know if any readers out there are old enough to remember, but I remember a time when hip-hop was creative and fun. When a rap song made you smile. When I used to run home from school to watch shows like Video Music Box and Video Trax. When I taped rap music videos so I could learn the dance moves and the lyrics.

Now everyone I know wants to change the channel when a rap video comes on.

And what happened to the content in hip hop songs? When the there was subtext between the lines of the rhymes? When there was RYTHYM AND POETRY? When rappers didn’t just rhyme about being the best on the mic, they told a story in between the beats?

Now Hip-Hop is so shallow. Everybody raps about taking drugs and committing crimes. And bling. Oh
and don’t forget fucking hoes and smacking bitches.

And what happened to diversity in hip hop? When rap acts actually made an effort to be unique? When I was a tween in 1985, The Fat Boys were fat, LL Cool J rapped Hard, RUN DMC were the Kings of Rock and Doug E Fresh mastered the beat box.

Then later on Heavy D was the overweight lover, De La Soul were the artists, Biz Markie was the comedian, Kid N’ Play were the comedy Duo, Big Daddy Kane was the lyrical gymnast, Rakim was intelligent master of his own technique, Ladies Loved Cool James. KRS-One preached street knowledge and life lessons, Public Enemy taught Self-awareness, De La Soul were one of a kind, and Digable Planets were the beatnik poets. Remember when Hip-Hop used to have something for everyone?

Now everybody is a thug and a gangsta. Or a Ho. Because Hoes are a hit with the kiddies these days.

And remember when rappers came together and collaborated on group songs? Classics like Marley Marl’s The Symphony, the Stop the Violence Movement’s Self-Destruction and All in The Same Gang? When rappers didn’t mind guesting on each other’s records like Positive K did on MC Lyte’s Excuse Me Miss…I’m Not Havin it?

Nowadays every rapper is “beefing” having a rivalry with another rapper. Cause that really sells records.

And remember when Rap feuds weren’t violent? Stuff like LL Cool J/Cannabis and LL Cool J/Kool Moe Dee were about being the best on the mic? When it was all about the lyrics? When after the battle on the mic people shook hands?

Now we have fools trying to kill each other over comments they made on a record.

Remember when Rappers had their own style when it came to fashion? When Run DMC rocked Adidas with no laces, LL Cool J had his Kangol Cap, and Kool Moe Dee had his hat and sunglasses. Later on Big Daddy Kane was dapper and smooth in his silk suit and Bally boots, Kid N’ Play rocked the Hi-top-fades, De La Soul wore Africa Medallions and MC Hammer wore the genie pants? Rap used to set fashion trends.

Now every rap act looks…well pretty much the same. Braids, Tats, Saggy jeans, oversized T-Shirts and bling. Lots of Bling cause kiddies love shiny stuff.

And what happened to comedy rap? I remember when there was room for rappers to have a little fun on the mic and tell a JOKE. A lot of the classic rappers like Fat Boys, Kid N’ Play, Big Daddy Kane, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince often took time to make a track or two just for laughs to show the lighter side of life. What happened to stuff like Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince’s I can beat Mike Tyson or Biz Markie’s Just a Friend? The kinds of songs that would have you bust out laughing to the jokes in between the lines of the lyrics? Man I miss those.

Now EVERY rapper is serious. Hard. Tough. A badass who is covered in tats, carries a gun, sells drugs and has a jail record. EVERY rapper.

And what happened to lyrical wordplay in hip hop? From 88-92 the Rap lyrics evolved and got really articulate with rappers making all types of words rhyme. I used to love listening to the smooth flow of words coming from rappers like Big Daddy Kane, the precision of Rakim, and the poetic storytelling of Kool G Rap. Those kinds of songs showed me that it was possible to really get creative with words as a writer.

Now rappers on records stumble and stutter in songs. Worse, most times they don’t even rhyme. People just REPEAT stuff thinking it’s RHYMING. Seriously, does anybody in hip hop know what PHONICS is nowadays? Was anyone who raps these days TAUGHT phonics? Or did they stay in school long enough to LEARN IT?

And what happened to rap videos? Remember when they were mini movies that told a story?

And also does anyone remember when rap videos featured MALE dancers doing cool moves? In between the quick cuts behind the rapper were these two dudes doing steps like The Running Man, and the Roger Rabbit. And the Kid N’ Play had Kick step/leg thing and other awesome dance moves. MC Hammer had his own style inspired by the late James Brown. Those were cool moves people would tape videos for so they could watch over and over again so they could learn how to do them when they went to a party.

Now lazy guys just swagger in front of rented luxury cars and rented mansions posing with borrowed bling and baggy clothes as video vixens in bikinis shake their butts around them.

And what happened to female rappers? I remember when female rappers rapped about respecting themselves and being a strong woman. Sistas like Queen Latifah, Antionette, Miss Melody, Precious, Monie Love and MC Lyte talked about being proud of their blackness and carried themselves with dignity. Salt-N-Pepa could get a party jumpin’ or get a laugh. Neneh Cherry made music that was one of a kind featuring complex and cerebral poetry set to a techno beat. The ladies of the Cookie Crew came from the UK with their own style. Female rappers used to be just as creative and unique as the guys back in the day.

Now every sista in the rap game is running around half-naked talking about how they’re bitches and hoes.

Over twenty years after I heard my first rap song in 1984 I ask myself: What happened to Hip-hop?
No, seriously what happened to Hip Hop?

Forget the misogyny, the sexism and the glamorization of crime and street culture. When did Hip-Hop get so homogenous? When did it get so bland? When did it get so BORING?
I’m just gonna come out and say it Hip-Hop music sucks. Underneath the surface of music glamorizing crime, bling, and thuggin’ today’s rap music feels so manufactured. Artificial. Plastic. Uninspired. Performers like Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy and Nicki Minaj feel like they come off an assembly line. They have no style, personality or creativity that makes them distinct and stand out. They’re a dime a dozen.

Nowadays EVERY rapper is a gangsta in saggy pants, Oversized T-shirts tattoos, and bling, or a scantily clad ho. Everyone comes from “the streets” and has a prison record of some type. Everyone is so focused on having a thug image their music has no heart soul, passion or a message.
The beats feel like canned music, and the lyrics have the depth of a Nyquil cup.

And from what I’ve been reading from kids on YouTube people HATE it. Many call it SHIT-HOP and CRAP MUSIC. For many youngsters it’s so bad they go back and listen to the stuff I grew up with. The music with a heart a soul. A message. The music that was FUN.

Because Hip-Hop is so pasteurized and homogenized these days no one buys the albums anymore. It’s why no one takes Hip-Hop music seriously anymore. It’s why no one CARES about Hip-Hop anymore. A&R people in the Music business are SO out of touch they are when it comes to developing Hip-Hop talent. They spend so much time looking for people who fit the image of a stereotype that they’ve abandoned the craft of music making.

I was a big fan of hip-hop back in the day. It was the music of my generation. That Hip-Hop used to be fresh, inspired and most of all FUN. It was music that made you laugh, smile and dance to it. It was music that rocked the party into the A.M. or made the time pass as you listened to it on your walkman. It was the music played on jeeps in the summertime with memorable rhymes that stayed in your mind.

Seriously, I have to ask: What happened to Hip-Hop?

1 comment:

  1. If this isn't a great article, I've never read one - and I've read many. Rolling Stone ought to pick it up, because everybody who ever listened is wondering too. When a true art form goes bad, you just want to cry.

    What it adds up to is the hijacking of something African Americans could be proud of and profit by degenerating into a shabby, miserable round of self-hatred and hidden despair. Surely we don't think that money can heal this self-destruction.

    Write on, Shawn, and for Heaven's sake try to also place yourselt in wider venues. You and our world surely deserve it.