Friday, November 16, 2007

Is it true, Nas? Is hip-hop dead?

I originally posted this on my myspace blog about a year ago. After reading Cat's blog post about the current state of hip hop and R&B, it brought to mind this post and I figured I'd post it here:

I don't listen to hip-hop the way I used to. I don't find it as moving or inspiring as it used to be. As a child raised on mostly jazz, soul and rhythm, when I first discovered hip hop, I thought is was just a fad.

Around the time of Run DMC, I was in middle school. I remember on the playground one day, an eighth grader had made the declaration that "Rap music will never die!". I thought he was crazy. I was thinking, that wasn't real music. I was in love with the music of Michael Jackson and Prince, Al Jarreau and Grover Washington, Jr, Steve Wonder and Luther Vandross.

Then, something changed. I was listening to the radio one afternoon. The DJ was mixing some song called "Tramp" and there were women rapping. I think up until this point, I had never heard a female MC, let alone two. This was groundbreaking for me. I had to find out more.

I brought my copy of Salt N Pepa's "Hot, Cool and Vicious" and listened to it constantly. I went to school to declare my new found love only to have a 4th grader cut me down. "You late!!! That album is old!!!" I think that I was in the 6th grade at the time. I was already having younger people tell me how incredibly "un-hip" I was.

Then I found MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. Roxanne Shante and The Real Roxanne. Some helped define and brought the true favor of hip hop, some just faded away. Some just simply had no business putting out a record in the first place (Does anyone the group Le Trim??? If Hilliary Banks of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air had a rap group, Le Trim would have been that group.)

Eventually, I got off the women's lib tip and opened my ears to all of rap. It has gone through so many evolutions in the pass few decades. It has endured and been accepted by the masses. And that's where it becomes a mixed blessing.

The hip-hop music that I hear on the radio and on the videos have this cookie cutter approach. There isn't much that is different. There isn't much that stands out. Because being different means risking dividends. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that people are making money. But the money just seems to stifle creativity. And the music lovers are subjected to the same 16 songs in a row, every hour, on the hour on the radio. Needless to say, I don't listen to the radio much. I remember when radio was the best place for hearing good and new music.

So, is hip-hop dead? I would like to think not. But it has got sucked a bit too much into popular culture. I believe that there are still many purveyors of the hip-hop vibe that I grew to know and love; Common, Talib, The Roots, just to name a few. And I have come across a few here on myspace. It's still alive. TRUE HIP-HOP WILL NEVER DIE.


The Girl From Park Heights said...

Aww, girl, you took me back.

I clearly remember when I first heard hip hop as a child, I didn't particularly like it either. I was into Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lisa Lisa etc and it was just too aggressive for me.

Then Salt n Pepa came out and it was aw damn, there's rap for girls now. I fell in love with Push It and soon after I was jamming to JJ Fad, then Run DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. I think we're seeing an influx of lesser quality hip hop, but I think with its popularity growing mainstream and hitting the masses, its here to stay.

Artists just need to continue making good hip hop. That's the problem.

Rashard G. said...

Old School Hip-Hop is like Kool-Aid whereas the newer "hip-hop" is like those packets of Flavor-Aid, same shit, just totally watered-down and cheaper to make. You can still walk into your local corner store and pick up a packet of Flavor-Aid just the same as you can pick up the new Lil Mama album. Hip-hop is here to stay, but is it the version we want to listen to?

Abraham A. said...

It's not dead -- real hip-hop is just on life support. I constantly bang Common and Talib these days. I'm itching to get some Blackstar, Mos Def and Roots albums. I can't get enough R&B. I yearn for the hip-hop of yesteryear. The stuff they put out today used to be the songs they'd only put out if you died and they wanted to release multiple double-disc post-mortem albums *ahem*Tupac, Biggie*ahem*

I'll just keep supporting the real stuff and kicking the Soulja Boys and Hurricane Chris' to the curb like the trash on Tuesdays...

Stankoniforous One said...

Hip hop ain't dead but rap is in a bling-induced coma.

Disregard the radio and go underground. The Lyricist Lounge? Rawkus before it got bought? Punch N Words? The gems are there you just have to dig. How often are diamonds found on the surface?