Today's hip-hop is in the midst of musical change and growth. In this musical landscape people wonder if the new age sound is cancerous to the classic tamber of boom bap, or if it matters at all in the big scheme of things. Time and time again, the generation that precedes the present is up in arms because it can't believe how much the external appearance of what they hold dear has changed. Remember your Grandpa saying “boy/girl that ain't music. Now the Isley Brothers, yes suh. Now that’s music right there.” Honestly it's just a case of how separated they are from the people they use to be, because the same way we defended our music, they defended theirs, and their parents before them, and their parents before them, and so on. There is always a voice speaking to a generation that craves the music they loved, the music they grew up with, and essentially the music that made them the people they are. Their vocal chords straining to squeeze out the phrase "don't change," with all their might in a crowded room, and no one looks up to notice. People don't like change. They want to feel connected to the world that they know. Trust me, it's a lonely business being surrounded by things that are foreign to you. Even music.
So often young people are inspired to do what they think is innovative, and you can't tell someone they are not being innovative when they think they are. I mean, you can, but what good is a sharp voice on dull ears? This new generation of entertainers, (I won't call them rappers) is very vibe oriented. An MC uses the craft of gab or the use of words to move the people. That's why bars were so important. Modern day entertainers are more concerned with the atmosphere changing in a manner that is wild and unpredictable. They have no specific direction in my opinion. In other words; whatever happens, happens, as long as fun is had by all. There is no controlling the crowd, more so it's helping to elevate the energy to a point where people lose control of themselves. Think on some of the best parties you’ve attended or concerts you have gone to in recent years, where there was a hip hop act, and remember how it wasn't always the person that had the nastiest bars or most prolific message that got the party poppin, but the person who ushered in enough energy for everyone to get buck freely and without shame. We even go so far as to say "that show was crazy last night!" Or "that event was lit!" It’s an atmosphere. It's a vibe. That's what today's young people have brought. A sense of connectivity that tips the Richter scale on "energy."
In its inception hip-hop centered around the DJ, the MC, the B-boy, etc. Modern day "Hip-Hop" is about the feeling in the room. Now we focus on the bass in the song, and how "lit" we can get. It's not even about the DJ spinning. It's about the Billboard hits with that hard ass 808 and turnt baseline. That’s what drives the music. If it's not that, it's the melody. Before the 2000’s melody was not a huge part of rap. The cadence and or flow played the major role, but that’s different than melody. Rappers left melody to the R&b singers. Now the two are blended in a murky soup, that everyone likes, but swears they have never tasted. Is the change bad? No, not in my opinion. It’s just different. However, even when one grows and moves on to new things, you should never forget to reverence where you come from. It’s about respect, and most young artists don’t know the concept.
One of my favorite spoken word artists Black Ice, performed spoken word piece where he addressed how the industry uses music to infiltrate the minds of communities, and hip-hop is a community, and more over it's a certified culture. The pioneers of hip-hop lived and breathed hip-hop. It was a lifestyle to them, and when young artist don't understand this, creative negligence is had. When creative negligence occurs there is a sense to the people who have paved the way that the new creators, the young artist who are in the pilot seats don't care about the precious cargo it's carrying on board the plane. Lil Yachty said "If I wanna make say ‘yah’ the whole track and it turn up people because the beat turned up, f*** it. I’m making a song called 'Yah.' It’s not the same no more bro, n****s is not doing spin moves on cardboard no more." and to be honest he's got a point. He has a point because to him rap is a product. A way to make money, have fun, travel and live the "Rockstar" lifestyle. He admits he does not take rap seriously. He even goes so far to admit that he is not a rapper. How can you hold him at fault for that? He does it because it's a money maker. He's in it for whips and chains. (ironically) Yachty goes on to say, "Ion wanna be Nas, I wanna be rich..." That’s not what hip-hop was made for, that’s what hip-hop was turned into. Making money came second to the craft, but look at how much rap has been commercialized. From rap apps that auto tune your phrases to McDonald's urbanizing their commercials, Rap is used as a springboard marketing platform to rope people into buying products. It's what make us wear a certain style or fill a cup with Codeine and Sprite; It’s an image.
Image is everything, and the music and the message which are roots of hip-hop matters less and less. N.W.A wasn’t just screaming “Fuck The Police” because it sounded cool; this message came out of a need for the world to look at an injustice that was happening in the open, that white America was turning a blind eye to. I will say that talks of worldly possessions and sex are not new concepts but there use to be a balance. Now all you hear is the same shit. “I f*cked yo bitch, I got moe money than you, you ni**as ain’t sh*t and blah, blah, blah." We use to have opinions and perspectives, and even if the artist didn’t think it was their place to be a role model to the community they still could articulate a notion of care for the community that supports their music. When Young Thug was asked about his thoughts on what changes should be made to the policing of Black men in our country, thug replied, "Leave that up to the critics and the laws and all that other shit. We havin' fun, we iced out we havin' money..." now had it been Tupac the conversation would have been different, but again you can't fault Young Thug for having his priorities. Don’t you want to though? When people are boosted into the light, we want them to illuminate the entire culture. Not just their wrist. However, the only obligation any of us has is death, so I guess he's not wrong. right?
So the question becomes, is there a time and place for everything? Any knowledgeable and/or reasonable person would say yes. There must be an understanding on both sides. The young entertainers can have their fun, and make whatever music they want, but they must remember where their lane is and not swerve elsewhere or cross road markings by stating or doing things that are contrary to that lane or purpose. Kodak black said " I’m better than Tupac and biggie." Now if that's what the brother wants to think who can tell him he's wrong, but in my opinion, miss me with that sh*t. Statements like this are what I have a problem with. When young artist make statements like this, they flagrantly diminish the culture by putting themselves on a pedestal because they undermine great works with good moments; and that's not okay. For example, a young entertainer may have a crazy single and every hood, radio station, and streaming service may be bumpin' it like crazy. That's awesome, but that ain't great. That ain't a classic. It's good. Classic is something that endures through the years and remains relevant to a culture. Classic is something that connects with generation after generation and never falters. Illmatic is Classic, Reasonable Doubt is Classic, Ready to Die and All Eyes on Me are all classics. As for Lil B.I.G. Pac and Project Baby it's yet to be seen. DON'T UNDERMINE GREAT WITH GOOD! Everyone wants greatness but don't understand greatness takes work. You can't just wake up, mumble phrases on a track, call it a struggle, and call yourself the greatest! It's doesn't work like that.
Musicality, lyricism, and time. These are things needed to compete with the greatest artists of our craft, and if you’re not willing to go the distance and make the sacrifice to put the work in, please don't downplay those who have achieved greatness by putting yourself in the same artistic space. There are levels to this shit.