This message is not for the closed minded nor is it for the faint of heart. If you’re reading this with the intent of skimming thru the article only to comment something hateful or derogatory toward the music of today, please stop reading now. Also, if you are an individual who is reading this without the desire to challenge yourself to look at situations from more than one perspective, direct yourself to the red box in the upper right (or left) corner of your screen and log off this website. However, if you are one of the few brave, open minded souls who dares to embark on this journey and engage in open and intelligent discussion about the music genre that we love and know as Hip Hop, then read on, my friend.
It is no secret that in the last decade, hip hop has definitely gone thru tremendous changes. Just by looking at the XXL Magazine Freshman Class covers from 2007 and 2017, it is apparent that the style, sound and feel of hip hop has changed drastically.
With the shift that the genre has taken in recent years, the argument has arisen that the music of today cannot be classified or considered as “real” hip hop.
I beg to differ.
There is, without a doubt, a huge gap between the generations of fans of hip hop and certainly one cannot expect a fan of artists such as KRS-One and Afrika Bambaataa, some of the founding fathers of hip hop, to automatically be on board with the “mumble rap” style of rap that has been made popular by artists such as Young Thug and Lil Yachty, but does that mean that all of the music that is being put out by rappers of this era should be discredited and not even considered as hip hop at all?
First, lets start with this question. What is hip hop?
Websters dictionary provides a pretty poor and quite generic definition of hip hop by stating that it hip hop is “a subculture especially of inner-city youths who are typically devotees of rap music”. KRS-One defined hip hop as “knowledge, awareness and movement”.
Alright, so boom.
If hip hop is being defined by one of the founding fathers of the movement as being “aware” and “knowledgeable” of the culture and what is going on around you and the culture is always changing and evolving, how can anybody say that any hip hop is not real hip hop?
Lets break it down even further. Rap (along with DJing, graffiti art, and breakdancing) is one of the pillars of hip hop (outlined by Afrika Bambaataa). If you dig deep enough, rap can be traced back to African roots, the same place jazz, rock and roll and the blues derived from. Throughout its history, rap was used as a method of story telling and as a way to relay a message from one individual to others while simultaneously providing other enjoyable elements such as the rappers flow and the DJs spinning. A great example of this is The SugarHill Gangs “Rappers Delight”.
This is one of the first songs to ever be considered as rap music. If that isn’t real hip hop then what is? However, if you listen closely, one can see elements (such as materialism and vulgarity) in the song that are present in the music of today that some wouldn’t consider real hip hop. With lyrics like “You see I’m six foot one and I’m tons of fun and I dress to a tee/You see I got more clothes than Muhammad Ali and I dress so viciously/I got bodyguards, I got two big cars, that definitely ain’t the whack/I got a Lincoln continental and a sunroof Cadillac” which are comparable to Ayo and Teo lyrics in their song “Rolex”” I just wanna Rolly Rolly Rolly with a dab of ranch/I already got some designer to hold up my pants/I just want some ice on my wrist so I look better when I dance/Have you lookin’ at it, put you in a trance” it is very apparent that materialism in hip hop is nothing new. Also in the song Big Bank Hank raps the lyrics “He can’t satisfy you with his little worm/But I can bust you out with my super sperm” Sounds like a more old school version of rapper Xxxtentcions famous lyrics “I’m like b*tch who is your mans/can’t keep my dick in my pants” does it not? The subject matter of todays hip hop hasn’t changed, its just presented with a new flavor. Additionally, many people who say that the hip hop of today is just about sex, drugs, violence and partying must have seemed to forget that origination of hip hop was in the South Bronx, an area that is infiltrated with drugs, crime, sex and other lewd activity. The originators of the hip hop movement were surrounded by crime, drugs and violence and many of them actually did participate in and rap about the illegal activity that took place in that era. Later, artists like NWA, Tupac and Biggie Smalls, who are all hip hop greats, came in with even more vulgarity and violence, yet their music is still considered “real” hip hop.
Regardless of factors such as delivery and music style, hip hop is a genre that enables its artists to be story tellers. Whether the style is mumble rap or a more lyrical style, the reason that hip hop is and will forever be a dominant genre is because of its versatility, its relevance and the fact that it brings people together. Hip hop is not something you listen to, it is something you feel and regardless of the style, if someone can relate to the message that a rapper is relaying in his music who are you to say that the music isn’t “real”? Whether it be joy, pain, positivity or motivation, if a rapper can put out a song that makes an audience feel the message that they are relaying, then they have done their job as an emcee by connecting with their audience thru story telling and making them feel how they felt when the song was written. The reason hip hop is still alive is because the rappers of the past and present have done a great job of getting all different audiences to feel a message and unite thru the power of music.
If that isn’t real, I don’t know what is.