Is Hip-Hop Really Dead?

Written by Nahshon. Posted in Chin Check

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Published on June 16, 2010 with 26 Comments

Now that the Jesus of the genre has been so kind as to drop his instant classic, Thank Me Later (the obvious, hands-down winner for album of the year) it is time for the rest of the industry to step it up or face some of those harsh realities that 50 Cent once warned us about. Hip-hop, as we knew it, may be in need of a funeral service. Nas, being the prophet that he is, called it in early in 2006, but the doctors are now giving up hope and sending for the coroner. Let me tell you how I know: There was a time (specifically 2006) when things were getting so bad that Nastradamus proclaimed that it was all over. The difference was that there was someone left to dissent. And that is what we have lost.

After a while, the voices of the people who wanted to see hip-hop survive got drowned out by those who didn’t really care about the music, the culture, the people, or really anything besides the damned money. What happened to us? We used to stand for something. But the entire rap genre has somehow transformed into a corporate liaison where albums are audio commercials for brand name clothing, jewelry, alcohol, and vehicles. Concerts have become the catwalk for these airheaded clowns to parade themselves and their crews around in the items that are available for sale. Have we really gotten to the point where the stuff you hear on the radio is actually what we’re all about? Do people really pay money to see Drake perform? Is it really possible that labels are bankrolling blogs? Something is rotten, word to Hamlet.

But this morning, it hit me. That isn’t death in the true sense. In reality, the inception of hip-hop was the beginning of a movement that represented a culture of lack. This thing that we love is the auditory representation of the people that it caters to. It was the music of the “have-nots” but we have seen it bent, stretched, morphed, and disfigured to encompass the many people who wanted the style without the struggle. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hip-hop doesn’t have to always be grimy. It doesn’t always have to be about life in the street. But what it must be, by necessity, is representative. It must embody the state of its people.

When cruising the troubled blocks of Los Angeles’ city streets listening to 2pac, one can see and feel the culture. If you happen to be on the right block, the same is true of the New Boyz as youngsters in the Fairfax district “Jerk” to their heart’s content in acid-washed skinny denim . A few years ago, looking out onto Lake Michigan and rubbing shoulders with Chicagoans, I could genuinely feel that College Dropout was truly the music of people. Sadly, I can’t say the same about much of the music by many of the artists that attempt to live under the hip-hop banner today. I would argue that the inordinate number of drug kingpins who are allegedly trafficking kilograms of cocaine daily at wholesale rates according to self-aggrandizing mixtape lore (See: Trap or Die) represent a farce that relates to hip-hop but is so far from true that the hyperbole is laughable and embarrassing (Bawse). The same is true of the non-criminal braggadocio of the highest success stories of the urban music scene. Maybe one day, rapping about international flights that garner millions of dollars in purely legitimate profits will be generalizable to this culture of ours. But that day is not today; not in the America where an oil spill was the biggest thing to hit the trap since Katrina.

In truth, the music that most call Rap or Hip-hop today is actually Pop, Top 40, or Club/Dance music. And sadly, even within that genre, it is still less representative of its people than that of Lady Gaga, The Ting-Tings, Miley Cyrus, and David Guetta; all of whom actually sing about situations that could legitimately happen to a person (if they were a sophomore in High School) and don’t aspire to do anything more than make people dance.

But don’t stop reading just yet. There is a silver lining.

The fortunate side effect of rebranding fake rappers as pop artists is the same as blowing away chaff to reveal the wheat. Hip-hop, the remainder after we divide the fake from the authentic, is alive and well. If you believe KRS-One, we will be here forever (and ever) but if you need a little more assurance than that, I have a plan. Much like the blowback against Wal-Mart when people became informed of their business practices, I think that we will find that the way to combat being force-fed the empty falsehoods of the corporate, urban music landscape is to buy local. Imagine the impact on your favorite local artist if your region had decided to spend its 13 dollars on their project rather than squandering it on a pretty package of lies from across the country. I bet his next LP would be easier to find at Best Buy.

TRU

26 Comments

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  1. This post is so on point. Good read.

    Isn’t it interesting that in order to push forward and evolve we have to go back to where we started?

  2. This post is so on point. Good read.

    Isn’t it interesting that in order to push forward and evolve we have to go back to where we started?

  3. What is the definition of Hip-hop now? There’s always a place for the dancing rappers in hip-hop why wouldn’t there be? The reason why we loved 2pac and Biggie and Jay-z and Drake is because they’re rare. I mean if people don’t talk about real life or tell stories anymore that hip-hop is dead? I’m pretty sure Rap MCs started off by talking about nothing hence Sugar Hill Gang it was “now what you hear is not a test–i’m rappin to the beat
    and me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet” I mean it was them music of a Black nation that had no way to voice they’re culture in which it’s been about the words equally to the music. The Drums and beats coming back from our African Roots which it was the music that made us move and then the words moved us later. Hip Hop will never be dead just because few and few rappers choose to rap without substance but get the party going. The story telling aspect might be falling off but HIp-Hop itself the music, the beat, the way it makes you feel will never die!

  4. Great post.

    We killed auto-tune. Now we just need to kill commodity rappers (financially, not literally, of course). Like you said, it starts at the local level. That being said, I recommend Floco Torres. He’s a local emcee that actually has talent. Isn’t that sad? Rappers are so bad that to convince people that they’re good, I have to affirm that they’re good. It should be inherent, but tragically, it isn’t.

  5. Great post.

    We killed auto-tune. Now we just need to kill commodity rappers (financially, not literally, of course). Like you said, it starts at the local level. That being said, I recommend Floco Torres. He’s a local emcee that actually has talent. Isn’t that sad? Rappers are so bad that to convince people that they’re good, I have to affirm that they’re good. It should be inherent, but tragically, it isn’t.

  6. Nice post, brother man. (No pole-jocking or nothing).

  7. Nice post, brother man. (No pole-jocking or nothing).

  8. “hip hop been dead we the reason it died.” the pallbearers of hip hop’s casket are the likes of kweli, nas, and mos def. the newcomers (save jay electronica) are all about the dough. as the the pallbearers go, so does hip hop.
    i’ll leave a flower at the grave for you, hip hop.

  9. “hip hop been dead we the reason it died.” the pallbearers of hip hop’s casket are the likes of kweli, nas, and mos def. the newcomers (save jay electronica) are all about the dough. as the the pallbearers go, so does hip hop.
    i’ll leave a flower at the grave for you, hip hop.

  10. Thank me later album of the year? What about Recovery?

  11. Thank me later album of the year? What about Recovery?

  12. if i could find a s submissions email around here somewhere, i’d prove to you that hip hop ain’t dead. Far as i’m concerned, it’s still kickin as long as i can feel my pulse quickening when i hear the right music.

  13. if i could find a s submissions email around here somewhere, i’d prove to you that hip hop ain’t dead. Far as i’m concerned, it’s still kickin as long as i can feel my pulse quickening when i hear the right music.

  14. “Hip Hop is Dead” was a marketing campaign for a Nas album. Sadly, people still talk about it and “debate” it.

    There’s really no debate, never has been, never will be. Year after year after year, dope and innovative new albums are coming out from new artists and evolving veterans as hip hop spreads and thrives across the planet.

    Equating the rappers who get corporate sponsorship and with “Hip Hop” is a mistake, not grounds for a discussion about the health of hip hop. What Bronfman and Murdoch and Azoff want to invest in, that’s got pretty much nothing to do with the actual culture and music of hip hop.

  15. “Hip Hop is Dead” was a marketing campaign for a Nas album. Sadly, people still talk about it and “debate” it.

    There’s really no debate, never has been, never will be. Year after year after year, dope and innovative new albums are coming out from new artists and evolving veterans as hip hop spreads and thrives across the planet.

    Equating the rappers who get corporate sponsorship and with “Hip Hop” is a mistake, not grounds for a discussion about the health of hip hop. What Bronfman and Murdoch and Azoff want to invest in, that’s got pretty much nothing to do with the actual culture and music of hip hop.

  16. Hip Hop is the mish-mash of all musical genres. Sadly,wWhat started out as a means of expression has been turned into what is acceptable and marketable. It is to each of us something unique. It’s not just Nas, or Talib, or Jigga. It’s not just Souljah Boy, or Drake, or Weezy. It’s everyone who puts pen to pad and has something to say. Whether you like what’s out is a matter of personal preference, but it’s still HH. There’s some of it that I think stepped out of line during evolution and is still hunched over trying to discover fire… but that’s just me.

    So hip-hop’s not dead – some’s just evolving linearly and the rest is mutating at an accelerated rate.

    http://www.reailzme.com

  17. Hip Hop is the mish-mash of all musical genres. Sadly,wWhat started out as a means of expression has been turned into what is acceptable and marketable. It is to each of us something unique. It’s not just Nas, or Talib, or Jigga. It’s not just Souljah Boy, or Drake, or Weezy. It’s everyone who puts pen to pad and has something to say. Whether you like what’s out is a matter of personal preference, but it’s still HH. There’s some of it that I think stepped out of line during evolution and is still hunched over trying to discover fire… but that’s just me.

    So hip-hop’s not dead – some’s just evolving linearly and the rest is mutating at an accelerated rate.

    http://www.reailzme.com

  18. ^^ that’s http://www.realizme.com my bad

  19. ^^ that’s http://www.realizme.com my bad

  20. Hip Hop IS NOT DEAD. Its alive and well and its not on the radio and its still not mainstream. The Best of hip hop will always be underground.. the culture .. the music.. i’ve lived Hip Hop since I was 15 (1985), been supporting the shows every year since then from Hong Kong to Cali.. to my surrounding city’s of Austin and Houston. Way back when before the interwebs.. the cream of all G.O.O.D. music will always rise to top. it always have and it always will. most of all G.O.O.D music is not played on the radio. so if your looking for real hip hop and your hearts in it.. then you know your radio or your TV is NOT wheres its at.

  21. Hip Hop IS NOT DEAD. Its alive and well and its not on the radio and its still not mainstream. The Best of hip hop will always be underground.. the culture .. the music.. i’ve lived Hip Hop since I was 15 (1985), been supporting the shows every year since then from Hong Kong to Cali.. to my surrounding city’s of Austin and Houston. Way back when before the interwebs.. the cream of all G.O.O.D. music will always rise to top. it always have and it always will. most of all G.O.O.D music is not played on the radio. so if your looking for real hip hop and your hearts in it.. then you know your radio or your TV is NOT wheres its at.

  22. Hopefully, with some luck anyways. That stuff is noise pollution.

    Lou
    http://www.anonymity-online.net.tc

  23. Hopefully, with some luck anyways. That stuff is noise pollution.

    Lou
    http://www.anonymity-online.net.tc

  24. If you watch the documentary style wars (about graffiti in NYC which is an awesome movie btw), there is a point where people are discussing the death of hip hop. This was back in the 1980’s!!!! People have been talking about hip hop dying practically since it’s inception. I agree with Realizme. Hip hop has been continually evolved and it’s not the same as what it once was. Rock and Roll has evolved enormously since it first came out and it’s still a vivrant genre to this day (look at the indie rock scene). All we have to do is keep speaking out with our hip hop purchases, buy local and support the music we love.

  25. If you watch the documentary style wars (about graffiti in NYC which is an awesome movie btw), there is a point where people are discussing the death of hip hop. This was back in the 1980’s!!!! People have been talking about hip hop dying practically since it’s inception. I agree with Realizme. Hip hop has been continually evolved and it’s not the same as what it once was. Rock and Roll has evolved enormously since it first came out and it’s still a vivrant genre to this day (look at the indie rock scene). All we have to do is keep speaking out with our hip hop purchases, buy local and support the music we love.

  26. i love this article. i remember thoroughly enjoying it when it was written almost 8 months ago. i love the idea of supporting local artists. just kinda wish a good rapper would come out of erie, pennsylvania…

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