The State of Hip-Hop in 2010: A Reflection

Written by The Rap Up. Posted in Chin Check

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Published on December 07, 2010 with 10 Comments

Aaron McKrell reflects on the state of hip-hop in 2010.

I tried. For days, I racked my brains searching for ways to make this year’s rap scene sound fresh and captivating on paper. I thought of putting on a mock award show. I contemplated going through a timeline of the year’s major events. I even considered playing the role of Santa Claus, putting rappers on a “nice” and “naughty” list for this year. However, none of it struck me as the thing to do.

Then it hit me: my heart wasn’t in it.

As I was trying to come up with ideas, I realized that the majority of hip-hop this year was subpar at best. Sure, there was some good rap, even great rap. But I just kept thinking back to the ’90s (which, for those of you who will undoubtedly say I wasn’t a fan of hip-hop then, keep in mind the extensive research and listening I have indulged in) when the majority was good stuff. As positive as I try to remain, I can’t shake the feeling that hip-hop will never be the same again. It is too commercialized, pre-packaged and ready made. Where’s the spontaneity? What happened to creativity and not caring about what the label heads say? Hell, Jay-Z created his OWN label.

Last week I posted an article by one of my favorite hip-hop journalists called “100 Ways to Save Hip-Hop.” While many hip-hop nerds such as myself blame wack rappers for ruining the industry, we really should be pointing the finger at those who are purchasing the wack rappers’ music and giving it the attention they crave for it, be it positive or negative. I am guilty of it, too. I have spent much of my energy telling anyone who would listen (or sometimes, wouldn’t) how trash Young Money is. Whether that is true or not, it does not help the cause to restore hip-hop to what it once was. Negative energy is unnecessary and harmful. Hip-hop, and all music, is meant to bring people together, not to turn them on one another based on an artist’s flaws.

I love hip-hop. I love everything about it. But if people really want hip-hop to get better they have to stop supporting those they feel are detrimental to the music.

I get it. Most people don’t care about message-driven rap or lyrical prowess. They like a catchy beat and a good time. That’s fine. I’m not going to begrudge anyone for having fun. Maybe, as my friend told me tonight, I was simply born in the wrong era. But there’s nothing I can do about that, so I might as well do my bit to promote this beloved art form to the masses in the hope that it will be great again.

I could write a book on this subject, but it is almost 4 a.m. and I’m exhausted. So I’ll close with this and then I”ll give you my picks for the year. For those who are content with hip-hop the way it is, do your thing. But for those who want it to be return to its roots, please remember what I am saying: we have the power to restore it. Hip-hop has always been about the people, for the people, and by the people. That is all.

My 2010 Picks

Best Album: Distant Relatives, Nas and Damian Marley

Best Song: “In This World,” Reflection Eternal

Best Mixtape: Friday Night Lights, J. Cole

Best Comeback: Kanye West

Bets Debut: Marcberg, Roc Marciano

Best Posthumous Album: The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones, Pimp C

Best Remix/Cover: “New York is Killing Me,” Gil-Scott Heron (feat. Mos Def)

Best Collaboration: “Just Begun,” Reflection Eternal (f/ Mos Def, J. Cole and Jay Electronica)

Best Book: Decoded by Jay-Z (w/ Dream Hampton)

R.I.P. Guru

Happy Holidays

- by Aaron McKrell



There are currently 10 Comments on The State of Hip-Hop in 2010: A Reflection. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. As much as I share some of these feelings and understand where it comes from, it wasn’t really that different in the 90s. Listen to Rza’s intro speech on the second disc of Wu-Tang Forever and you’ll hear a lot of similarities with this post. I have a huge soft spot for the 90s golden era too but I think we have a tendency to romaticize it too much, this mythical era in which all rap was pure quality doesn’t exist, I’m afraid.

    Hip-Hop is more mainstream now, which brings along the mainstream problems you mentioned and makes them a lot more prominent and visible, but I actually think it was worse a couple years ago. Right now, the major force of the labels is actually wearing off. Broadband internet access brought a whole new aspect to the mixtape game and rap in general that adds a lot of creativity and diversity to it. All in all, 2010 saw some great releases, although sadly many of them weren’t top sellers, you’re certainly right about that.

  2. I get what you’re saying but another problem we have is that we just complain about how music isn’t as good as it used to be. Enjoy the quality music released now and J is right. The 90s was great for hip hop but it had its fair share of not so great music. I’m assuming you didn’t grow up in the 90s listening to hip hop? Well when you go back to discover the music released then, you’re only going to be pointed to the good stuff. This is why, I believe, that the 90s is romanticized so much. Sure, hip hop was less commercial and more original but it was not perfect.
    I strongly disagree and find people ignorant who say “Oh I only listen to rappers from the 90s. If the music was released in the last few years. It sucks.” And i know people like this (not saying youre saying this) but I just think we need to enjoy the music now and support and buy the music we like.

    Good post though. Well written

    • “Good post though. Well written.”- Thanks, man. I appreciate that. And I totally get what you’re saying about being pointed to the good stuff. However, I don’t claim that hip-hop in the 90s was perfect. I know that that’s a romanticized idea. I just believe that the 90s churned out far more classics than today’s rappers ever could. And I am a big fan of some of today’s releases, such as The Ecstatic and Distant Relatives. I just feel that a lot of the stuff getting attention is mediocre at best. Also, I totally feel you on your last point. One of the points I was trying to make with this article was that, instead of blasting stuff we don’t care for, we should be supporting today’s rappers that we like. Thanks everyone for reading, though. I really appreciate it.

  3. YES, finally an editor on TRU that realizes the greatness of the Distant Relatives record. It was a sonic and conceptual masterpiece and truly deserves the title ”Album of the Year”. Good looks on the article, I agree with your sentiments. I also believe that the influx of underground rappers picking up the mic is helpful to the cause and might help to re-boot Hip Hop to its roots eventually. I like to echo what Murs said on ”The Biggest Lie” from Felt 2:

    “The problem with hip hop? Nothing at all
    It’s an art-form, it ranges and it changes and evolves.
    It’s not always for the better, but be patient with it y’all,
    For our time will come, and the wicked will fall!”

    Stay true!

    • I was under the impression me and Riz were both pretty vocal about our love for this record. For the record, “As We Enter” is one of my favourite singles of 2010.

  4. Hp hop doesn’t need ‘saving’, it’s fine just the way it is. There’s something for everyone out there if you look hard enough. Kind of like how life is…..

  5. “What happened to creativity and not caring about what the label heads say?”

    its in the form of joe budden

  6. all i will say is lyrical prowess, and ingenuity, is nothing if you cant captivate, and preachy hip hop does the complete opposite., shunning people away in the same manor as priest teachers and parents do too often.
    We need middle ground not isolationism.
    Love for all hip hop!!

    personally i think drake has some real talk in between all the garbage.
    I also fux with murs, sage francis (rarely), big pun, mf doom, kanye, eminem, rakim, Little Bro, Devin the dude.

    There is always something to learn from others, even in their faults, but more importantly in how they win others.

    anyone would be a fool not to learn from even those they despise.

  7. Young Money is kinda trash though…

    • There certainly not the most consistent team on the planet but I can’t hate on some of Weezy’s bangers (Dr. Carter, for instance) either.

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