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)
- by Aaron McKrell