Let’s say you’re a hip-hop fan who’s been in a coma since the mid-90s and has just waken up. First off; Welcome back and kudos for mastering the internet right away, you’ve immediately hit on the absolute, undeniable, admired around the world, award-winning rap website on your first try (ignore what those others tell you)! Wow, you must be a smart guy/gal! Second; You’re in luck, we’ve compiled a handy list to catch you up with what’s changed in this game of rap while you were sleeping. No Sandra Bullock (how’s that for a pop culture reference from your era?).
Sometimes they’re mixed but more often they’re not. Sometimes they still have a DJ shouting “EXCLUSIVE!!!” over it but often they don’t even have a DJ. They can have original beats or other people’s beats or both. They’re called mixtapes as long as they’re realeased on the internet for free except when they’re not and they’re called street albums (which can be a retail album as well) or simply free albums. But mixtapes can also be released commercially through major labels. When one gets really popular you can pay for a handful of tracks derived from it on a retail-EP, the free mixtape you legally downloaded and that made those songs famous to begin with will then suddenly be piracy. Congratulations, you are a now bootlegger. If you run a rap blog you run the risk of having it seized by RIAA and DHS without warrant or warning. Confused? Don’t worry, we all are. Nobody knows what constitutes a mixtape anymore.
2. “Keeping It Real”
The best-selling rapper in the country spits about life on the corner, hustling, how dangerous he is, basic street life stuff. He got his record deal when he was 9 years old and grew up in wealth subsequently. He must’ve been living that thug life through primary school, at least that would explain why he wasn’t around when they clowned other kids for their garments and grew up to unashamedly rock jeggings. Another rapper (the fat one) that is one of the biggest stars in the game used to be a correctional officer but tells tales of a hilariously over-the-top mafioso lifestyle and cooking crack in the kitchen. It’s a complete fabrication but it does have dope beats, most of the time. So, “keeping it real?” Deader than it’s ever been, but to be honest, it never was that “real” to begin with.
3. Social Media
Everybody and there momma is on it, litterally (seriously, mom, stop calling me if I haven’t ‘liked’ your latest status yet). It’s a catalyst for societal change, a chance for ordinary citizens to organize and contact each other all over the world and was instrumental in the current democratization of the middle east. It’s also filled with girls making duckfaces and has become an integral part of the music business for both mainstream and underground artists. Especially Twitter is a great way for artists to contact fans and be accessible without giving up more privacy than they wish too. When Big Boi had to take a song with Andre 3000 off his solo album because, to quote Pusha T, them “crackers weren’t playing fair at Jive” I tweeted that I wished I knew where the song was supposed to go on the tracklist so I could at least fix it in my iTunes library (you don’t know what that is but that’s a whole other story) and hear the album how it was meant to. Within minutes I received a reply from Big Boi himself (it’s track 10 in case you’re wondering). That is pretty damn cool. What’s less interesting is when rappers seem to spend half of their day RT-ing (that’s resending a received message) congratulatory tweets (messages) from fans on how they’re so awesome and their latest turd of an album is a classic and everybody who says it isn’t is just HATIN’!
You might think you’ve got a well-formulated opinion that you can back up with solid arguments but you’re just HATIN’!
This is now a freestyle:
Just so you know. My thoughts about those have been extensively covered over here.
6. Old Rappers
Don’t think because you’ve been sleeping for 15 years you’re now too old for rap, it grew. Old rappers who stay relevant well into their 40s are a common phenomenon now and even relatively new-school emcees can create concept albums about turning 30. Unfortunately, some great rappers weren’t able to reach old age, but your heart might still be a bit fragile and it might be best to have someone close to you break the bad news in person. It’s a good thing the genre has broadened and is no longer strictly a young man’s game. It is however, still mostly a man‘s game, though that’s slowly changing as well due to harajuku barbies rapping in hashtags (see: social media) and emo-rappers spitting about being lonely. That might be a bit harder to adjust to for you.
In 2012 they’re the primary outlets for new music and the tasty bits of the rumor mill as well as more serious music reporting. There are tons of them, good and bad ones, and the good ones fill different niches, but one thing is important to remember;