Tuesday, July 18, 2006

[The Movement] Hip-Hop Is Dead.

Disclaimer: I would not describe myself as a hip-hop head or a journalist. I am merely a music-lover & music-maker who loves to observe and discuss the goings-on in Urban Music.

With that said, I’ll say it again:

“Hip-Hop is Dead.”

I have only recently begun to surf the OKP boards after Honorable has sent me several relevant music-related links. Going through the site, I’ve noticed an overwhelming presence of the above statement - Hip-Hop is dead.

Before I give my two cents on the subject matter, I’d like to share with you my initial thoughts:

  1. All urban music is not hip-hop
  2. Hip-hop still persists, but not in the way some would like it to appear in the mainstream
  3. If Hip-Hop is dead, then what are you listening to?

Now, my opinion comes from an artist point of view – still young in the game and with a tendency to look for the silver lining. So with that said, I don’t think Hip-Hop is dead; it’s just in its proverbial teens.

I am 22 – so I am young myself. I didn’t grow up with BDP, Rakim, or Pete Rock; I can’t tell you about the heyday of Hip-Hop. But being 22, I can say that looking back on the times when Hip-Hop was “great,” it appeared to only be in its infancy. What cats are saying about Hip-Hop now is not dissimilar to when my mom recalls how cute I was when I was a toddler.

Before you begin the barrage of comments about how I trivialized Hip-Hop’s significance, think about it. Remember how much you and your folks beefed as adolescents? Or being asked the rhetorical question “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” It seems as though Hip-Hop might have answered “yes” and when the opportunity presented itself – willing went over the ledge and plunged to its death…leaving, Hip-Hop, well, dead.

However, I don’t believe that is the case. Instead, Hip-Hop is growing up and doing all the dumb shit adolescents do. I must admit, that is unfortunate that all of these movements look like they should be accompanied by Black Face. But that’s another post topic for another day.

In a recent blog post, Hip-Hop: The New Minstrel Show, writer Khary McGhee reflects on a concert in Fayetteville, NC. Among the Crunk/Snap artists billed for the show was North Carolina’s own, Little Brother – true Hip-Hop purveyors of the present – who received a lack-luster response from the crowd. Khary used this incident as a catalyst to maintain this growing notion that Hip-Hop is dead (or dying) because a “real” Hip-Hop act can get no love, meanwhile, Cadillac Don and J Money (who?…wth!) has the audience going stupid. However, McGhee later proves my point by noting the following:

“As it stands now, rap music is becoming more and more disposable. Great records aren’t being made. Careers are getting shorter and shorter. The music is becoming more homogenous.

In many ways, this period in hip-hop reminds me of the new-age rock period of the 1980s. Remember all of those one-hit wonders? Toni Basil (Mickey), a-ha (Take On Me), Nena (99 Luftballoons), Soft Cell (Tainted Love). In a few years, artists like Dem Franchize Boyz, Yung Joc and the Ying-Yang Twins will join that group of 1980s has-beens as answers as Trivial Pursuit questions.”

So not unlike the Doo Wop movement of the 60s or the new-age rock of the 80s, these movements will come and go, but the true art form will remain. Would we say that Crunk is truly Hip-Hop, anyway? And why can’t you have a little 3-6 Mafia with your Lupe? Aren’t LB and Fiasco signed to Atlantic – a major label?

What we are observing is the necessary transition of “Hip-Hop” which is essential to its commercial viability. With each of the cookie-cuttter acts being signed to regurgitate a movement to the masses, true Hip-Hop acts are given access to the industry in ways unseen before. They, by no means, have the keys to the city, but I think we are moving towards maturity.

In closing, Hip-Hop is not dead – it’s evolving. Hip-Hop is still here – the good, the bad, and the snapping.


Blogger jb said...

Excellent post!

"All urban music is not hip-hop"
Thank you. Too many music programmers and critics confuse the two.

"What cats are saying about Hip-Hop now is not dissimilar to when my mom recalls how cute I was when I was a toddler."

Great analogy!

1:15 PM  
Blogger Elle B. said...

Thanks JB, I've felt that cats get way too apocalyptic about "hip-hop" when a new Crunk song makes BET or Party-Rapper hits the scene. Because although "classic" Hip-Hop has its place, not all of it is the best mc'ing ever to be recorded. It's just that alot of folks were there when it was new, novel,and exclusive, which is no longer the case - but instead of moving forward cats are stuck back in the past.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great analogy!

the only flaw i see is that people will state that technical hip-hop is almost 30 years old.

but for the most part, i think you are right. bopefully this experience will encourage Lil Bro to go back to the drawing boards to find a balance between intelligent hip-hop and something that will move the crowd.


1:55 PM  
Blogger Cocacy said...

Truly, an intelligent engaging post! I partiuclarly liked your anthropomorphism of hip-hop as a perdon going through particular phase in its young life. How's the music coming?

2:07 PM  
Blogger Elle B. said...

Wow - anthromorphisms - I had to look that up...great word.

The music is going well. It'funny that I can't seem to write about it because it consumes so much of my other life.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Timothy said...

Here's what my boy, Raydar Ellis (myspace.com/raydarellis) said about hip hop lately...

Mainstream Hip-Hop: Hip-Hop that you, your hot but dumb girlfriend, and backpacker best friend can all agree on listening to in the car at the same time..at least for a few songs. You'll still like it but your hot dumb girlfriend will get tired of it and wanna hear Kelis while your backpacker buddy will start complaining about how (insert artist name here) is starting to fall off

Commercial Hip-Hop: Everyone who bites the formula of the afromentioned mainstream kats and has success with it. Mostly one hit wonders, but some kats stick around for 2 or more. Mainstream artists tend to implode on themselves and slip into this category.

Conscious Hip-Hop: Emcees you and your parents like. Kinda like the names you mention when you defend Hip-Hop saying "Well so and so doesn't talk about that stuff". These are the guys that care about the black community and oddly enough have enough time to promote albums and REALLY fight for the revolution? Hhhmmm...let that one marinate. Ultimately, most of them don't like the title either and will dissappear or mess their whole style up trying to prove they're not "conscious".

Underground Hip-Hop: Often confused with Conscious because they can't go platinum either. These kats albums are harder to find because Wal Mart knows Jeezy will sell more. They spend most of their time complaining about how unfair the business is and purposely choose beats that sound so far from what you can play in the club that only kids who look for lyrics (y'know..the important shit!) would care. They hate singing. These kats tend to use big words cuz they sound cool, but every once and awhile you find some good stuff. Backpackers worship these guys.

Independent Hip-Hop: Often confused with Underground. Indy Hip-Hop is more based off of a business model than a sound. It's more a conflict of distribution outlets. You can find some great artists. The problem is finding them first. Plus, everyone thinks it's underground because they don't know where to buy it either. Often mistaken for "The Real Hip-Hop". That being said...

Real Hip-Hop: This definition often shifts based on what's popular but currently it's everyone who isn't crunk, snap, hyphy, Hip-Pop, commercial, etc. It tends to lead toward more "boom bap" associated (Hip-Hop drum programming term) records and gives old school artists way too much credit for putting out complete garbage just cuz they were hot in '92. Often nicknamed "Hardcore Hip-Hop", "True School" or "That Real Shit" depending on what record is playing. Arch Nemesis: the radio...artists use "Real Hip-Hop" as a selling point and fans of this brand will often blanket this as a general term that is LAW when it's really just someone's OPINION about what "Real Hip-Hop" is.

Alternative Hip-Hop: Artists you've heard before that got fed up with rapping, bought some Velvet underground, EW&F, and Hendrix records and said "Screw it. I'll throw it all in an album and see what happens". They tend to dissappear for a quick second and come back having learned how to play an instrument and singing. sometimes you even get a good record from them. Problem?? They stopped RAPPING for most of the album!! So technically, it only counts as Hip-Hop for a few songs. But they get placed in the Hip-Hop section anyway because that's where their other stuff is.

Crunk: Is not Hip-Hop (Lil Jon said so)...but a lot of Hip-Hop artists do crunk records. So for the sake of it's individuality. Crunk is where a lot of Hip-Hop artists "vacation"?? (shrugs shoulders) It lives and dies in the club and your $10,000 car stereo. Some handclaps, a few synth leads, 808s, and a lot of yelling later...DING!! There you go...a brand new crunk record. You're dumb girlfriend loves it, your backpacker friend hates it, and you appreciate the fact that it allowed you to dance with that chick at the club last weekend. Go figure (Side note: This is the common title assigned to southern Hip-Hop by people who forgot that Outkast rapped and 2 Live Crew even existed)

Snap Music: See-Crunk, except take out the yelling and replace Handclaps with finger snaps

R&B (Rap & Bullshit): R&B artists that apparently really wanted to be rappers but fucked up by establishing an R&B fanbase, so to compensate..they either:

A)make their verses so wordy and sing their melodys so simply (3 note range) that they might as well be Nelly (note: Nelly is in the rap section but R. Kelly is in R&B. Where's the difference??)
B) Has some rapper (or rappers) fuck up their genre (Rhythm & Blues) by dropping sub standard verses that don't belong on anything..especially not the singles, which is where most of said verses appear.

Gospel Hip-Hop: Another sub-genre you and your parents can agree with. They talk about real issues and sometimes the production is actually decent. The problem? NO IDENTITY!! If 50 is in the club, the gospel kats are in the club FOR CHRIST!! They get crunk FOR CHRIST!! They get jiggy FOR CHRIST!! They make a career out of being the LE (Lite Edition) of whatever is really selling which means that many lack the variance it takes in Hip-Hop to stay ahead of the pack. But hey, at least when they thank God in the liner notes, you're more prone to believe it.

That West Coast: An innovative and refreshing sound that brought the funk to everybody and made NY get off it's high horse. Now, it's victim to a buying public who didn't get the memo that it's not '94 anymore. You'll find a bunch of dope artists out there that make great records but are often criticized for having geographically different beats...as in "He sounds East Coast!!"(see: "That Real Shit"). The problem?
The Public.

Old School Hip-Hop: Music that came from at least 10 years ago or longer. You and your parents will probably get along with this and they'll kick some bullshit "back in my day" story that has nothing to do with the record that caused it. MOST of the key demographic for todays Hip-Hop doesn't know it exists and when they hear it, don't care. This section of Hip-Hop has a LOT of great stuff. It's has a lot of crap too, but the gems outweigh the missteps. The Problem? YOU (buying public) DON'T CARE. Dj's will often throw on the 3rd verse of Black Sheep's "The Choice is Yours", Tribe's "Scenario", or Gangstarrs "DWYCK" at a party to prove they're "Real" and so you (the young' uns) can act like you really know what you just heard. Oh yeah, there's another problem...it makes bitter old geezers out of everyone who can remember the first time they heard "Who Got Da Props" on the radio. sigh...

There you have it more or less (I stress the more or less). Note: All these definitions are subject to change depending on what happens next in Hip-Hop. Now that we've put it under a microscope...BREAK THE LENSE!! Listen to some Hip-Hop music and see how you feel regardless of the video (everyone's been swayed by the video before. Don't front), if you've ever heard of them or their camp, or what producer and/or guests they have on their album. The best stuff is 11/10 the stuff you stumble across and/or look for..not what is brought to you. It used to just be Hip-Hop, now it's all this crap.

Categorization can breed understanding and segregation. Be VERY careful with it.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Rell said...

dag, you know Fayetteville, NC is my hometown right?

Ugh -- great pub.

6:03 PM  

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