Over the last month I’ve been finding myself talking to people and coming across online posts and blogs about the state of Hip Hop. It always comes down to people taking sides on whether not they like what is going on with the music game and the culture in general. What I still don’t get is nowadays with sites like youtube and vimeo and websites and blogs that showcase the essential elements of Hip Hop, how we as Hip Hop heads still even worry about what radio is pushing out as Hip Hop? Let’s keep it real a good portion of artists who are coming out today have no idea what it was like to have nothing more than one DJ on a station or one station in general play Hip Hop. Then there’s the fact these new artists come in the game totally focused on making money because the game has been broken down in books, artist interviews and them watching how the game is played. The term Ringtone rapper comes from rappers who focused less on trying to make a soiled Hip Hop song or album and more on something catchy one would want on their phones.
In talking to Ms. Nicolina, queen of all things and love of my life, she spoke on how the music is so trendy. Even though she likes some of the trendy artists, she doesn’t put it in the category of Hip Hop, which is probably is the best way to put it truthfully. Whatever you want to call what these new dudes are putting out, it still can be placed in the fabric of Hip hop. I mean during the mid 80’s we had House Hop that KRS was totally against even as The Jungle Brothers came away with a radio hit in that format. C&C Music Factory and the groups’ rapper Freedom truly became the face of such fusion and ultimately became a reason for the death of House Hop. Timbaland loves to shy away from fully being considered Hip Hop, no matter how many artists he’s worked with or even the two Hip Hop albums with Magoo.
Although I totally don’t like what I hear from the new dudes on the radio, I don’t think it’s all bad from the aspect of adding something to the game. Musically I think the shit is garbage and not as new as people want to make it. Whether it’s using Auto-tune or just singing off key the “style” isn’t new at all. Just go look at what artists on the SugarHill label gave us, Sequence was a female Hip Hop group that had some singing in their hooks and from that group we came away with Angie Stone. That was the early 80’s and even what Africa Bambaddia did had a bit of an auto-tune sound to it. The Cold Crush Brothers had routines where they seemed to be singing more than rapping. Just ten years ago we had Nelly who truly was singing along with Lauryn Hill, Wyclef , Latifia. Don’t forget Dice Raw and Black Thought with The Roots new song “How I Got Over”. The thing is they , not including Nelly, embodied Hip Hop, it’s why as a Hip Hop culture we were drawn to Mary J. more than other artists who did the same kind of R&B she was doing. For me, what this boils down to is these new dudes don’t embody the essence of Hip Hop. I mean no one has really jumped on Mos Def for his albums, what you hear as a criticism to Mos Def was that he doesn’t rap enough. Mos Def came in the game with that diverse take on things like those members of The Fugees, The Carnival by Wyclef is still groundbreaking and those who have it are Hip Hop lovers. So when Lil Wayne gets dissed for running around with a guitar strapped to his back and chooses to sing he’s going to get dissed? Why, because his music never tapped on that dimension of artistry before?
I hate hearing how the game is split between people. It’s sad because Hip Hop is the only genre besides Country (back when Kenny Rogers was singing songs written by Lionel Richie), that has battled with what is and isn’t true to the genre. I always go to Rock to make my point on how we as Hip Hop have let others dictate how we view things and take criticism. Back when there was that Rock/Rap thing taking off. Metalica, Green Day, Gene Simmons and a few other Rock greats all said don’t call it Rock. Now people brought the issue to Steve Tyler since he was the start of this new collaborative world and his response was something like it was just a Run DMC song featuring Aerosmith. He also said Run DMC had been using rock music before they connected. No one challenged the separation of Rap/Rock from Rock music not even the artists who fused the two. The artists respected the views and continued to do what they did with a nice following. With Rock there has to be a guitarist or a guitar playing a major role in the music for it to be Rock. In Billy Idol and Elton John’s prime they were considered Rock dudes. Time passed and Rock truly shaped and defined itself leaving them and so many out of its genre. Jazz has to have some instrument that you blow in to truly be Jazz, Blues has to also have a guitar and it’s a must you repeat the first line. Now that could be stereotyping but it also keeps the essence of what we as music lovers know to make those genres. Even if a Blues artists goes auto-tune (yes I heard a Blues song like that) the vibe is still Blues. Hip Hop has never allowed itself to not put a top on anything or limit the growth but understand the essence that makes it Hip Hop. Yeah the younger people have no idea about the History of Hip Hop but that becomes a problem for us because we as Hip Hop tap on history to steal an idea from the past. If you want to be a guitarist you know of all the Rock greats as well Blues greats and anyone who has handled a guitar with fitness. Shit Prince was asked to be apart of the Guitar Hero series. Why? Because he is a beast on the guitar. Shit you go to youtbe and white kids are playing music from The J.Bs, The Meters and The Funk Brothers. These are people in their early 20’s and mid 30’s playing music by people the average black person that age has no idea who they are. So it doesn’t even make me think twice now when someone has no idea who The Rza or (Kool) Mo Dee, Tha Liks, MC Eith, EPMD, MC Ren, or the other members of A Tribe Called Quest that isn’t Q-Tip are and that’s if they know he was a member of the group. This goes to out media outlets who push these new dudes until their 15 minutes is up. I saw it when Mase started falling off. The Blaze magazine or The Source dissed him by name talking about his simplistic music but a few months before the guy was on the cover. If these outlets stop pandering and truly be the more visible voice for the culture we might not hear debating about what is and isn’t Hip Hop. Again I’m not against these dudes (and females). Although I don’t like their music I’m against the fact the labels, BET, MTV and radio aren’t willing to show that there are alternatives out there, and some of them are true Hip Hop artists.
The big issues for me is not that the corny stuff gets played but there is no balance at all on radio or any media playing Hip Hop. I figure people wouldn’t be as pissed if there was an even handed approach to playing Hip Hop. There isn’t and that has people feeling those with less to no skills are becoming the face of the music and the culture it self. KRS said it on the Beef DVD when he talked about his beef with Nelly about how the game needs both to survive and the problem is we aren’t and haven’t been getting both for years now. That DVD (since I found myself watching it again because I was just bored) touched on a deeper point too. Nelly asked about who elected KRS the judge on what is and isn’t Hip Hop? That is something we’ve been dealing with since Hip Hop became more mainstream. The ones who have the right to judge are those who have determined who become legends and what songs become classics. They are those of us who know Hip Hop beyond the music and understand the significance of B Boys, DJs and Grafitti artists and have a right to say what we feel about our culture. WE as a culture named Rakim and KRS the greatest of all time, not MTV, Time, Rolling Stone, Billboard or any other pop culture outlet, WE as Hip Hop heads did that. Both men have never been pop main stays and by the standards of today Hip Hop world are unknown. If some Hip Hop greatest hits collection comes out by Time Life music those guys may not make the collection at all. WE as culture crowned Primo, Dre, Pete Rock, Eazy –E, Chuck D. and so many others legends. When is the last time on a pop level have you heard Eazy’s named in the same breathe as Dre when it comes to setting down the foundation of West caost Hip Hop? That’s what WE do as a culture. So when WE seem to agree that so and so isn’t hip Hop, it is far from the angle of hatred but from the fact WE know what Hip Hop is. Trust me I’m all for evolution but being different doesn’t make it evolution or better. Going back to The Roots, when they first got their major deal people wrote them off as a gimmick. Then once people went to their live shows they realized this is truly an extension of Hip Hop.