“Hip-hop is dead.”
How many times have you heard that recently? More importantly, when you heard it, was it from your own lips? Do you feel like rappers don’t possess the same talent as they did twenty, ten, even five years ago?
Do you hate the likes of Migos, Young Thug, and Gucci Mane because you think they are killing the genre? Do you enjoy using the phrase real hip-hop? Oh, you poor lost soul, I once thought like you. Then I realized that I wasn’t the arbiter of rap and I didn’t get to make those calls, and I got off my high horse.
One thing that brought about this change in my philosophy is the realization of the fact that not all music serves the same purpose or should serve the same purpose. Turn-up music serves to make you want to dance.
Not to get you to think deeply or to showcase a mastery of lyricism, but to have fun. And it’s not a sin to listen to music for the sole purpose of having fun, nor does doing so make you a Neanderthal incapable of recognizing real music (whatever that means).
You shouldn’t look for triple entendres in a song that was created for a party atmosphere and then proclaim the death of hip-hop because you found none. This is basically the musical equivalent of complaining to the manager of Popeye’s due to a lack of lobster on the menu.
Hip-hop elitists also have convenient amnesia of the fact that turn-up music has been a subset of rap since hip-hop’s inception. I’ve never heard anyone present Me So Horny, Back That Azz Up, or Get Low as songs that helped destroy a genre.
It seems that some people have this odd quirk that makes them unable to simply dislike some music and makes them feel like they have to justify their dislike saying it’s not real music. This was said by big band swing jazz artists of the twenties when bebop jazz gained traction. Bebop artists said the same when an offshoot of that, named hard bop, arose.
John Coltrane himself, considered by most people who have laid hands on a saxophone to be one of the greatest to ever do it, was criticized as not a real musician by his predecessors. And it was said of hip-hop when it started in the 80’s, again when gangster rap rose in the 90’s, and it’s happening again with today’s rap.
It’s a cycle based on one fundamental flaw: the failure to realize that music is neither static nor objective. Music is subjective and can mean or be exemplified by something different to every one of the 7 billion-odd people on this earth, and none of us can define that for another.
While I define hip-hop as poetry and mastery of language, I also define it as raw, visceral emotion, and evidence of that in today’s hip-hop is omnipresent. And it’s ok if you disagree, because the nature of music is such that you may define hip-hop for yourself.
However, that same nature therefore destroys the premise of real hip-hop.
Music writer Stereo Williams recently tweeted,
“I never use the phrase “real hip-hop.” Nope. Not gonna. Means next-to-nothing to me. I support sincere, honest hip-hop in any form/style.”
It took me a long time to get to this point, but now that I have, my musical experience is all the better. Hip-hop is alive and well, and it will continue to thrive-with or without your approval.