Hip-Hop: a subculture especially of inner-city youths who are typically devotees of rap music
Maybe the title is a bit contrary to what some of you may think about me but I am sick and tired of hip-hop and its’ people. Yes, inclusive of my peers and myself. I have said Hip-Hop must die maybe 100 times in the past year but never fully explained why to anyone. Mainly because some are not ready for my version of the truth or it is not worth it. When you say something drastically different from the mainstream point of view you find yourself a target for massive backlash (oh to the well). Can you imagine if Oprah said something of the sort? The hip-hop community would try to dethrone her (in failure) but they’d try.
For many of my equals in the Generation Y struggle we find ourselves at a crossroads in all aspects of Global history. Race has reached the end of its’ trivial life with most people across the globe. Civil unrest in countries as the masses asks for democracy and the right to choose their own destinies. On a smaller scale but no less pertinent to the richness of our lives we look Hip-Hop in the eyes. Hip-Hop, the genre of black music/urban music we all learned about in the 80’s, fell in love with in the 90’s, grew apart in the early 2000’s and now despise in the 10’s. The relationship between the masses of inner-city youth and hip-hop has virtually run its’ course. Perhaps we have gone as far as this vehicle (medium) will allow for and are currently becoming stale as creationists.
The geneses (plural) of many relationships begin with the interview and infatuation stage. The “I don’t really know much about you but I am in like with you” stage. Our stage of infatuation and learning took place in the 80’s when Hip-Hop emerged from the basements and street corners of America where soul and funk fused with electronic equipment, down beats, and up tempo tracks laced with lyrics of the disparate and neglected. America; followed subsequently by the world, tuned their ears to a music genre inspired by a people oppressed by a nation which forced them into the corners and cracks of civilization.
Except this time it was different.
American music throughout its history has come from the struggle, plight and hope of countless generations. The gospel/negro folk songs spurred by the plantation slave narrative of the early 19th Century told the story of a people; Blues music born and bred in the poverty and laborious life of rural blacks in Mississippi burdened with heartache, hopelessness and heat; Country/Western, Rock n Roll, Jazz, Funk, Soul told the respective stories of the people in each distinctive era of American history, and in addition, spoke to the failures of society and reiterated the oppressive nature of home.
In spite of American Music’s tendency to continually telling the story of hurt, struggle, oppression and heartache there was a moment of absolute surprise when Hip-Hop emerged. This time the story tellers were different; this time around the youth were guiding the narrative in a direct, abrasive and often educated manner. For the first time the story of struggle and plight of inner-city youth reached the main stream American pulse.
Our infatuation with Hip-Hop had begun.
Many within all segments of society tuned their radios, tape players and the like to the sounds of America’s abused step-child; a step child who had been neglected since reconstruction and who refused to be unheard anymore. At the time mainstream America did not know what to do with the music. Censorship was at an all-time high but they just couldn’t turn away. Fans of hip-hop; at the time didn’t know they were fans. For many the style was so abrasive that many (so I’ve been told) had to sneak to listen to something that seemed so provocative.
From Counter-Culture to Warm Embrace
Like many relationships there comes a point after infatuation/information where the bliss ends and you begin to embrace the other person as they are. For some relationships the warm embrace happens sooner but for hip-hop and many from inner-city America, the warm embrace happened over the course of the 90’s. Some would argue that the 90’s were Hip-Hop’s heyday. Let them tell it ALL the music was good, songs had real lyrics and the artists were genuine even if you didn’t like them they were genuine. When saying genuine I mean they were who they rapped about; they were a thug, a lover, a scholar, a pimp, etc…
If you agree that The 80’s version of Hip-Hop was at all met with hesitation by the masses you would also agree that in the 90’s people from all walks of inner-city life fell in love with the genre. More polished artists who were stewards of the game learned from, been mentored by, and danced in their videos (jay & Pac) of their predecessors in the class prior. Now this freshman class was taking the scene by storm and with reckless abandon. Just as the story of America’s Inner-City youth began to evolve….something happened.
Things Fall Apart
As more black, brown and white patrons of hip-hop from the inner-city took notice and began to market and popularize the genre so did the large capitalist interests. As our relationship with hip-hop transitions; now under heavy guidance and influence from corporations, and as the primarily inner-city consumer base was outflanked by a dynamically growing predominately sub-urban; predominately middle-to-upper-income households the producers of hip-hop also changed. One doesn’t mean the men/women behind the scenes in the studio but the artists who were the fiber and fabric of content for hip-hop; also began to change.
From Grits to Gravy
The makers of hip-hop were no longer majority inner-city post black panther, post Ronald Reagan literates, nor were they the genuines of the 90’s. They were now the middle-income, quality school, opportunity ridden children from middle class, black flight, white flight households. As the pool of hip hop artists from the original generations began to lose their appeal with the new “paying” audiences their voices were drowned out. The emergence of flashy, trendy, hipster rappers took the 2000’s with almost a blatant disregard for the game. No longer was hip-hop about the art of telling a unique story about; one’s plight, injustice, civil action, love, lust and the chase. It evolved into a plethora of catchy sayings, taglines, and 2 minutes and 32 seconds of a song on 10 track album.
You changed, you started acting different, you don’t act like you used, and you don’t do the things I used to love.
Could be the words, phrases and caveats to express the feelings and frustration many people from the “golden years” now have with hip-hop. The relationship just isn’t the same anymore. Equivalent to saying Hip-Hop has gotten around the wrong crowd and has not acted the same since, “college changed you”. Since the early 2000s Hip-Hop has struggled to produce “Classic Albums”. Somewhere, somehow, something happened in the water or power of quality control was relinquished because in 2003/2004 the last of the great hip-hop albums (as a whole) were released from all of our favorite artists. Since 2004 the taste it leaves after buying an album just is not the same. Sure there are exceptions as there have been a quite a few classics from stellar artists who remained true since then but things are not the same in reference to the “depth and diversity” of classic music albums.
As capitalists interests control and puppet artists (Lupe) on the whims of album production and control; we the original consumer suffer. Now that the inner-city consumer is outweighed by the sub-urban consumer the request, love and desires of the genre by the former are ignored for the appetite of the later. So just as with any other relationship in which you don’t possess influence over the decision-making and find yourself at the whims of someone who does not really have your best interest at heart you should leave their ass. Perhaps easier said than done but throughout the history of relationships we would be wise to learn from previous generations.
Something to learn from History?
As with the blues, jazz and Rock n Roll; capitalists’ interests destroyed the essence of each genre to the core. The musicians were no longer those who possessed the essence to the core but were now the consumers who just loved the sound of their own tune. Perhaps there is no other genre which saw its essence and validity stolen like Rock n Roll, maybe even Jazz. But from Rock n Roll’s heydays to now it has gone through two periods of decay and rebirth. Blues and Jazz each are on the rebound to purity and a return to the essence of the style of music which made them popular among the commoners is now on display back in their places of origin even though the masses are not followers. In each case the fans who supported and validated the genre walked away from their generations mainstream music and began to embrace the future or return to classical forms of the genre; whichever the case, they abandoned the commercialized version of rock, jazz and blues. As true as it may be nothing is this clear cut.
Where do we go from here?
While we are staring hip-hop in the eyes and having a RNS conversation we need to keep it real. I along with many other are not satisfied with what is being produced right now (as a whole) amongst the hip-hop community. So what do we do? Do we patron local establishments and ONLY listen to the underground mix-tape kings, do we petition and boycott hip hop or do we simply walk away from it? I honestly don’t know of a direct answer to this question but I do have lean and bias towards letting it die and letting it stay a suburban form of music, consumption and production, UNTIL. As long as inner-city consumers validate and place stamps of approval on the content being produced now-a-days and label it as hip-hop there is no need to change the game. Once the interests of the inner-city youth shift focus to another style/genre whether new, old or revamped, the entire relationship will begin all over again. And then once the main focus of capitalists, and the suburban consumer market shifts, the original hip-hop heads; if they desire, can reemerge for a generation to create within the essence of true hip-hop again.
Here are some things to think about:
Can a person with no child write a book about raising children? Can an unmarried person give marriage advice? Can a person without any heartache, pain and/or suffering sing the blues?
Then the question can be asked that can a child from affluence produce hip-hop?
What’s next? Music has evolved with each generation and each struggle but with the 90’s babies hanging on to Hip-Hop—what and who will be next?
Given more 90’s babies than in any generation have more affluence (although material in nature) than any other generation of music producers. Most genres were formed through struggle and heartache but now that affluence is more abundant will we now see another genre formed out of the cracks of affluence (disco).
How do you feel about hip-hop and what’s happening? Hip-Hop has never been perfect but it has always remained diverse. There were plenty of mainstream options to choose from and for a lot of people they’d rather go back and listen to old school because of the REAL. Like all music genres before the inner-city crowd will turn its back on the game. Some artists will cry foul but let’s be real will you keep patronage at restaurant if you order chicken and they keep bringing you chicken fried steak?
Perhaps it will happen on its own or maybe the inner-city will never give up on hip-hop as its only child. Despite the history’s truth that all forms of music were once the inner-city’s child will we hold on to hip-hop like no other? Will this generation remember the history and power in their creationist pasts? Let’s be real we have created and pioneered every type of music since Negro folk songs to Rock n Roll– ALL of them. Anything new in America has come from us. SO why stop now? If we stop, then who will create? If we lose our creative voice…..then what good are we anyway?
While writing—-I listened to Coltrane, Prince, MJ, KRIT, Pac and Queen Latifah