Ready To Die: Is This The End of Hip-Hop?
Hip-Hop is dead.
Well, not quite but it is on life support, barely hanging on and gradually slipping into a coma.
Gone is the colorful wordplay demonstrated by the likes of Busta Rhymes and Redman, the Langston Hughes storyteller flows by Nas, and the late great Biggie Smalls. No longer are we picturing ourselves bouncing in the low rider with Snoop down in Long Beach or pulling up to the club in Manhattan with Jay in the Range Rover (not the 4.0 but the 4.6, to be exact). Instead, we have nightmares of animated rappers with tasteless faces tattoos glamorizing how intoxicated they are on prescription pills in front of an abandoned building.
Before I go any further. Let me put out this disclaimer. I am an 80s baby and 90s kid. When it comes to music, especially hip-hop, I’m similar to the verse from Jadakiss, “I have exquisite taste and I’m set in my ways.”
Being brutally honest, I’m just not impressed with 80% of new hip-hop. Besides a few rappers like the J.Cole, Goldlink, Kendrick, and Drake who have blessed us with high-quality material over the last 8 years, mainstream hip-hop quite frankly is garbage. It’s weak. It’s malnourished. It lacks substance. It lacks flavor. It lacks originality. It’s the same old recipe recycled and repackaged with a different rappers name.
I could go on but you get my drift.
Hip-Hop is not evolving, it is actually diminishing. It’s losing its vigor and luster, its bravado and provocativeness. It traded in the rebellion of Outcast and gave way to the conformity of Migos. Hip-Hop has become more about flowing trends than creating flows. It is a popularity contest in its purest, most audacious form.
The new generation of rapper is more concerned about their follower count on Instagram and trolling other rappers in order to rack up the number of plays on Spotify while featuring another garbage rapper talking about the aforementioned rapper instead of focusing on improving their craft and putting out a thought-provoking body of work that, quite possibly, can change the narrative of the genre overall!
“[Hip-Hop] is on life support, barely hanging on and gradually slipping into a coma.“
But I get we all have to hustle.
We all have to eat.
And, like music execs, bloggers and wayward fans alike state that “Real rap ain’t selling these days. These youngsters don’t want to hear that shit.”
Yeah, you may be right.
I’ve discussed this plenty of times with my fellow Hip-Hop Heads and Hipsters who attempt to put me on to the Futures and Cardi Bs, but to no avail. They claim my love for the raw & uncut drug dealer hymns of Pusha T or the rhymes of inspiration and perseverance of Lauryn Hill are a thing of the past. That I should let go and embrace this new generation of hip-hop artists. And I do to a certain extent. You can catch me in the whip slapping the late great Nipsey Hussle or bobbing my head to Nicki Minaj but what you won’t see is me mumbling and plug walking.
I guess this may be an age thing.
I want more.
I want that old feeling back when you used to hop in the car with your people and head over to Sam Goody or the Warehouse, jet over to the new music section, grab a couple of CD’s that dropped that week, hop back in the car, crack open the plastic, look over the cover, read through the credits, then slide the CD in the deck and ride off into the sunset. That’s the feeling I want from hip-hop and that’s the feeling that is missing.
There’s too much microwave hip-hop out here. The shit is under or overcooked. It’s just not right. We are consuming too much watered down mushy hip-hop with processed beats and lukewarm flows pretending to be impressed. What I want is the slow-cooked crock pot hip-hop. That hip-hop that takes years to make. That hip-hop that tastes so good that you scrunch your mug when a Biggie bar slaps you across the face with all that flavor in your ear. That’s the hip-hop that we are missing. That home-cooked meal hip-hop.
But I digress. Maybe since I grew up in the Bay Area I’m just spoiled. Maybe since I grew up in a time when Wu-Tang, Fugees, The Click, and Missy Elliot were all dropping influential projects in the mid to late 90s. And Kanye, The Game, 50 Cent, and Lil Wayne delivered game-changing releases in the early 2000s.
I guess I’m just spoiled, or maybe I’m just getting old and need to start acting my age. Maybe this new generation of hip-hop artists isn’t for me. Maybe the trap beats, stripper videos, lean sipping, and gun-toting isn’t what I’m into.
Naw that’s not it.
What drives me insane about the current state of hip-hop is virtually every rapper is the same. They have the same gold chains, ride the same whips in the videos, spit the same bars, rock the same clothes, have the same tatts, rap on the same beats by the same producers…should I go on?
There’s is no ingenuity. In the 90s, you could tell the difference between Jay, Fat Joe, and Cam within the cadence of the first line and all 3 are from New York. These days you can barely tell the difference between Tyga and Kid Ink or Lil Yachty and Big Baby D.R.A.M. even after it’s over.
I know I’m coming across like a hater of the new era of hip-hop and I don’t want that to be the case. There are a few artists of the more newer generation that I fuck with, ones I would consider leaders of the new school. As I mentioned before J.Cole, Nipsey, Kendrick, Drake, and Goldlink, but also Wale, Schoolboy Q, Tory Lanez, and Nicki Minaj. This is just to name a few.
The truth is at the end of the day art is art. Hip-hop is Hip-Hop. What may be for me may not be for you. All I am asking as a Hip-Hop Head is for balance and right now it’s over saturated. Too much of a bad (or good) thing will inevitably kill you.
For every Lil Pump, we need a Chance The Rapper.
For every City Girls, we need a Rhapsody.
We have to have our yin to our yang to keep the culture pumping and the spirit beating. If not, this art form we call hip-hop will surely meet an untimely death.
Sway Calloway is one of the most revered journalists of hip-hop. It’s only fitting he would launch his very own block party, Sway Fest, in the Bay Area!
When I was in Portland a few weeks ago I stumbled across a discussion with co-founder of The Hundreds Bobby Kim about his new book. I had to check it out.