Has Hiphop Sold Its Soul?
I have a dilemma, I’m struggling to remember the last time hiphop moved me… You see, for me hiphop changes me, real hiphop will make me feel connected to the message in the track. Sometimes that message is to relax, sometimes it’s to party, it can also get me agro’d up.. But whatever the message is, it has that power to transform me. I might be in the shittest mood, pissed off with everyone and anyone.. but as soon as the trumpet loop starts in Gang Starr’s ‘Ex girl to the next’ and Guru’s effortless flow carries over the beat I just can’t help to smile..
As long as I can remember there have always been iconic hiphop tracks. Tracks that are bursting with so much urban goodness that they can’t be held back on genre specific radio, and they just force their way onto the mainstream airwaves due to relentless public demand. Nevertheless these tracks had their roots in the hiphop ways, they kept true to their disciplines and art form. The ‘route to market’ has changed, and so has the calibre of artists. No longer is talent considered the central focus, it’s a side order to a main dish of gimmick, marketability and image. Youtube views, number of Twitter followers and Facebook ‘likes’ are the main points of interest to most major record labels when deciding what artists to invest time and money into.
Now, I’m not naïve, money has been made on gimmick artists since the whole MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice episodes.. But in these modern times whole careers are being forged on this premise. Someone explain to me the talent behind someone like Florida, Pitbull or 2Chainz!? Why are these ‘musicians’ being dubbed as rappers in the hiphop genre!? I have copied some of the lyrics to 2Chainz shockingly bad record ‘I’m different’ below. I had the misfortune to listen through it while the artist in question was the support act to the hiphop legend that is NAS at the O2 arena recently.
Let me warn you, here comes some lyrical prowess that may blow your mind..
2Chainz got your girl on the celly
And when I get off the celly,
I made her meet at the telly
When she meet at the telly
I put it straight in her belly
When it go in the belly, it ain’t sh*t you can tell me..
Why is this acceptable? Why are people paying good money to A. Listen to this rubbish? B. Buy this rubbish? And C. Actually enjoy this rubbish!? I’m not saying complicated and elaborate word play is an essential skill to a hiphop emcee, I listen to plenty of DMX and 50 Cent to name but two artists who lack this skill, but what they lack in lyrical ability they make up for in rhythm, flow and charisma.
It’s not just the lyrics either, since Lil Wayne and David Guetta have influenced mainstream music in their own poisonous ways the majority of mainstream music with some sort of rapping either sound like a remix’d nursery rhyme or a generic euro pop dance track. There has to be a demand for this rubbish otherwise the supply would not be required. I suggest the next time you are on public transport and you can’t help but over hear someone listening to ‘music’ as shocking as this, suggest one of the following;
Wu Tang Clan – ‘36 Chambers’, Kanye West – ‘College Dropout’, Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor + The Cool, Nas – ‘Illmatic’, Eric B and Rakim – ‘Gold’ and/or finally.. ‘Born again’ – The Notorious BIG…
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are newer talents that have emerged in the last few years that definitely inspire hope. I’m enjoying some Roc Marciano.. Especially his track ‘Change’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxa2H1lz5GE, which definitely has an old Wu Tang and Mobb Deep feel to it.. The bass in his vocals works very well with his relaxed and rhythmic flow.. This is an artist who has perfected his flow, and I’m excited to hear more in the future. J.Cole is good too. Maybe not everyone’s choice, but his track ‘Lost Ones’ ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxq0nwPcAvg) tackles a very interesting subject matter in abortion and rapping this track from 3 different perspectives is original, lyrically fascinating and meaningful. Kendrick Lamarr is getting a whole load of backing and investment from Interscope Records, and you can’t of not heard his monster track with hiphop Godfather Dr. Dre, which is a big, big tune.. ‘The Recipe’..
There’s a couple of other artists who are getting a lot of attention in the States.. SchoolBoy Q, ASAP Rocky, Ab-Soul. But I’m just not feeling it.. Lyrically there’s a lot of work to be done with these artists. I just can’t help but hear ‘Boats and Hoes’ from the film ‘Step Brothers’ when I hear ‘Hands on the wheel’ by Schoolboy Q Feat. ASAP Rocky…
On to Drake . It’s difficult to say what hasn’t already been covered by millions before me, but with a lyrical repertoire that matches a 13 year old I just don’t understand the hype. These simplified, repetitive, soulless songs released to ‘huge critical acclaim’ for ‘millions of fans around the world’ just make me shake my head in disgust at MTV Base and any other outlet relaying his monotonous, meaningless drivel… But you can’t blame him, or his record label either, the blue print to his career was copied from Lil Wayne, in fact they’re autotuned so much you can barely decipher between the two. Which brings me on to the mother of all simplified to get money artists… Jay Z.
Jay Z is an artist I have paid good money to see, and there is no better artist to make big anthems that take over the world, these songs are catchy, excellently produced and incredibly marketed, think ‘Empire state of mind’, ’99 Problems’, ‘Otis’ and ‘Big Pimpin’ to name just a few. Jay Z is undoubtedly talented, in many different aspects in life, but I can’t help but feel he has simplified it too much, it’s obvious it’s a business to him. I like Jay Z and will most likely always listen to his releases… ‘Dead presidents II’ by Jay Z is one of my favourite hiphop tracks of all time, it is a beast of a track. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYIsa_u_C-s…
Has hiphop sold its soul? Yes, but it’ll be asking for a refund before long.
Article by Michael Wilkins