Hip-hop is dying and with the help of Atlanta rapper Soulja Boy Tell Em’, it has recently had a heart attack. “Boy I spit harder I spit fire, we tell them old washed up rappers to retire”. I guarantee he wouldn’t dare say this to the faces of Public Enemy, Tupac or any other pioneers of the once great art. With Tupac, Eminem and Notorious B. I. G dominating the top twenty biggest selling hip-hop albums of all time, it really does make you think if hip-hop is dead. After the decline in music making from Public Enemy and the assassinations of Tupac and Biggie, a niche was available for anything that would sell to the shocked hip-hop fans.
The heart of hip-hop was in the 70’s, all the components which carved a new fresh sound for youths, from the break dancing, beat boxing and free styling it all came from the heart of hip-hop. This era introduced a diverse yet provocative style of music however; this isn’t where the talents arose. It all started in West Africa, many African groups based on their tribes would travel around Africa marching and chanting, and they were known as griots. These griots had talents such as singing, dancing and writing traditional poetry.
Their styles were similar to the rappers of the 70’s and 80’s and would create work which linked back to African traditions and culture. As more and more African-Americans embraced their culture and devoted their life to continuing what their griot ancestors tried hard to express, hip-hop styles became apparent in many inner cities. Hip-hop started to gain a high reputation around the early 70’s, in New York. Hip-hop music was generally played on the streets during block parties. These kind of events occurred mainly in the Bronx.
DJ’s started noticing the positive response from these types of records, so they started to drag out the main concept of this music e. g. rap and mixed it with Jamaican vocals and percussion. You see this in modern hip-hop music famously by Bob Marley’s son Damien Marley who collaborates with may hip-hop rappers. Jamaican styles contributed to hip-hop greatly, perhaps because of the substantial Jamaican immigrant community in New York. So how did hip-hop change so suddenly? Was it the fame getting to these artists minds?
Many singers, rappers, producers and music icons have stated that hip-hop was doomed from the mid 80’s, the time when the crack trade had a heavy influence on rising hip-hop artists. Even though the politically aware group, Public Enemy was around at this time, they still continued making and pushing out diverse records into the market. So who did the crack trade affect? The best guess would have to be the gangster rappers of the early 90’s and onwards; they made good beats and rhymes ,which were sugar candy to the listeners of that era but now in the 20th century it has become trivial.
The 90’s brought gangster rap to the studios and stages, this is when being part of the Westside and Eastside really mattered. Maybe it’s the popular demand of hearing rappers make records about their struggles in the ghetto, or their early days in the hood dealing drugs. Maybe it’s thrilling to hear rappers talk about sex, guns, and gangbanging. The gangster element of hip-hop has greatly hit music and affected the publics’ thoughts about this controversial genre.
Gangs such as Crips, Bloods, and the Latin kings are mentioned continuously in hip-hop music, this could be the main reason why hip-hop hasn’t come out of its coma since 1980. “And hip-hop isn’t dead it just had a heart attack, what you see I keep it pumpin yeah I got that hard back, Soldiers call me Little Carter or Little Cardiac”. These are the words of New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne, from his featured song ‘Last of a Dying Breed’. The song is supposed to relate to the real music makers in hip-hop and tell them that there’s only a few of them left and soon they’ll be extinct.
From Lil Wayne’s lyrics he’s just trying to be Mr Punch line. The Southern rapper is big on the hip-hop scene at the moment because of his smooth flow, unique voice and catchy beats. There’s just one problem, this respected, highly paid rappers lyrics don’t make sense half of the time. He uses many auto tune devices to cover up his voice and produce easy music. His 2008 single ‘Lollipop’ used auto tune and was nominated eight times for awards and it actually won ‘Best rap song’ at the BET awards.
Hip-hop has had a heart attack and I believe rappers like Lil Wayne are the cause of hip-hop’s cardiac arrest. Hip-hop has suffered a great loss: the concept of struggle, reality, and diverse words has turned trivial. The diverse music exists in only a fraction of mainstream hip-hop but is only just about in underground rap; however none of these rappers are signed to major record labels. It seems that record labels want to keep hip-hop music about “Ho’s”, “Pimps”, “Cadillac wheels”, “weed” and “drinking”; not politics, love, hate and problems which modern day society faces.
Reputation is the main concern in the music industry which controls hip-hop, the hard man status is all too important for rappers to release soft and weak music records. They don’t sell according to the producers. Hip-hop is bleeding and these rappers with their producers are sucking hip-hop dry like leeches on a fresh carcass. Hip-hop has suffered heart attacks, gone into rehab; panic attacks but is now suffocating in a coffin and every pointless rap song which is released into stores is like a nail hammered into that dark coffin.
It isn’t about the music and tradition anymore. It’s about looking good and selling an image to the listener and hoping they’ll like what they hear and see. It seems like yesterday that Public Enemy were rapping about the disrespect towards African-Americans but now you see rappers like 50 Cent disrespecting Black women in a derogatory way. Hip-hop has been cut too deep for it to recover to the 70’s state but surely we can plaster these wounds and bring it back to a respectful music genre again.