Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life & Rhymes: The Rise & Fall & Re-Rise of Hip Hop in America, Pt. 1

An Introduction
Hip hop has come a long way since its inception in the latter half of the '70s. From break-dancing kids, taking up the streets of inner cities with their boomboxes and crews, to hip hop music becoming, seemingly, the #1 genre in America. A few years ago, and still today, almost every hit single played on the radio station is a hip hop (or at least hip hop influenced) track. So with all of this success, you would think people would be happy with the state of hip hop, right? Wrong. If you're like me, a true hip hop head, you would know that for years and years, many fans of the genre have been bashing the "bubblegum rap" and "mainstream" hip hop that has plagued and basically trashed the image of the genre we all know and love.
The Divide
In a very general, blanket-statement, hip hop can be divided into two types: mainstream & underground. The difference? Mainstream gets airplay and national recognition, while underground, not so much. Now, back in the day, I'm talking the Golden Age of Hip Hop from the late 80s to the mid 90s, the hip hop that was widely regarded as "good" hip hop was stuff that many underground lovers today enjoy. Nas' "Illmatic," A Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Marauders" and "The Low End Theory," Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "Mecca and the Soul Brother," these were all considered dope. The recognition and praise was widespread, making the divide between 'mainstream' and 'underground' seemingly nonexistent. It was here that rap was at its pinnacle. Hip hop was in its Golden Age, in its finest years, and there was hardly any "whack" stuff out. In my opinion, the onset of advanced computer technology, the MP3, and the realization of hip hop as a money-making scheme, rather than a soulful musical genre, all led to the divide between what we call 'mainstream' and 'underground' hip hop. The 'underground' stuck to the music, to the love of the art, while the 'mainstream' sought after the forever-famous "road to riches and diamond rings." 
Pitfalls and Shortcomings
I personally believe Nas was a year or two too early when he said that "Hip Hop [was] Dead." In all actuality, I never really thought hip hop was dead, 'cause I always played stuff that I felt was dope hip hop, but hip hop did see some unfortunate pitfalls and shortcomings in the latter half of the 2000s. Now, I don't want to bash any artist in particular, but what is really important to note about the rap music that came out about five years ago was what? -- centered around money, cars, jewelry, partying, girls, etc... Now subject-matter isn't everything in the genre, as beats play a big part in the sound of the music, but c'mon. I understand if your record label is making you put a hot radio hit or two on your album, but to make every song sound the exact same, with repetetive hooks, thoughtless lyrics, and copycat rhymes, it was just too upsetting. To see hip hop burst out of New York City and California with such creative innovation, and within a decade to see the creativity practically come to a standstill, where artists sounded so similar they seemed to blend together and were nearly indistinguishable when featured together was upsetting. To further prove my point of hip hop's pitfalls and shortcomings, you can even ask Time magazine who questioned in 2005 if 'mainstream hip hop was dying.' It almost seemed impossible for hip hop to ever return to its glory days when creative lyricism and true heart and soul was put back into the music... that was until the turn of the 2000s to the 2010 decade...
Hip Hop is Reborn
Call it a shout out, but there are so many artists to thank that helped turned the life of hip hop around, because it definitely took a turn for the better in the last few years. I am a huge hip hop fan, and have been for several years... but I'm not one-dimensional, nor am I ignorant, nor am I a 'hater.' I took a short few decades of a musical genre and did some studying, listening and analyzing to give my educated opinion on the state of this music that we call rap and hip hop. I truly feel this way, that hip hop was at its best, then, rather quickly, dropped into something almost embarrassing to compare to older hip hop, to something we can all be happy with. Again, I don't mean to bash any artist in particular, it is just how I feel. But, I am glad hip hop is back and I look forward every week to the new albums that come out that give a breath of fresh air to hip hop. All of you still hatin' on hip hop by saying that all these rappers suck and these mainstream guys are crap and are sticking to stuff like Biggie & Pac, it's time to realize that there is so much good hip hop out right now, you just gotta' know what to look for and where to look. So, in my opinion, I think hip hop is going to last and is going to be dope for a very long time.
Please check back tomorrow for Pt. 2 of this article where I break down the top 10 albums that aided in the resurgence of hip hop (in my opinion)!
I hope you enjoyed my article and please check out my website at

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