Ok real talk time, bare with me while I try and make this form some kind of sense
Mainstream Hip hop is in a sad state of affairs even thou it is probably more popular than ever. I’m going to try and touch on some of the recent issues I’ve see from my own point of view as a Hip Hop lover and as a DJ…
So, this whole Iggy Azalea thing, it has been a hot topic recently and honestly the stupid bitch just keeps digging the whole deeper and pissing more people off. However that being said, she is hardly to blame for doing what she is doing, appropriation and mis-representation of hip hop? Yeah that shit has been happening for a long ass time now, she just happens to be an easy target being a white girl from Aussie and getting accolades at the awards this year, thou we all know those are a total crock of shit anyways so the question really is, why the hell should we care? Why has she become the scape goat? Q-tips history lesson was perfect and on point, however I don’t think that needs to be directly solely at Iggy, and I think the reason he shared it on twitter is because he probably feels the same way, the majority of ‘hip hop’ artists these days need to have a dam good look in the mirror themselves and take Tips words to their own hearts and see just how badly they are representing hip hop culture and representing themselves as African Americans. As Tip said, hip hop has always been political, but not only that, it has been a voice for those who face a system of injustice, repression, isolation etc, it has been a voice for those who struggle to make their voice be heard but somewhere along the way, it lost its political motivation and prowess, it has lost its meaning and became about the money and commercialism, basically, sex, drugs, thug life and violence sells and we have seen almost zero songs making the mainstream that have any real substance (sure there is the occasional track, but they are few and far between)
So let’s first look at women in Hip Hop, who do we have these days? Off the top of my head I can only think of Nicki Minaj and Iggy who are making any lasting impression for women in Hip Hop these days. The problem I have with them is they are often using nothing but their sex appeal to try and sell music (and they all sound like Left Eye) a far cry from back in the day when you had strong female artists like Queen Latifah and Lauren Hill, who stood up for women’s rights and were strong role models for young women and who didn’t use sex or whacky persona’s or fashion images to sell their music (however this is something that has always seemed to have plagued women in Hip Hop and women in general in the music industry) But strong role models this day and age have been sadly lost, and not just with women but also with men as well. These girls do have talent and have some good rhymes (thou I wonder how much of it is ghost written…) but from a mainstream perspective, well yeah, Big Booty, Anaconda? Not much thought put in there, except maybe trying to appeal to the soft core porno scene.
It’s not just how they ‘expose’ and portray themselves but it’s also how they carry themselves and articulate themselves, this is something that is also clearly evident when comparing interviews between artists of the 80’s and 90’s to todays artists, the older artists weren’t as well educated, but they spoke with knowledge and spoke elegantly yet still with that hip hop ‘accent’ you only need to listen to an interview from Lil Wayne or read a Lupe rant to go wtf did he just say, even thou they both are smart, they come across as uneducated and raw and just stupid. As opposed to someone like Krs or Tip (thou J Cole has been dropping some good knowledge and well-articulated to as well as a few others, Macklemore was surprisingly strong too, there are always exceptions) But as for the mainstay artists today, every time I hear them open their mouths, I cringe. But you might ask why this should matter? It does because everyone else wants to copy them, you hear the kind of language influential people say, and you want to use it yourself. When you listen and look at conversations these days by people who are fans of popular hip hop, their conversations are messed up gibberish and it’s reflected by the popular artists who are speaking this rubbish, as opposed to the old skool cats who listened to people who actually spoke well. You only need to look thru social media sites and posts to see people talk almost totally incoherent at times, and it’s even worse when you hear them speak in person
But the trend these days even more so than when hip hop first came out is this invention of new terms and words, coining a new and popular phrase seems almost more important than making a good song. We know hip hop has always had that element about it and once popular phrases and words were ‘coined’ they spread like wildfire and became synonymous with hip hop culture, which leads me into my next point…
The N bomb, and the Black community getting pissed off at other people using it. Now we all know the historical significance the word has, it really is just a dark and horrible word, my problem is, we know how bad the word is, so why are black artists turning it into nothing more than a common catch phrase? So far as to even naming songs with the word in it. Black people (rightly so) get angry when other people use it, however, why aren’t they also angry at themselves for making this word so popular? Sure they have taken the word back and tried to own it, by they have taken that even further and too far. I mean come on, Jay and Kanye – N*****s in Paris?? Now there is a difference when the word was used in storytelling and politically motivated rap, but just talking about spending $$ and shit in a song is clearly just looking for commercial gain and thus using that word in the same fashion. Obviously if a couple of white/brown/asian rappers named a song with that in it, they would be crucified, but its ok for Black rappers to use it for nothing more than commercial gain and then get pissed when people sing along to the song? (aka My N****)
Artists these days have to know that they are representing not only their culture and race but are also responsible for teaching that to other people since for a lot of places around the world, the only exposure they have to that culture is thru what is popular. For hip hop that is obviously in the music and what makes the top 40. Asia is a perfect example here, most countries in Asia have a very limited knowledge of the English language, so their understanding of Hip Hop lyrics is going to be at best, limited and more often than not, totally mis-interpreted. They will also have limited to zero exposure to actual people from different countries and even more limited to black people except those they see on TV… and we already see how the black man or women is portrayed on TV, either by violence in the news or it’s in these hip hop videos. The second thing is, they are going to take words they think are cool and use them, they are going to take catch phrases and lines and use them, and of course the N word is going to be one of them, just like all the bad words, people know they are bad words, but because they are in another language, its ok to them, they don’t know the true meaning behind it, how could they when its used in such a way to be cool, of course they are not going to know that the real meanings of these words have far deeper connotations than those portrayed in the videos and pop culture.
A personal example of this: A friend of mine used it in a conversation, he is Korean, he loves hip hop music but he speaks limited English, enough to converse at a basic level, I asked him if he knew about that word, he said no, I told him a bit about it and why it was a bad word, he was of course shocked to know this, but this case, he is just like millions of other fans out there, hip hop has been dumbed down to more often that not, nothing more than one liners, catch phrases and hooks to reach a worldwide audience and to appeal to the masses but with this dumbing down, also removes the need for people to actually understand the music and the message
This dumbing down of hip hop into nothing more than commercial gain is nothing new to us, it has been happening for a long time, and while the use of the N word is nothing new, even as a title still nothing is changing because $$ talks and people are buying the masses friendly rubbish that we are constantly hearing
This to me really became apparent and was a noticeable turning point when Souljah Boy released his one hit wonder, but you have to give the guy credit, he used the formula and made it work to huge success (just a shame he couldn’t follow it up… like most one hit wonders these days) But the precedent he set has been ruling hip hop these days as most people have followed the same formula. More and more artists are staying away from releasing material of any substance and just going for the radio/club friendly junk that sells, and honestly why not? Money talks, not respect. But therein lays the problem, as is said in many lyrics, it’s all about the money. Which is sad, last year you had Kendrik Lamar basically call everyone out on that control verse, everyone thought it would start a revolution in hip hop, I knew it wouldn’t, it was over almost as fast as it began, a handful of artists tried to release their come backs but it just never gained any traction, mainstream young hip hop artists just ignored it, the old heads did to because it wasn’t aimed at them and they are mostly out of the game now. And even if they didn’t jump on that, with all the negativity that has been going on in the news esp with violence by cops on black people, where is the hip hop communities voice? Why aren’t they speaking out? The older heads spoke out in their time, it’s time for this generation of artists to make their voices heard, they have a huge influence around the world yet they are silent.
And thus we come full circle, It’s this younger generation that needs to step up, the guidance is there if they ask for it I am sure, but they don’t, I am sure Tip would love to have sat down and have a conversation with Iggy, but instead she goes back and insults him, and she isn’t the only one to do this, other artists have also hit out at those trying to support them. Its guys like him who have done this before who people should be looking up to and striving to be like, sure be your own person, but there is a difference between that and what it is people are doing today. Like it or not, they are role models that people look too, their influence is felt all over the world yet very few make good positive use of that influence and it needs to change.
Obviously there is more to these issues and they are more complex than what I have written here, also the music/record companies have a lot to answer for as well, but trying to keep this relatively short and hopefully either spark discussion or at the least spread some awareness
Add on comments
I think Hip Hop’s balance is just way off. We look back to the days when there were an equal or higher number of rappers who did it because it was something they loved and rappers who did it strictly for the money. Nowadays, I feel more people write to get rich and left the artistry behind. If my singular goal is to make all the money I can, why would I care about lyrics and musicality when the people downloading my music just want to hear ratchet music?
This is one of the best reads that I have read in a long time I have had simular feelings on all of this. Another great example of how hip-hop culture has changed is comparing two songs from two different decades on the same subject (cocain). Look at the 1983 hit song White Lines by Grandmaster Melle Mel. That track talks about how cocain destroys people’s lives. Now in 2014 we have this terrible song, that God knows why made the Billboard charts, by O.T. Genesis called CoCo talking about how much he loves cocain and the money he makes by selling it to his comunity.
Ian (Idub) Curtis