In the past couple of years hip hop seen some of its biggest commercial success from topping charts across the globe, to racking up sales in digital downloads and albums alike. Hip hop has created a new sub culture of sorts, where the music influences many other different aspects of life, from fashion to cars and more. The industry has spread its wings, with artists no longer just focused on music ventures but rather on building a diverse career out of their musical success. Hit records often lead to ventures into the world of fashion, product endorsements and a multitude of other income generating avenues. Amidst all this there has been a constant cloud of criticism overhanging the industry, from accusations of setting a negative example for younger fans to criticism that the music propagates drugs and violence, hip hop hasn’t been loved and welcomed by all.
However, even in the midst of all this negativity, there still are artists who stick to their roots, to the original purposes and inspirations of hip hop; the community. Their songs might not be the ones pushed on the radio or spinning while you’re breaking it down on the dance floor but there still are artists out there who believe in fundamentals like a killer beat and intelligent yet provocative lyrical content. Some of the more well known amongst these are artists like Common, Lupe Fiasco and Wyclef Jean. They seek, in a sense to create positive hip hop. Music that isn’t just made to make a quick buck but quality music that has listeners doing more than dropping it like its hot. In a way, these artists and many others like them make music that pays tribute to the original hip hop which was more than just music; it was poetry, social satire, critique, rage and a whole lot more.
Beyond the actual tunes, there are also those within the industry who have used their fame and fortune to give back to the society by throwing their weight behind a charity or promoting a cause that is close to their heart. Mogul Russell Simmons who heads the empire that is known as RUN Athletics, actively supports entrepreneurship among young people. He was recently made a UN Goodwill Ambassador, in recognition for his efforts in uplifting the community. Soul singer Mary J. Blige is another star who supports many charities including throwing an annual charity fashion show. Will. I. Am, one quarter of the Black Eyed Peas was an active campaigner during the last election.
These bright sparks in the industry show us that there is a whole lot more out there beyond just making music for the sake of money and the rock star lifestyle. They are proof that it is possible to sustain a career without sensationalism and hype but rather with integrity, creativity and a willingness to give back to the community.
In an industry that by many accounts has sold its soul for mainstream success and money, there are still a few voices that ring out as honest and true. Perhaps there is hope for hip hop yet.