EDITORIAL:In Search Of Real Hip Hop.
In Search Of Real Hip Hop.
Will the real hip hop please stand up? Stand up and be counted, because that stuff they keep playing on the radio, that ain’t hip hop.
The reality is that a lot of the hip hop music that is played on the radio today is generic and uninspiring. Take away the bling and the flashy cars, the decadent lifestyle depicted in most videos and the girls sexing it up on the dance floor and what you are left with isn’t very much. Without the visual content that sells the music, a lot of the tunes don’t stand up to the test. Many feature dated beats and mundane lyrics packaged into a hit song. The average listener probably couldn’t differentiate between many of the dime a dozen rappers currently hawking their tunes on the airwaves. A lot of this type of hip hop’s success can be brought down to excellent marketing plans and a desensitized audience who have been fooled into believing that this is the best that they can get.
So what’s changed exactly? I mean, things weren’t always this way. Before hip hop was dominating the charts, before it even broke into the mainstream, it was a much more potent force. Hip hop music grew out of poor, often disenfranchised communities; the music was both socially conscious and politically aware. Hip hop music was provocative and controversial without actively trying to be either. A lot of the music dealt with social issues, with problems that afflicted the community and in their music, artists didn’t pull punches. They told it like it was. Hip hop music painted the grim reality facing many of these communities. It was charged with emotion, with rage and frustration and with the sentiment of a generation of young people who finally had an outlet that showed people what life was like for them. The music was often considered polarizing because many thought it did not speak to people who did not live in those conditions; it had no connection to the average middle class consumer who formed the bulk of the music purchasing market. So, largely to break into the mainstream, hip hop toned itself down and began to diversify, to cater to a larger audience. Sadly I don’t think this venture has been entirely successful. Sure hip hop artists are extremely popular with the mainstream audience today. However, while there is a lot more hip hop music being produced today, there isn’t a lot of diversity within the genre. Hip hop’s mainstream success has come at the cost of the quality of the music.
Turn off the radio, do your own research and you are likely to find artists who have stayed true to the meaning of real hip hop. Unfortunately, this isn’t the music that is being pushed by record companies because it is harder to market to mainstream audiences. As such, a lot of it remains underground, cherished by true hip hop fans. Perhaps the only good news in all this is that increasingly, we are seeing a group of rappers who are bridging the gap between the underground and the mainstream by creating radio friendly music but intelligent and provocative music at the same time. Wyclef, Common and even Kanye come to mind when we think of quality hip hop that has managed to break into the mainstream. They may still be in the minority, but, hopefully this is a sign of better things to come.