EDITORIAL:One Step Forward. Two Steps Back.

One Step Forward. Two Steps Back.

Rap music in general advocates a certain lifestyle, in fact it sells it. From music videos to live appearances, rap stars walk with the swagger of the privileged; the sheen of bling hanging round their necks and money spilling out of their pockets. Right now, rap has cemented its place in the mainstream, with rap and hip hop stars churning out hit after hit. It is the flavor of the moment; in fact it has been for a while.

It is strange to think that this art form that evolved out of reggae and drew influences from a variety of genres, wasn’t even considered music a couple of decades ago. The mainstream outlets shunned rap music as corrupt and negative, in the same way that rock and roll was the labeled the devil’s music I suppose. At its roots, rap music grew out of the black community and for a long time it was seen purely as “black music”, music that couldn’t be marketed to the masses. Mainly this was because early hip hop and rap music tended to reflect the issues facing the black community. It was urban poetry that grew out of the streets and struck a chord with young black people who saw it in a way as the voice of their generation. From Public Enemy to the likes of Too Short, hip hop had a particular flavor that was socially conscious and politically provocative. It wasn’t afraid of speaking its mind and saying what needed to be said.

In the late eighties and early nineties, the genre experienced its first brushes with success, as the mainstream audience began to understand and turn their ears to rap music. Banking on this initial success, record labels began marketing the music to the audience at large and there was an increased pressure to produce music that had mass appeal. To a large extent, the world of hip hop complied and the genre has since taken its place as a staple on just about any popular radio station.

Looking closer at this seeming success, we see that it has come at the expense of the music. Hip hop today isn’t the hip hop of old, it isn’t the music that blended and meshed beats from a thousand different sources, it isn’t socially conscious and empowering. In general one can find few differences between the hip hop tunes playing on the radio and pure bubblegum pop music. It seems to operate on the same formula: catchy hooks and forgettable lyrics, anthems of the moment that make a quick buck and just as quickly disappear into oblivion.

We see that marketing the music to a boarder audience hasn’t been a successful venture for the world of hip hop. At least from an artistic point of view, since it burst onto the scene there hasn’t been any real development in the music. If anything it’s been devalued. Sure, hip hop has had its day in the sun….but it has sold its soul and a lot more to get there.

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