Putting the hop in hope
Tracing hip-hop's return it its roots.
Hip-hop is known for a few things; there’s the beef—Biggie vs. Tupac, Nas vs. Jay-Z; there’s the seemingly annual name reinventions—is it Diddy Lion or Puff Snoop? And of course there’s the boundary pushing lyrics— I’ll just let you Google for those. But what hip-hop isn’t known for lately is being a beautiful example of artistic creativity. At one point it was, but now it’s a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of society’s shoe.
This may come as a shock to you, but hip-hop is not a style of music; it’s a culture. This artistic movement is made up of four distinct elements: graffiti, emceeing (rapping), DJing, and breaking (dancing). Originating as a street subculture within African American communities in the 1970’s, hip-hop is now a form of self-expression in communities all over the world. DJ Kool Herc, Grand Master Flash, and Sugar Hill Gang are considered fathers of hip-hop, providing foundations for what could have been the greatest movement in history.
“Now what you hear is not a test, I’m rapping to the beat. And me, the groove, and my friends gonna try to move your feet.” –Rappers Delight by Sugar Hill Gang.
But sadly hip-hop took a turn for the worse when artists like NWA burst on the scene, advertising a hardcore lifestyle consisting of violence, sex, and drugs, that set the stage for the next 20 years. The 2000’s are a blemish on hip-hop’s Facebook timeline, similar to what the Crusades were for Christians—a time that we all wish never had happened. Songs about moneymakers, grillz, and laffy taffy were all over the radio. Hip-hop wasn’t poetry anymore, it became a popularity contest. Success was not based on lyrical content or artistic growth, but rather who had the most bling, guns, and “ho’s.”
“Here’s a murder rap to keep you dancing, with a crime record like Charles Manson. AK-47 is the tool, don’t make me act the ************* fool.” –Straight Outta Compton by NWA.
However I believe that in recent years, hip-hop is being brought back from the grave. With the introduction of new, innovative, underground artists, hip-hop is slowly being taken back to its roots; a consciously aware movement of self-expression. Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, Childish Gambino, Macklemore, and J. Cole are some of these artists that are changing the game. These guys colour outside the lines and try to bring hip-hop back to its glory. Rarely will you hear gangbanging-ignorant lyrics from these artists, but instead a vast amount of metaphorical content, witty lines, narrative auto-biographies, and friendly jabs at one another.
“Took the G out your waffle, all you got left is your ego.” –Freaks & Geeks by Childish Gambino
Raw emotion and passion are poured into their rhymes; creative and intellectual lyrics are valued. It actually sounds like these rappers graduated English 11. These artists are using alliteration, assonance, and onomatopoeia in their rhymes; they actually understand these poetic devices. They are peeling back the layers of lies that previous generations have instilled in the minds of young adults today. Not only this, but artists are even breaking into new territory; Kanye sampling Bon Iver’s “Woods” and A$AP Rocky recently teaming up with dubstep king, Skrillex. Hip-hop is evolving into something greater than itself, breaking down old misconceptions and crossing various barriers.
Now as with any movement, there is always bound to be a few bad apples. As great as this new direction is, there are still the remnants of ignorant rap that are left over on the airwaves. Tyga, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz all still hold onto this ignorant style of rapping, degrading women, idolizing materialism and succumbing to drugs. While these so called “artists” hold #1 spots on the charts, I believe it’s only a matter of time before the guillotine of common sense decapitates their fame.
I don’t believe hip-hop died, it just was on a very long hiatus.