Over the past few years, I was forced to re-evaluate my feelings about Hip Hop Kulture because of the state of hip-hop music. It’s not just that rap has declined over the past 10 years, but the lack of originality, concept and skills, has made the culture itself look bad. How did we get to this point? Well, the not-so-easy answer is that, we as Hiphoppas helped cause it. We not only allowed it, but we encouraged it to some degree and most of all, sowed the seeds of the problem to begin with.
The mainstreaming of hip-hop music into pop music was tried by artists since the beginning of the art form. From Rappin Duke’s “Da Ha” to MC Hammer, to Kriss Kross, to the Black Eyed Pea,s to Nicki Minaj, the level of performance has gotten more slick and acceptable over the years. While past emcees consciously ridiculed mainstream rappers with songs like EPMD’s “The Crossover” and 3rd Bass’ “Gasface”, oldschool artists just trying to remain relevant, stayed quiet about the surge in pop-rap. In fact, some True School Hiphopas like Busta even succumbed to the lure of new school relevance, in an effort to financially gain. And we were OK with that. Everyone needs yo satisfy their basic needs and money does that. So we don’t blame Busta for trying to “sell out.” We often say, “I can’t knock another man’s hustle.”
One of the biggest defectors from Hip Hop emceein to pop rappin thus far, has been Jay-Z without a doubt. Jay-Z the emcee of yesterday would have laughed at the verbal skills displayed by Jay-Z of 2014. Jay-Z doesn’t need the money, so what’s his excuse? That desire for relevance is still there. That desperation for significance in a mainstream World has brought Sean Carter back to the spotlight time and again years after his ‘retirement”. Somehow the hip-hop music that elevated the financial status of so many in the “hood”, also victimized the culture itself by robbing it of the dignity we created internally and the respect we gained externally during the 1990’s. This is epitomized by Jay as he represents both the financial success and the character failure of modern hip-hop entertainment.
Jay-Z may seem to have no direction, but that’s because like Hip Hop, he was freestyling life itself. Hip Hop was created in an environment that discourages the following of rules. Hiphoppas like to break the rules, push the boundaries and challenge the establishment. Rappers of today don’t portray Hip Hop as a culture, it’s more of a game. What should we have expected to follow an era of players? Hip Hop’s only direction at the end of the 90’s was any way out of the “hood” or out of poverty. Other than that, there was no destination. So, it’s not surprising that we’ve ended up here.