The other day, I was listening to one of the newer hip-hop “artists” – and I use that term only for lack of a better one…and I was more than mildly disturbed at his “lyrics.” Not because of the profanity or any of the other criticisms many have of hip-hop, but because of the lack of clarity, originality or plain old sense of the “lyrics”. As someone who grew up during the dawn of hip-hop in the late 70s/early 80s, I am offended by many who call themselves rappers. Offended because they have failed to honor the origins of hip-hop. I advise the youngins to at least read some kind of history to help understand that hip-hop is not just about the bling, the limelight and other perks, but it is about the music and art form called hip-hop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip-hop might be a nice easy place to start).
I love listening to lyrics of KRS-One, Jay-Z, Run DMC, LL Cool J and others who paved the way for these new guys and gals who are desecrating the sacred ground of hip-hop. I dare any one of the newbies to battle them…oh wait, do the youngins even “battle” anymore? Used to be a time where the true test of an MC’s mettle was in the lost art of “freestyling” – where rhymes were spit on the spot, off the cuff, with a back and forth battle between MCs. Now true, every old school artist couldn’t necessarily freestyle, but most of them could. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few mainstream artists out now who are okaaay. Drake probably has some skills, if he could peel himself away from Weezy and get rid of the Auto-tune. Oops, did I say that out loud? No disrespect…I actually like Drake.
In fairness to the new jacks, I invited a few young people to tell me what they and their peers thought of some of today’s emerging artists. Interestingly enough, they admitted that their younger peers loved the newbies, but the older teens didn’t seem to care much for most of the mainstream artists. “Their lyrics don’t make sense, and these kids are singing the words without knowing the true meaning behind them,” offered one of my young friends. I felt comfort that errybody is not falling for the new hip-hop okie doke.
So is hip-hop dead? I don’t know…the hip-hop I knew and loved is in the past, and much of what is taking its place is not fulfilling the original mission of the genre. Or maybe the new jacks are taking it to another level that I just don’t understand. Maybe I’m just an oldhead! Feel free to disagree if you like. But I will leave you with the words of one of the original hip-hop philosophers, KRS-One [Step Into a World (Rapture’s Delight)]:
…and in the words of Rakim…PEACE!
(…and by the way…shouts out to Afrika Bambaataa, Kool DJ Herc, and the Sugarhill Gang – and all the other REAL OGs!)