Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HIP HOP: Past vs Present

There has been a disturbing change in the world of hip hop within the last few years. With the constant influence of technology, it seems as though anyone with a couple hot lines, and a quick two-step can put out a hit album. But when do we draw the line? Hip Hop used to be beautiful. It used to be so rich with heritage and our struggle. It used to be an escape for many. But somewhere between technology and the times we shifted to a hip hop that isn’t the same.

Artists of the past had to actually work to get their name out there. They used foot soldiers in the street peddling their mixtapes and demos to anyone who will listen.  They stood outside of radio stations and offices just waiting for a chance to get their foot in the door. They spent countless hours in the studio rhyming and re-rhyming to get the perfect sound. Just to get signed by a label who would exploit them and strip them of the same originality that got them there in the first place. 

Nowadays all you need is Pro-Tools and some other software from Best Buy and you can become Americas Next Big Star. No longer do we put as much emphasis on buying a mixtape or selling them from out the back of your car, now you can just upload it on DatPiff or any other site and BOOM, instant plays. Want to meet with a label exec? Just send them an email with your demo on it. Becoming a star has become dependent on how many Facebook Fans you have or how many followers on Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great artists who have gotten their start the same way; Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, Wale… but there are so many more artists who don’t deserve to even be one-hit-wonders in the industry. I feel like the hard work that artists of the past did is what gave them more worldly experience to bring to the industry. It is the struggle that made their music interesting. For most old school artists it was either make it as a rapper or die. Artists of today make albums because they’re bored. They have nothing better to do, no real struggle to speak of, but enough money to buy the technology needed to make it. So at what point do we draw the line? Do we let any Tom, Dick or Harry come out with an album and destroy our beautiful heritage? And what are we supposed to do to protect it??



  1. Jams,
    I couldn't agree with you more; Hip Hop has changed indubitably! But, times have changed. As you mentioned, the growth of technology is steering the vehicle of success, not only in music, but also in all fields. It's a gift and a curse. There are pros and cons to everything; below I’ve listed a few.

    1. Starving artist can express himself or herself to anyone who will listen for free (all you need is a flip camera, YouTube account and a FB and/or Myspace page to spread your message).

    2. Allows artist to market themselves.

    3. Openly network among other artist, managers, promoters, fans/supports, etc.

    4. Ownership – More artist are catching on and doing the work them selves and reaping the benefits of owning their royalties.

    1. Quality control!!! Too much of anything gets tiring/boring. Every artist can’t be Lil Wayne and oversaturate the market with their music. Wayne has been around for many years so his situation is unique.

    2. Marketing yourself is economically efficient and sounds good, but there’s a reason people get paid to do it for others. One wrong move i.e. Facebook wall post or YouTube upload can mean the end of your career.

    I look at it like this; it's a new age that has yet to mature. While technology has no boundaries it also has no real sense of security or regulations. It's what we make it and chaotic at the same time. It blurs the hierarchy historically set forth in socialism. All that being said, I'm sure you've heard of the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". Well that concept applies here as well. Hip Hop "Heads" of the past, present and future must step up and raise this child or it'll be lost. Maybe Cure Hip Hop as a forum, movement, artist, etc. can be the catalyst of the solution.

    Kevin Brown
    Uniting and Igniting Brands!

  2. Wise Words Kevin.

    I agree with you completely. There are plenty of artists who are actually NOT killing hip hop who got their start through technological means, and I definitely respect that. But it's the rest of the "riff raff" that I have the problem with.

    My point I wanted to make is that the breakdown in hip hop is so much more evident when you look at an artist like Souljah Boy who got his start through YouTube and Biggie who had such a modest and humble start. I don't think anyone would disagree if I was to say that Biggies struggle defined him, hustlin to just trying to get his foot in the door... but what about Souljah Boy.. what struggle?

    I definitely agree that it does take a village to raise a child in reference to hip hop but sometimes it often ends up backfiring. Remember P Diddys making the band... where did those bands go? Diddy was front row center when hip hop really began, but the same new age kids he tried to teach failed... And it gets hard for old school and new school to collabo without the old school just adapting the new school and going with it...

    Thanks for your input!!

  3. Jams,
    I’m going to jump out on the limb and play devil’s advocate right now. SOULJAH BOY IS A GENIUS! He, as Biggie would say, went from “Ashy to Classy”. His career is groundbreaking and original if you ask me. In essences, he’s a young Diddy. 15% rap, 3000% Marketing and Promotions. What other options available for this young skinny kid from Alabama? He didn’t have a wicked jump shot and in my opinion making music (even if it has no meaning or message) is much better than selling rocks or running the streets. So, applaud Mr. Boy for doing something other than aimlessly roaming the “hood”. At least on the surface, he proved to be business minded and became one of the first to convinced YouTube to give him a percentage of every comment posted on his videos. So maybe he didn’t struggle like other prominent rappers in the past, but he does deserve credit for being innovative.

    I can’t believe you even mentioned Making the Band! While entertaining, it was not Hip Hop. I repeat, MAKING THE BAND WAS NOT HIP HOP!!! It was a mockery, strictly for entertainment. Diddy, had a great idea to exploit AA artist to the mainstream media and it worked like a charm, he made his money and abandoned them the like everyone knew he would. Shit, I turned in for every show!

    In regards to new school and old school, it’s as simple as this: new school is always going to respect the music old school artist MADE, but almost never like the music the old school is MAKING. As I mentioned before, times change. More than ever people live in the moment, but never rest in the glory. The world moves ten times fast that ever before. So artist need to set the principles they want future artist to adhere to and lead by example. Then move out the way when the next wave comes around.

  4. I feel what both of you are saying, but I feel like technology has little to do with why hip-hop is dying.
    The real issue is we have a culture that is no longer cultivated by talent. There's no balance between entertainment and skill in the industry.
    For example, Tupac may have been singin Take Money and talking about bangin Biggie's wife, but he also rapped about Keepin' ya head up. Some songs were for were strictly entertainment, and some songs were for entertaining and empowering.
    Biggie was a lyricist. It wasn't always what he said, but the way he said it.
    Now-a-days, we got Soulja Boy talkin bout Bammer, Bammer, Bammer. And that's cool, cuz he's successful at being fun and entertaining. But there's no balance within his messaging. There's no true creativity within his lyrics. And their aren't enough artists to filling in the gaps that he leaves open.
    And when you have people who are talented, like Nicki Minaj, they are so caught up in branding (being extra sexy, having umpteen personalities, and basically doing the most), that their true talent is left behind.
    So my thoughts, our culture accepts the BS being put out there, and doesn't demand anything better. We need to hit up the true talents YouTube pages so Chelsea Lately can be comin to them to make her show look better because they already have so many fans. Because of technology, we have the power to do that now more than ever. Then we gotta COLLECTIVELY stop buying tickets to these week "artists" shows, their albums on itunes, or payin to get into the club the night they are headlining. After that the industry would have to stop and check itsself. And if we don't do that then it's no fault of auto tune or pro tools. It's our own.


  5. Well said Nikki. So the Hip Hop movement needs a reality check? A Rosa Parks? The audience needs to step up and stop going with the flow and demand the music they want to hear?