The State of Hip Hop

Sometimes, I regret growing up in an era as diverse as I did when it comes to hip hop music. It seems to have ruined me for most of what’s coming out now. I say most, because not everything coming out of the hip hop scene is lack luster. There are some bright spots of artists that are, not only lyrical, but also versatile. While hip hop music has always revolved around a few primary subjects, it feels like today’s music has narrowed down that scope even more. Couple that with the lack of depth of vocabulary and you get, what is my opinion, a narrowing of today’s hip hop music scene. Now, I want to stress that the above is not a blanket statement. There are definitely some newer artists that are doing their thing and holding it down for real hip hop but that number of artists is a much smaller percentage from the overall.

Hip hop world has always revolved, in general, around money, parties, life struggles and, of course, the opposite sex. I say opposite sex because the female artists also followed most of these subjects. All things that helped listeners relate to the music. I know what it’s like to go to a party. Maybe not the types of parties that most of these guys talk about but I’ve been known to attend one every now and again. Some of the best songs, in my opinion, though were those revolving around the different struggles in life. The difficulties of growing up poor, struggling through life’s challenges, defining gang life and what that really means, etc. Those require artists to have storytelling abilities, which were abundant in the 90’s and 2000’s. With the bulk of today’s music, I feel like we’ve lost those storytelling artists. Songs to make you feel something and connect to a subject that you may or may not be personally involved with. I have a 17 year old son (at the time of this article). While he respects and likes the “older stuff” (as he puts it), he still has ties to music made in his generation. Because he’s been so heavily involved with “my” music over the years, he understands and recognizes that there’s a lack of content in a lot of what’s coming out today. Funny story. We’ll be heading somewhere and he’ll put some of his favorite artists on from his phone. A song will come on and he’ll look over at me and say “you’re not going to like this one”….and I don’t. We’ll listen to song after song with, not only similar beats but similar deliveries. Where is the diversity in delivery? How can almost every song on the album or even worse, almost every song by completely different artists, all have similar delivery patterns? The diversity of deliverance is one of the essentials for me. Every song can’t sound the same. I get bored.

There are two main components of a song. Music and lyrics. For me, I can’t have one without the other. A song with a catchy beat but terrible lyrics is just as bad as a song with a terrible beat but bomb lyrics. Today’s music feels like it puts entirely too much focus on making a beat (so much, that they all start to sound the same) and not enough emphasis on the content. Got a bangin’ beat? That’s great. How about some words that are all supposed to go together? While the beat sounds good coming out of your speakers, you probably want a message to be relatable. I don’t live in a dream world where I expect every song produced to be absolutely amazing. With the exception of a handful of albums, there are always songs that I could live without. The issue that I see with what’s happening today is that there seems to be a clear movement away from having the fundamentals of a great song.

I’m sure you either completely agree with this or completely disagree. I’m sure this same type of conversations happened between my parents and their parents, in regards to rock and roll. Is it just a generational gap? Possibly but I honestly don’t think so. For me, this isn’t a “back in my day….” type of moment. I’ve got no issue giving props to artists that are doing in right. I get that music evolves over time but evolving should be building upon the fundamentals not completely tossing them away. My advice to any new artists coming about? Stay true to hip hop. Listen to the “older stuff”. Learn from it. Learn about the development of your craft and for Christ’s sake, GET OFF MY LAWN.

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