Everyone is still troubled with the mystery behind who killed Biggie or Tupac, but who or what killed hip-hop? The evolution of hip-hop has taken a drastic turn following the 21st century; hip-hop has now transitioned into what some would consider a ‘gimmick’. No longer does hip-hop have originality, a story, a perspective, a message or even challenging word play within her lyricism; we now have strong beat production and flat lyricism.
Hip-hop lost her underground and raw personality the minute the music industry exploited her creativity; it’s as if they told her “Be you but not like that”. They took control of what made her unique and original which was her platform; a platform of uncensored content, and of artistic creativity and personality. The industry sexually exploited her lyrics, forced her to glorify life on the streets, and monetized her image when all she really wanted to do, was be heard!
It seems that every ‘hip-hop’ song being released has the same theme, just different word play; of fame, of women, of sex, of money, and so on, it seems that artists have left their creativity at the door of the record labels that signed them. But is this a form of evolution?
Even though many of us who loved hip-hop when she was underground and original, starting with her pro-black attitude to her boys in the hood mentality, cannot deny that this is just another form of transition and evolution for one of many music genres. Like parents often do, they hate to see their children growing, slowly leaving behind the innocence and purity of childhood. Could this be what fans, like me, are experiencing with hip-hop? We see her growing into something we don’t agree with, but cannot help but support her in her direction, while still clinging onto those precious memories we all once had.
Are the memories of hearing verses such as Biggie Smalls saying, ‘It was all a dream, I used to read word up magazine…’ or of Tupac saying, ‘Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, ‘Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?’ or of Wu-tang saying, ‘ Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M get the money dolla’ dolla’ bill y’all…’; just a thing of the past?
The truth is back in the late ’80s and early ’90s the theme of hip-hop was different and it is no longer the same moving into the present generation. During the mid-’90s to late ’90s gangster rap (lyrical focus on street or gang related activities) was in, so the music industry welcomed it with open arms. But now, in the 21st century S E X and M O N E Y are what sell, and like any industry money is the motive. It is no wonder why hip-hop is now being represented by artists who revolve their creativity around it.
We have artists such as: Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Iggy Azalea, and more dominating the music charts, labels and stations. Their uprising popularity is credited to their music’s strong focus on sex, money, and/or their “haters”, these three things are leading the future in hip-hop. From Drake rapping about brands such as Versace, or his $25 million bank account, or to Nicki Minaj rapping about female sexuality with her ‘Anaconda’ song and video, these artists followed the script the industry handed them and reaped the benefits in doing so.
Today, Drake’s song ‘Energy’ is dominating music charts he speaks about his money, and about women. Here is a small sample: ‘I got people talkin’ down, man, like I give a f**k I bought this one a purse, I bought this one a truck I bought this one a house, I bought this one a mall I keep buyin’ sh** just make sure you keep track of it all’.
Now, 20 years ago in 1995 Big L was one of the many faces of hip-hop music. In his hot single ‘Street struck’ he expressed how kids were growing up trying to earn credit on the streets instead of putting their skills and talents to better use. Here is a small sample: ‘Instead of cool friends, they’d rather hang with male thugs Instead of goin to school, they’d rather sell drugs It’s best to go the right route and not the wrong one Because it’s gonna catch up witchu in the long run … most of them are quite gifted In other words, they got TALENT; but they’d rather sell cracks and bust gats and run the streets actin violent To them it’s all about hittin skinz and makin some easy green Cause that’s all they show you on the TV screen’. (Side note: No swear words, no money, no ego, but a message and story.)
However, whether we like it or not these artists are producing what’s in right now. The industry has claimed hip-hop’s name and it doesn’t look like its giving it back, but can we as an audience demand more? Although, hip-hop lovers, like me, still feign for hip-hop’s raw and authentic sound, we cannot deny that it is only a form of evolution from what was to what’s in right now. But with access to Internet, we can always use that tool as a strong reminder in the ears of hip-hop listeners on the genres original roots. Is hip-hop really dead or is she just waiting to be resurrected?