What is the Current State of Hip-Hop?
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What is the Current State of Hip-Hop?

With the surge of "Soundcloud Rappers," is hip-hop changing for the better or for the worst?

What is the Current State of Hip-Hop?

Recently, I watched a panel discussion on the current state of hip-hop and how older millennials (people in their late twenties and thirties) felt about music being released today. They also discussed their opinions on whether “mumble” rap and “bubblegum trap” is negatively changing the entire genre of hip-hop and on the younger audience that is being influenced by artists like Kodak Black, Lil Pump, and many other newer artists that are instrumental in being the “voice” of the youth. I was interested in watching this video because as an avid hip-hop and music fan, I wanted to hear the opinions of people that were older than me because they got to live to see some of my favorite artists perform live when they were in their golden age or when they were around my age.

Here is the link to the panel discussion, The State of Hip-Hop Video from The Grapevine.

Like every Grapevine video, the panelist was either dropping straight facts or he/she made points that I could understand but not necessarily agree with. It made me wonder if the state of hip-hop has truly changed with the surge of “drug user” music and with the growing popularity of the "Lil’s." As an avid music enthusiast, especially for nineties music, this question has my mind torn into confliction. The rap that I fell in love with in middle school and high school was before my time. It was filled with jazz samples, heavy 808’s, and lyrics that confronted my pre-adolescent mindset and what I saw in the world. Listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock, Biggie among many others was familiar to me because I grew up on soul and funk. A lot of the samples that Q-tip and Biggie would use would be tracks that my father would have in his CD collections. After listening to artists from the nineties, not only did my love for funk and jazz grow, but it expanded my mind to listen to other artists and newer hip hop. This was at the time that "Itty Bitty Piggy" by Nicki Minaj and Kanye West's albums, 808s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy were released. By that time I saw the resemblance in Nicki and Lil Kim, listening to old Kanye albums like those mentioned previously, I heard the clear influence from J Dilla, Q-Tip, and Timbaland. Those “outdated” sounds that people tried so hard to stray from popped up everywhere.

Not only did this solidify the 90’s as my favorite music era, but it prompted me to learn more about samples and who chose what for which track and why. I was completely enamored by the history of this new genre (because believe it or not Hip Hop/Rap is still a relatively new genre). My love for hip-hop has grown as I’ve gotten older. I’m only 19 so I know that my love and respect for the genre will continue to grow.

Whenever I list the rappers that I’m listening to or the music that I’m interested in, people are shocked because of my young age and the perceived notions that come with my age. What people don't know is that many of my peers are listening to similar music if not the same type of music as me. You can see it in the music that many contemporary rappers drop today. “Awaken, My Love” by Donald Glover obviously takes notes from Funkadelic and George Clinton (check out Maggot Brain). Tyler, the Creator's album, Flower Boy, had many references pointing out to Roy Ayers, Patrice Rushen, and many other soul/funk musicians. This was arguably one of his best albums to date. Flower Boy wasn’t the only album that showed clear signs of these references, but "Find Your Wings" on the album, Cherry Bomb, is not only a bop but features Roy Ayers. Treehome featuring Erykah Badu is also a bop and is not what you would expect from old Tyler. Vince Staples also has subtle hints of older hip hop and other genres like EDM in his music as well. In his recent album, Big Fish Theory, songs like "Big Fish," "Love Can Be," and "BagBak" has elements of EDM mixed with 90’s hip-hop. Many others of our contemporaries have adopted their style and beats from the older hip-hop and other genres closely associated with hip-hop.

People that have grown up under the eyes of hip-hop only see the “mumble” rap and “bubblegum trap” as the current state of the genre. They are frightened by the surge of these artists and think that artists like Lil Yachty, XXXTentacion, and Lil Uzi Vert will ruin over forty years of hard work and history. Although I don’t believe that the new subgenres of rap are the driving force of what we call hip hop today, I do believe these people are changing what we know and how we feel about hip-hop today.

As a young generation, our narrative and mindset are different. Many people who were born between the years of 1995 and 2001 have a clash between coming up in the digital age and coming up in the age of no internet. People born a few years before us didn’t have social media to fall back on and rely on during their formative years, while people born after this period only see the world as the digital media age. But for those in the middle, it’s complicated because it’s as if you have to choose which world you want to be in. Depending on accessibility and how you were raised determined which world you were in. Personally, as someone with older West African parents, I had restrictions. I wasn’t allowed to listen to hip hop when I was younger and I couldn’t watch certain TV channels around my parents. I didn’t have an older sibling that opened the floodgates for me like many people that I knew, so my music taste reflected my parents (mainly my father) and what I learn in music school (I went through a Steve Reich phase).

In all fairness, my father had an amazing taste in music. He basically listened to everything but rap. He had a gospel CD or two, a few jazz and blues CDs, a large collection of R&B, and his most prized collection of dope rock CDs. My father introduced me to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. He had the classic R&B CD’s with Joe ("Don’t Wanna Be A Player" was iconic to me as a kid), Keith Sweat, Donnie Hathaway, Nivea, among many others. Although his Jazz collection wasn’t as diverse as his other CD collections, he had a few CDs that were dedicated to Charlie Parker or Duke Ellington. Of course, he had a lot of CDs dedicated to West Africa, particularly Mali with CDs by Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, and Babani Kone.

With all of that music flowing around in the house, I was purely content and didn’t need to find anything else to listen to. But after a while, my bubble began to burst and I let other people in my life influence my taste in music. The friends that I made at music school listened to indie music and my classmates in school listened to rap. I was basically a sponge soaking up all of the music that people listened to and liked.

I would like to think that many people had similar experiences when it came to discovering the music that they liked and didn't like. We tend to follow suit at what the people around us are listening to, mainly our peers. This reminds me of the Lil Yachty interview with him talking about Biggie. Lil Yachty is a year older than me and I know that growing up, kids weren’t bumping to Biggie and Tupac during lunch time. These artists were before our time, so we didn’t the chance to properly get to know them. Same with Aaliyah; Her influence is everywhere in music but the reality is a lot of people born in the late nineties and early 00’s wouldn’t know about her influence and how much she changed the culture. This is all becausehey didn’t grow up watching and listening to her.

I did not agree with Yachty’s viewpoint on Biggie and nineties hip-hop, but I understood why he felt that way. I understand that not everyone is going to have someone open up their eyes to older music and learn why music is the way it is today. I would’ve never gotten into A Tribe Called Quest if I didn’t watch The Wayan Bros reruns on MTV 2 and wasn’t intrigued by the opening credits. I would have never cared for Biggie if I didn’t hear Big Poppa and immediately hear the sample as "Between The Sheets" by The Isley Brothers which was introduced to me early on by my father. I was fortunate enough to have those experiences and to be open enough to accept them. Even though we have the internet at our disposal with the world’s knowledge in our phones, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have access or want to have access to certain information.

A lot of these new rappers don’t care to learn about history, therefore there is no need to access that information. This is troubling because if you don’t learn from history, then you’ll repeat those same mistakes. In all reality, every decade or every time there is a new subgenre, the hip-hop community explodes and acts as if hip-hop is on the verge of dying, which brings me back to my original thought: What is the current state of hip-hop and is it dying?

Hip-hop isn’t dying, and won’t die anytime soon, in my opinion. I think that the genre is growing and is becoming much more accessible because you don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to record at a studio. All you need is a midi controller, a good mic, and a digital audio workstation (DAWs). Not only that, but there are so many platforms where you can share your music like Soundcloud. It’s also much easier to get your music on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music without being affiliated with a label. This can help diversify music and expose artists that we would’ve never originally heard of before. Artists like Kari Faux and Kaytranada used the internet at their disposal and it’s helped them out a lot. Kari Faux's song was recently featured on insecurities soundtrack, and Kaytranada has produced with so many amazing people and built a name for himself not only as a great producer but a great DJ as well.

These are artists that you would consider apart from the current hip-hop sphere, yet they aren’t what we stereotypically think of like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. A lot of people like to think that there is only one type of artist or one type of sound being released but that is simply not true. We tend to focus on the negative which is why we don’t give light to the positive or at the very least the people that we would probably enjoy listening to. Instead, we turn our backs to an entire generation because we are so stuck in our ways that we have preconceived notions about younger artists. I hope that this mindset will change because there are so many great artists that are so diverse and need support. If you feel the need to search for newer artists, ask around, do your research, and you will definitely be pleasantly surprised.

Do you think that the state of hip-hop has changed with younger artists?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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