This is the first week of Hip Hop History Month. We take this time out to celebrate the culture of Hip Hop and take it back to the essence by utilizing the elements as we once did. Every year I write blogs about appreciating the culture and what we have done to destroy or reenergize it but this year after coming off what was probably the most awkward battle in Rap music ever between Meek Mill and Drake I think we have to revisit the past to make sense of its future.
In the beginning the Hip Hop dee jay was the star with the emcee being secondary. Throw in some break dancers with an artist in the background spraying some graffiti and we’ve got the makings of Hip Hop ladies and gentleman. The emcee only became popular as dee jays needed someone to promote the dee jay’s next event or party that is if the dee jay wasn’t on the microphone himself. As emceeing developed from a Coke La Rock to a Rakim level of lyricism the dee jay took a backseat but the usage of the breakbeat was still instrumental. As the old saying goes, history repeats itself, and today the DJ/producer is definitely in the forefront again. With most beats sounding the same you can say that Rap music has reverted back to its Jamaican roots. The riddim, or beat in this case, is used by every rapper/emcee/performer. This highlights the skills of the dee jay not whoever is rapping, unless your verse is super stupid dope.
We don’t have too many rappers that spit super stupid dope lyrics so that is why a lot of people can’t tell most of these Rappers apart. There are only a select few in that category but we won’t go into that debate today. Now that Rap music is no longer controlled by the same people who created it we have to learn how to adjust to the shift in control. We have to adjust to the use of technology including social media and streaming. There are now more Hip Hop music festivals out there that are for the culture and not radio promotion and spins. The playing field has changed a great deal and we have to learn how to navigate through the change. Hip Hop/Rap is the youngest musical genre around having to adjust to the change in the public eye can be difficult. The new generation doesn’t even care about who wrote what when writing your own rhymes is the cornerstone of the culture! Yes, there were plenty of ghostwriters in the early days but that’s why people bought albums…to read the credits. With technology slowly taking that experience away from us there’s no real checks and balances in play. If history really repeats itself when will we get back to positivity in the lyrics? We can party at night and uplift our community during the day. I’d rather be stuck in Hip Hop’s past than endure the future if all I have to look forward to is 90s samples over heavy 808s and heartbreaks.