The Reconstruction Era is a twelve year span in American history where the culture had to adjust as the South had been tamed and slaves alongside their families became accustomed to ‘being free’ with no real rights and privileges within society. That sentence sounds all too familiar in what is now the twenty first century. In 2002 we began to see the South rise the top again and reminded Hip Hop that they were still relevant. By 2006 it was brought to everyone’s attention that the culture had lost its way and the balance between what purest call ‘real’ Rap and mainstream radio Rap was nonexistent. The ‘Hip Hop is Dead’ album got the attention of the entire culture! It held us accountable and made us look in the mirror and see what we’ve done to our beloved Hip Hop Culture. Since then some have gone back into the fold supporting true lyricism and forgoing the mainstream ideals. As the rest have gone on to keep pushing for one-hit wonders and taking advantage of a young person in the industry and using them as a vehicle to promote negative and harmful messages and images to OUR kids. The takeover was imminent and we were too late Hip Hop was already gone.
Today we find ourselves in our own Reconstruction Era as we learn how to cope with the South’s overwhelming influence on current Hip Hop. As we the people are being reminded by society that we have no real rights and privileges with instances such as Mike Brown liken to those in the Jim Crow days. We have to go back to our own individuality because it leads to more originality and creativity. We cannot continue to copy the same popular sound and recycle these weak rhymes. There are some kids who are birthed during this time and have experienced only stolen styles, heavy drums, weak metaphors, and just plain all around bad Rap music. Some kids think metaphor is a punchline. I mean it can be but technically….no. These kids can’t even count bars I bet.
There have been positive signs of the culture being able to exist within this Southern mainstream Rap. Now I’m not saying that Southern Rap isn’t a part of the culture or somehow diluting the quality of music. I’m saying that some artist and producers exploit Southern Rap culture and because the labels just want money and are tasked with disenfranchising our community they just allow anything to be put on the airwaves. During this Hip Hop Reconstruction we’ve seen the emergence of Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Wale, J. Cole, Jay Electronica, Kanye West, a solo Pusha-T and others. These young Rappers, whether you like them or not, coupled with OG Rappers like Nas, Jay Z, Wu Tang members, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Talib Kweli, Common, and way too many more to name who still currently release high quality projects this represents the beginning of a new time in Hip Hop Culture. We are transitioning into a new time within our culture being led by the youth with no assistance from the previous generation. Instead of swooping down on these youngsters like a ‘culture vulture’ we need to be schooling them on the elements and cultivating a respect for the culture, self, and each other.
We have several more years left in this Hip Hop Reconstruction Era as the battle Rap scene begins to reach higher levels. More artists are feeling the pressure to have more lyrical content. Some artists have become established enough to be able to hold on to their drug dealer lifestyle persona. The rest will be left to drown causing the label to drop them. Even some quality artists will get dropped because the label won’t know how to navigate the needs of listeners following this Hip Hop Reconstruction Era. It will take a little more than twelve years in our culture since not many who live the culture are in control of the media that creates the image programming our community’s morals and values. As we slowly try to take back our culture it becomes more and more commercial. It will take all of us to get out of this hole we dug for our culture. We have to push back whenever we get snubbed at the Grammy’s and stand for each other when we are down. We have to be competitive in the true spirit of the culture. They say ‘don’t sellout’ but we did and we paid for it and now we’re in our own Hip Hop Reconstruction Era.