It may be slightly cynical to suggest that anything lurking on a well known producer’s desk tagged as “Hip Hop” is nothing short of watered down bile poised for mainstream theatre. The term Hip Hop has seemingly walked into a thick smog of over processed and polished beats, with artists continuously glorifying the gangster image (yawn, most likely didn’t even experience this).
Others are known for observing and commenting on meaningless fiction; lacking storyline, life experiences and the struggle to the top that was formally associated with the humble genre. Hip Hop and Rap has become lost, swirling in a circle of confusion, abused by money hungry A&R’s and agents using MC’s as musical prostitutes. Rhyming puppets to push the ideas of the monetary system, reinforcing derogatory stereotypes and making outsiders think “oh, that’s Hip Hop.” Well, it isn’t.
I’ve Got My Gun, I’ve Got My Champagne, I’ve Got My Car
Unless you actively submerge yourself in the underground Hip Hop scene you’re unlikely to hear true accounts of Hip Hop. Radio is a shambles, clogged up with the same old artists poppin’ champagne bottles and cleaning their car rims with wealthy phlegm. Rap sales dropped by 44% at the turn of the century and there is no doubt that this is down to the boring played out fantasy image. On occasion we may strike lucky, a diamond in the rough managing to filter through the ranks and into the public domain. At least “back in the day” there was some sort of agenda, authenticity and genuine feeling behind many Hip Hop releases.
There Was A Time When Hip Hop Mattered
By all means, there is still tons of brilliant explorational street adventures and honest Hip Hop music being produced but unfortunately it’s masked from the masses. Hip Hop is not dead; It’s just sleeping and people are frightened of awakening it. Remember how groups like NWA and Public Enemy, as well as artists such as KRS-One, Mos Def and Gang Starr helped highlight the wrongs in the world. Pushing for social change and showcasing the frailties of government legislation across the land. Acts like these aided the transformation of attitudes towards certain groups and sections in society, evolving Hip Hop into a vivid voice for the voiceless. More importantly people listened and took on board their criticisms!
It’s Still Out There, You’ve Just Gotta’ Dig It Out
If you don’t believe it why not check out the impressive insights given in either The Hip Hop Years Documentary or How Hip Hop Changed The World – hosted by Channel 4 a couple of years ago. If that isn’t enough and you’re a keen listener of British Hip Hop try Channel 4’s Life Of Rhyme.
So what can you do to reinvent the status of Hip Hop and perhaps fall back in love in with the urban genre once more? Unless it’s a show specifically set up for Hip Hop, be wary when the radio introduce acts as “Hip Hop.” Become familiarized with the underground scene and start exploring artists and albums. Support the independents! Image is a key feature in Hip Hop but let’s not overdo it. Flavor Flav wore a big clock but at least he told us what time it was!
WORDS: Laura Watson. James Cracken is a keen follower of Hip Hop, from the old to the newer styles, looking to give expert observations on both Hip Hop culture and music.