So, I have been recently thinking about the bridge between hip hop artists that are considered old school verses the new school. What is today’s hip hop and where is it going?
2009 was a big year for hip-hop with many major releases, some of which we have been waiting for over 10 years! Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 comes to mind because Raekwon/Wu-Tang have been putting down very legit music for quite some time. But what will happen when that generation of artists is gone? Eminem has also been making music for a very long time; Relapse, was a huge release this year, along with Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3. Q-Tip put out a cd as well. I love getting this music but it scares me. What will happen when these guys stop making music? I feel that as a “hip hop culture” we are not preparing ourselves to see these legends stop making music. I have seen A Tribe Called Quest perform a couple of times now and as sick as it was, they looked old! De La Soul as well; they can still spit but the concerts are very different than I imagine they used to be. Tying back to my last “(Da) What’s on my Mind” about record labels, the record labels are not taking care of their young artists and only focusing on the guys who are established and that means they won’t have a selling point/person in a few years. I am not trying to be cynical. In sports you see veterans take smaller roles in order to let the new guys in, but that is something I think is missing in Hip Hop. These guys are still making good music but will they always be able to do so, and will the new artists be ready to step in?
Another aspect of the old school vs. new school is how the artists act towards each other. I find this very curious although not being an artist myself I cannot completely understand the dynamics here. I thought it was very cool that Jay-Z had J.Cole, Drake and Kid Cudi all on his album, putting them on the big stage, but how many artists are helping usher in the new guys. Mos Def did tour with Jay Electronica this summer, so there are exceptions to what I am talking about. Bun B is another artist that I feel has been a sort of bridge from the old school to new school. I feel that a genre so driven by the fans needs the artists to promote each other. If we don’t know who the new guys are, then I feel that it all could wither away. I know this is all extreme but it seems that outside a select few, the veterans are not preparing the rookies to take over.
My final point that I think is worth mentioning is about the sound of hip hop. Many of the new artists – Kid Cudi, Drake, B.o.B.– do not sound like rappers, especially not the rappers that helped start everything up. My question is then: is there commercial hip hop anymore? I know that there is underground stuff that is true to the roots of hip hop but I feel that today’s artist is more flexible in their ability to sing, play instruments and make songs with crossover appeal. I still like a lot of the stuff I am hearing, for instance I have really enjoyed Cudi’s album through my first 5-6 listens. But it does not remind me of the old school hip-hop that I have come to know and love. B.o.B. has even been quoted as saying that he wasn’t a “rapper” and that people shouldn’t call him that. Does this mean that hip-hop has changed? Or does it mean that there is no more commercial hip-hop, just pop/other genres made by guys who would have once been considered rappers as well. I know I have only mentioned a few specific artists by name and that this doesn’t apply to EVERY new artist but “Best I Ever Had” is hardly comparable to “The Bridge is Over” by KRS-One.
What do you guys think? Are we prepared as a culture for where hip hop is going? If not, can we change the direction? Is it all right for hip-hop to change or should a new genre be started for those other guys so that hip-hop can stay the same? Or am I tripping and is this just the normal way for things to go?