Hip Hop within the past few years went through the trials of visiting very strange spaces. In 2015 We’re possibly on the verge of watching a White Woman with a fake accent dominate the Hip Hop awards at the Grammys, We’re witnessing emcees taking their war of words to twitter instead of on the mic, We’re witnessing rappers whom once wore backwards hats, sneakers, jeans, khakis, suits, and shirts trade in regular looks for skinny jeans, Paw print outfits, and mini skirts. You have women whom are not even hip hop(Azella Banks) showing more heart than most of these so called street rappers and speaking on social issues that they are actually should be doing, You had VJs actually call out Chuck D and call him a “Troll”. It seems the culture at this point has lost a code of conduct, codification and it seems to be anything goes. The question remains is how did things become so out of whack? What was the cause of all this? Well I’m gonna bring up how hip hop took a serious detour which is where it currently remains and it all goes back to the 90s.
The emcees whom were from the “Golden eras of “1984-88” were true to the artform. The 80s ushered many groundbreaking acts which were birthed from the Zulu Nation, The 5 Percent Nation, and the Streets to where Mainstream America was actually afraid of embracing hip hop in the first place or even having their kids listen to it. The Artists were seeds from the 60s and witnessed the Cataclysmic changes amongst the world of Black America going in to the 70s and 80s. This explains why artists like Lord Jamar whom are one of the few artist from that era is very unapologetic and won’t buckle like many of these artists today. These artists seen true racism in the manifestation. They seen how Reaganomics and J Edgar Hoover’s illegal tactics crippled Black America to where Hip Hop was created as a outlet to let people know that Black and Brown people were suffering. The Sound wasn’t pop or mainstream, The lyrics were rough, rugged and raw, They dressed, talked, and carried themselves in a manner where it made Boigie black people and White America uncomfortable while making alot of money and keeping a code of conduct amongst the culture.
Boogie Down Productions, The Juice Crew, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, NWA, Schooly D, Geto Boys, Ice T, The Ultra-magnetic Emcees, Run DMC, Kool G Rap, Native Tongues, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, Beastie Boys and a list of many others have built the house of Hip Hop throughout the 80s with their fresh concepts, innovative rhymes, Unique dress style, Militancy, and sticking strictly to the code of conduct. The Fans who supported them forced the hand of the artists and forced them to drive into more creative elements unimaginative. And whenever artists actually tried to go out the box and “sellout” They got ridiculed for it and rightfully so(LL Cool J when he released Walking with a Panther). This is why many people considered this as the true Golden Era of hip hop. Corporations didn’t sink their dirty fingertips inside the art-form just yet, Artists stood true to their craft and there were artists whom were doing Gold and eventually Platinum going into the 90s which leads to the new era.
The 90s will always be considered the true apex of where Hip hop both peaked Artistically and Financially. The 80s emcees gave birth to the Tupac, Biggie, JayZ, Nas’s Eminem, Redman, Wu Tang Clan, Boot Camp Click, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Snoop Dogg and many of the major acts whom have blew and they flourished creativity. Introducing fresh concepts, rhyme schemes, stories, Production, which truly exceeded their processors. Nas was considered the Rakim of the 90s at one point, Nas studied Rakim’s blue print, his storytelling imagery, Rhyme Schemes, Rhythm patterns along with Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane and the other forefathers and created a classic debut which breathed new life in the Queens-bridge rap scene and opened up doors for NYC. Hip Hop in the 90s also rose economically to its highest potential with million dollar album budgets, videos, Clothing lines, Record labels, artists being more focused on the business side of things and making millions being Indie(JT Bigga Figga, Master P, Birdman) The 90s saw many rappers manifest into serious business men, Hip Hop really opened the doors for new opportunities for artists to make a fortune and live off the artform to where they can pass down tradition into the next generation. But in the midst of the Cristal popping, the luxury cars, the fancy homes, the mutli million dollar budgets, Something became lost amongst the way. The Creative aspect slowly started to decline year by year but with so much money being thrown around within the economic bubble at that time, It was hard for many to see. But it became a total revelation of a plot to snatch hip hop away from the people whom built it.
In the midst of grossing billions. Hip Hop started to slowly become a caricature of itself. The artists went into the 2000s actually fighting to keep the code of conduct intact but eventually there were many holes underneath the images of their “Boss” Persona. The reality is that alot of these rappers were NOT in control of their own masters, They were NOT in control of their own products, They were NOT in control of their record labels, They were NOT even in control with the directions of their own careers. The changing Economy which pretty much bit the dust heavily during around the time of the Bush Reigme didn’t help the hip hop business model either. Record sales were hitting a major drop due to downloading and the consumer being fed up with not being takened seriously so with hip hop artists in the 90s not keeping themselves on the ball and allowing the fiances to actually blind them from keeping the integrity of the culture intact, Mix that with the amount of egos and machismo which comes heavy play within alot of the top dogs and Bob Johnson selling BET for a basketball team, Hip hop as a whole started being sold like a Santa Monica Valley Whore and it opened up the door for the worst to come.
These artists didn’t take the time to soak up the business aspect to where they couldn’t control their own product. They still had to go to a Lyor Colen, A Doug Morris or a Jimmy Iovine for a release date. Rappers when they sell a certain amount of records are given sub labels as a award. Throughout the 90s you’ve had Terror Squad Records, Wu Tang Records, Rocafella Records, Infamous Records, Ill Will Records, No Limit, Cash Money, Dogghouse, Duckdown, Rawkus, Ruff Ryders, Hypnotized Minds, Ruthless, Death Row Records, Lench Mob Records, Flipmode Records, All of these imprints could have carried the culture into another generation to where they can grasp it and continue to thrive off it. But yet out of all of these labels, Only Cash Money is considered relevant today?
The downside of the Industry forced the hand of the already made artists from the 90s. They no longer had heavy label backing them with big budgets for a street team, promotion, videos, merchandising and tours. The Majors actually resorted to playing it safe and tried to reach for the lowest of the lowest in terms of talent to squeeze fast millions out of them with no true intention of building for their careers or future for that matter. The artists from the 90s were seen as “Old” “Irrelevant” or out of touch and the reality of the shift change really started with the whole Ice T and Soulja Boy feud where Ice in typical OG hip hop fashion took shots at the then 17 year old kid for his garbage music. Soulja responded with making fun of Ice’s age, calling him irrelevant, and clowned him for several minutes on Youtube. True Hip hop Fans were relishing for Ice to actually bury this kid whom’s Crank Dat Soulja Boy song was a total embarrassment at one point to the culture and send him out of his misery in true hip hop fashion. But instead he does the unthinkable and APOLOGIZED for his comments about Soulja Boy. And just like that in a snap of the moment, The elders lost their power within culture. Snoop would then later apologize to Soulja Boy for his comments which opened the door for more Fast food cookie cutter rappers to come in.
The Interscope label which backed Soulja Boy basically put Snoop, Ice T, and others whom were coming at the kid in their places which leads to whats going on today. It truly revealed that these rappers aren’t self efficient and can’t really speak their minds without fear of heavy repercussion or blackballed. Mix that with the fact that the economy in the Music Industry hit rock bottom to where not ONE hip hop album went platinum last year, These artists all of a sudden play it safe. They cosign mediocre acts that they would have NEVER done songs with, They’ll use Politically correct terms to speak on racial injustices just so they can keep a fickle fanbase from not turning on them, They’ll take collaberations with mockery acts just to keep the bills paid and to keep their names relevant in the streets.
The harsh reality is that the up and coming emcees whom are considered relevant today are actually studying strictly the 90S ERA. They are paying close attention strictly to the 90s emcees only because the 80s sound very ancient to them. So when they see that their heroes are walking around wearing skinny jeans, cosigning buffoonery, Doing pop collabos with Miley Cyrus, or saying “Donald Sterling is a good man” or duck conversations of serious topics in risk of losing millions, Their gonna do nothing but follow suit. The Elders from the 80s are seen as Dinosaurs to the youth so their not gonna really listen to them, The 90s rappers clearly dropped the ball by selling their code of conduct through ignorance, arrogance, and having a lack of backbone. This clearly set the tone for what we’re currently dealing with and theres currently no one from the previous generation to actually clean up the rap game. Their either dead, sold out, or locked up.
Hip Hop can only pray for new leadership at this point. Considering the JayZ’s, Puffy’s Dr Dre’s of the world stopped caring about the culture and many of the rappers we grew up listening are either selling out, punking out, or getting killed left and right. A change of leadership, new voices, and brilliant thinkers is totally needed to keep the culture from dying. At this point its time for the fans to actually back up and invest in the talented ones whom are really with taking a stance when needed and putting out quality music as well. The fans whom care about hip hop’s direction play a detrimental role in where the culture goes so its on us to support these artists(Old and new), their handwork, their craft so they can continue to create and keep their dignity.
Vic da Ruler