When hip hop originated, artists like Grandmaster Flash, Rakim and Run D.M.C. set the example. Original hip hop wasn’t about shooting or killing, it was a hot flow backed up by a beat.
These artists rapped about struggles they faced everyday and founded the music that has developed and strengthened into the hip-hop culture we now know. Yet, when I listen to the radio and hear today’s lyrics, I can’t help but wonder what many artists are thinking.
“Drop down and get ya eagle on girl.” Although this lyric displays absolutely no talent, words like these continue to dominate the hip-hop airwaves.
Most of today’s artists have become so infatuated with money and trying to prove street credibility that their music has gone from hip hop to pop.
Unfortunately, hip hop has spent many years being thrown around and mistreated by rappers who don’t know how to respect the art.
They dramatize situations in order to draw fans, even though they may never have even experienced them.
Many artists aren’t original anymore. Whether they can’t think of anything new to say, or they’re just generally lazy, rappers can’t deny that they have been using other artist’s lines. In some cases this is impressive; in many others it just annoys the listener.
Recently, I listened to the new Fabolous album, Real Talk.
After listening to “Can You Hear Me,” I realized that every verse begins with an alteration of a dead rapper’s lyrics: Tupac, Biggie and Big Pun, respectively. In the first verse, the rapper modifies a verse from Tupac’s “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.” In Fabolous’ verse, he only changed a few words, one being the unnecessary addition of the word “bitch.”
When artists use or modify other artist’s lyrics, they take away from the originality that makes hip hop unique. They are disrespecting their forefathers and add to the deterioration of hip hop.
After some thought, I realized that I haven’t heard an album that I would consider a classic in almost six months. It’s pathetic, actually. The last time I was even excited for an album to drop was months ago. This is depressing, considering that the number of R&B/Hip Hop albums on the current top 100 Billboard chart is 22.
Don’t misunderstand me. Fortunately, some artists do actually have skill. These rappers are able to perfectly create a song by tying lyrics together, keeping a flow and rapping for a reason. These artists are the exceptions to my point and unfortunately are a rare breed.
Most recently, the music that has actually intrigued my interest was in reference to the election, particularly Jadakiss’ remix to “Why.”
Confronting political and social issues, Jadakiss, accompanied by others, presents the song by starting every line with “Why” followed with a question. Common Sense voices his opinion, “Why is Bush actin’ like he trying to get Osama/Why don’t we impeach him and elect Obama?” This song proves that artists can talk about important issues and still get exposure without selling out. At the last line, Jada challenges the listeners, saying, “Why it took for me to make Why for y’all to listen?”
The problem is simple. Half of the audience listening to hip hop wants corny pop. The other half, understandably, loses respect if the artist makes the transition to pop. Going pop sells more records, but also qualifies the artist as a sell-out.
Rappers need to stop contributing to the decline of the music that made their careers possible. Most importantly, they need to decide if they’re in it for the love, or for the money.
The artists themselves are also aware of the current hip-hop crisis. Back in 1994, Common Sense expressed how hip hop was changing in “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” saying, “Now I see her in commercials, she’s universal/She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle.”
As one of the best-executed and most important songs in hip-hop history, it describes a strained relationship. It is not until the last line that the listener is told the love is actually for hip hop itself.
Alexa Novachek can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.