July 30, 2012

SPIN Magazine says 'The Problem With Hip-Hop in 2012: Not Enough Street Rap!'

The side effect of this soul-crushing major-label system is that many rappers who once would have tried to sign with a major and reach the radio have retreated to the Internet and the low-stakes world of tour money. In 2012, ...[rappers] have no interest in pursuing the radio route.

The article from SPIN is an interesting read... we contend that the major record labels have taken the "juice" and "soul" out of Hip Hop and all that is left, that is marketable is what we call "Hip Pop." Radio has all but abandoned the genre outside of a few select major artists (Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj). Hip Hop was always able to push itself forward to something "fresh" from Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J, Run DMC, to Public Enemy. However since the days of Tupac and Biggie, Hip Hop has been kind of stuck in the same place...as far as what is represents to the masses. Is going to the streets going to make a difference?

The Problem With Hip-Hop in 2012: Not Enough Street Rap! by Brandon Soderberg from SPIN Magazine

-Pundits bemoan rap's supposed embrace of prison culture

If you've been reading the latest in the endless cycle of complaints about rap music's pernicious influence — Google's colossal waste of time, "Hip-Hop On Trial," from last month; or Touré's Washington Post editorial, "How America and Hip-Hop Failed Each Other," from earlier this month — you would think it was still the late '90s, when shiny, amoral street rap reigned supreme. No matter that the average music listener doesn't associate ambitious superstars like Jay-Z and Kanye West, or walking cartoon characters like Snoop Dogg, or pop panderers like B.o.B. and Flo Rida, with any sort of seriously destructive or reprehensible behavior. The story continues to be that rap music today is a violent, negative scourge tearing apart a once-positive art form. The sad thing about mainstream rap music in 2012, though, is that it would be a breath of fresh air to hear some mean-mugging thugs. We need those guys, now, more than ever.

Here's the "rap is bad now" party line: The music went from commentary on the devastating crack epidemic of the '80s to an embrace of the prison culture brought on by mass incarceration (thanks to Reagan and mandatory minimum drug laws), and has pretty much stayed there since. What's really happening is that since the late-2000s, there has been a dearth of street rap: Here is a list of performers who are ostensibly "hip-hop" from the No. 1-50 spots on Billboard's Hot 100 this week: Wiz Khalifa (on a song with Maroon 5), Flo-Rida, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida again, Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Gym Class Heroes, Wiz again, Pitbull, Ca$h Out, Drake, Rick Ross (on an Usher song), and B.o.B.

This is not a moral victory for hip-hop. It is, to paraphrase Touré, a failing that reflects America's failing. Mainstream rap music has been cleaned-up and smoothed over. And just as the '80s and '90s represented the crack era and its vicious fall-out, the lack of street rap in recent years reflects the current attitude toward the American war on drugs: Pushed to the side and ignored. There are clear shifts in taste and a few game-changers, like the proudly middle-class Kanye West, who helped birth this dearth, but street rap became unsustainable very quickly.

The arrests of Lil Wayne, T.I., and Gucci Mane, proved to labels that marketing realness was, literally, a poor investment. If these rappers were stuck in jail or on house arrest, it significantly lowered their profile. For awhile, presumably as one more way to falsely conflate hip-hop culture with prison culture, it was asserted that rap's values were so twisted-up that it was considered a good look for a rapper to go to jail. But the careers of the rappers listed above were irreparably damaged by their prison time.

Read more of this article at SPIN.com

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