Mainstream Hip Hop Lost Its Flavor
April 13, 2007 § 18 Comments
“I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin,’” Public Enemy said in “Don’t Believe The Hype,” from their 1988 hit album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, implying that real hip hop isn’t just about spitting rhymes that flow. A message should drive the lyrics. Almost 20 years later, this philosophy has changed.
Today’s mainstream hip-hop music is like an unruly child whose mother wants to disown him for embarrassing the family name. This may seem harsh and a tad bit hypocritical coming from a hip-hop lover. As I mature, I realize how conflicted I am about the mainstream hip-hop music I am still coddling. Just so we’re on the same page, mainstream hip-hop music is the most popular hip hop music that’s selling big from the inner-city to suburbia. Mainstream hip-hop music has become so popular that even the prestigious Academy Awards decided to cash in, when it gave an Oscar for Best Original Song to rap/crunk group Three 6 Mafia for, “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” See what I mean?
Mainstream hip-hop music is disappointing for many reasons. Yet, millions, myself included, are still listening. Why do we still listen? Who is responsible for the current state of mainstream hip-hop music? The hip-hop artists who breathe life into the music, or the old white men in three-piece suits who sign their checks and market and distribute the music to the media–who in turn tell the naïve public this mainstream hip-hop is truly representative of black culture—which unfortunately somehow turns into the music representing all African Americans.
Let’s look at mainstream hip hop music. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “That song is horrible lyrically, but the beat is hot!” I listen because the beats, rhythm, production, and arrangements are infectious. So infectious that sometimes I forget what the artist is actually spitting.
From boasting about who’s got more street credibility based on the amount of bullets earned, to never deviating from rapping about anything other than material possessions (a.k.a. money, diamonds, grills, rims, etc.), hustling, “bitches,” pimping, and “hoes,” it is clear that hip-hop’s original message of political and social commentary is dead. The kind of hip-hop music that is marketed, sold, and distributed in America is making a mockery of what was once a powerful and pioneering art form because of its political and social message, which helped revolutionize African Americans.
All you have to do is turn on the radio or consult BET or MTV to get my drift. The current state of hip-hop is a mockery because it is no longer diverse in its lyricism (everyone is saying the same thing, but using a different beat) and it perpetuates stereotypes that black people have been trying to get rid of for ages. Intellectual worth is lost and ignorance prevails in mainstream hip-hop music’s current state. Sadly without the black community, this music tells white America that this is how non-white people behave.
Hip hop has went from the socially and politically conscious pioneers like Public Enemy, Run DMC, and KRS-One to one-note minstrel wonders like 50-Cent, Camron, and Lil’ Jon.
I’ll admit there are still some socially conscious hip hop artists out there like Common, The Roots, and Talib Kweli, to only name a few. But, they are not in the mainstream selling millions. They aren’t endorsing Pepsi (Ludacris) or showing the public in more ways than one what hip hop wasn’t born in this world to be—a mockery of something that was once profound.