Can a genre really die?

It’s painfully difficult to wrap my head around the idea that we live in a world where a genre of music has the capability of dying.

We have all heard the terms “Hip Hop is dead” and “who is going to save Hip Hop”, and we nod our heads in agreement because of the mediocre music we hear on the radio and the pointless music videos we see on the television. Maybe it’s because some come from an era where music included actual skills and lyricism, storytelling, punchlines and, well, “real talent”; or maybe, just maybe, we don’t want to take the time to listen to what the “new comers” actually have to say.

I grew up in the 90’s, which some would call the”silver age of hip hop”, and was raised listening to Hip-Hop champions including Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-ONE, Big L, Biggie, DMX, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Tupac, Nas, The Pharcyde, Mobb Deep and many MANY more. I know all about Whodini‘s “Friends” and Queen Latifah‘s “U.N.I.T.Y” rap.

I don’t reference these artists and songs to boast or claim to know everything about hip hop, because I don’t. I didn’t grow up on Public Enemy or N.W.A. I wasn’t listening to De La Soul or Biz Markie, even if I know a few songs by them now. I reference them because I have been exposed to that culture and style of Hip Hop, and I have a pretty good sense of the difference between hip hop then and hip hop now.

Yes, the rappers now-a-days do not rap like the rappers from that time period at all. They don’t come with the same punchlines, or metaphors, or style of reciting words. Some of them may not have the same “sense of real hip hop” as previous rappers may have. We do have the Soulja Boys and the French Montanas of rap that add little to no importance to our culture.

Even with the talent lacking, time wasting rappers, we also have rappers like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Immortal Technique, Big KRIT, Joey Bada$$ and Logic. We have Lupe Fiasco, Ab-Soul, Kid Cudi, Wale, Curren$y, ASAP Rocky, MGK– do I even need to go on? We do have rappers like Drake and J. Cole who use their emotions and metaphors to create music, but why is that a bad thing? When LL Cool J was rapping about staring at his wall and needing love, why wasn’t it “soft” then? Why was it okay to listen to that style of music back then? We do have talentless rappers, but if I can recall the 90’s had their fair share of talentless rappers, no?

We may not have the same story tellers as before, but why would we even want that? Why would we want to listen to the same type and style of music? The whole point of art, music, the musicians themselves and life in general is evolution. We aren’t going to get another Slick Rick or KRS-One because no two people are the same. We aren’t going to get the same vibes and sound the 90’s gave us because WE ARE NOT IN THE 90’S ANYMORE. It’s healthy to be nostalgic of a time, event or in this case sound, but it’s unhealthy to obsess over it.

I think the people who truly believe “Hip Hop is dead” have permanantly glued their ears to a previous era of hip hop. The same way the music evolves, we have to evolve with it. There has been this extreme disconnection from music for some, and it is scary. Some of us have completely cut off anything that’s “new” in fear of it being subpar to what we once knew. We cannot rely on music that no longer exists to judge and critique music that currently exists. We have to compare the music of today with the music of today. I agree, sometimes the rap music “back then” was better, but what are we going to do about it? We cannot bring it back unless we become rappers ourselves, but we can hope that a new rapper comes along and gives us something new that will satisfy our musical needs.

My question to you hip hop heads, fans and lovers: Is it really Hip Hop that’s dead, or is your love for it dead?

We need to differentiate the two before calling it quits on an entire genre of music. Hip Hop will always be around whether it sounds like the 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s or 2050’s. I think what it really comes down to is whether or not we want to take the time to find current music we actually like before judging every new-comer.

“Rap is something you do. Hip Hop is something you live.” – KRS-One

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