Recently, I was in tweet discourse with @DamnKam about the current status of Hip Hop... this post is long overdue. Here's why I don't really give hip hop a failing grade right now... While you read, i'll keep doing the snaps... lean with it, rock with it...
1) Hip Hop has left Pride Rock… finally
I’m going to break down how NYC was lost and Jay-Z actually brought the South into Hip Hop, and it was all his plan from the beginning and it backfired miserably. Jay-Z retired and wanted to leave one final mark on history. The one thing that Jay-Z could never say was that he created something, that he brought something back so he lacked that one addition to his legacy. Insert his retirement and acceptance of the position of President at Def Jam, which he did a horrible job at. Jay-Z has these two artists Rick Ross and Young Jeezy on the label making noise, but not enough national noise. So what does Jay do? He hops on the Hustlin’ Remix and the Go Crazy Remix. Let me tell you, before Jay hopped on those remixes, NYC was not listening to that shit in the club. But as soon as he did, Jay-Z validated them. Shortly thereafter everyone was bumping Rick Ross’s first LP and Jeezy and his ad-libs were everywhere. A smart business man by the name of Dame Dash in an attempt to get his Dame Music Group label off the ground, with the help of Dipset saw this and seized an opportunity to get a talented rapper sitting in pole position on one of his tracks. Cam’ron’s Suck It or Not track featured Lil’ Wayne and shit went crazy. Now NYC was listening to Lil’ Wayne, he was rolling with Dipset hard body and the club couldn’t get enough of this guy. But it also allowed Rick Ross and Young Jeezy to slip from the fold of irrelevant Down South rappers into national mainstream with the ability to stay. Jay-Z’s plan was to then drop Kingdom Come and bring NYC back and thus he would have completed his legacy…. Kingdom Come bricked horribly. (Listening to Kingdom Come now after BP3 it seems to make a little more sense than before.) However, after that brick from Jay the South was here to stay.
This is beautiful because one of the things that has held hip hop back over the last few years is that they continuously dismiss everything not NYC. Marginalizing an entire community of people es no bueno. If you invited everyone to the table it would only push all artists to be better with the material they put out there. The point is, NYC is not the face of hip hop anymore, you can find hip hop in NYC, Philly, DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Texas, California and all points between.
2) Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West don’t get the credit they deserve
It goes without saying that Kanye West has had a big impact on Hip Hop in the last three years. His albums Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak and the many albums he’s produced or guest starred on have been superb. You have to give him much credit for his work with the dark horse of hip hop, an old head called Common. We weren’t turning our mainstream ears to Common until Kanye started blessing him with some on point beats. Kanye represents a new age of Hip Hop. Hip Hop is now Pop. Often times, people don’t want to be considered Pop music. They lack the knowledge of what that label means, all it means is that it is the sound that the majority of the country wants to hear. And that’s a good thing for hip hop. Kanye has aided and abided in the crossover of Rap, Rock, Techno, Punk, and all types of music. He has also begun to mix back fashion and music together again. And meanwhile he’s been able to transcend race lines in a way that doesn’t make it seem like Whites and Asians are masturbating in our culture, but that the culture of hip hop lacks a race majority.
Lil’ Wayne… you have to pause and stand to your feet in a round of applause for this man. I hesitate not when I say he is the Best Rapper Alive. If you don’t believe me, your favorite rapper says he’s the Best Rapper Alive. Jay-Z said it, Kanye said it, Common said it, every one of your favorite rappers will tell you, Lil’ Wayne is out of this planet when it comes to the music he is making. He is lyrically head and shoulders above the game. Most people don’t listen to what he’s saying the way he weaves words into rhyme so eloquently, they just see the train wreck that he is and pass judgment. From 2007-2009 the man has single-handedly changed the mixtape circuit. The biggest change since 2003 with 50 Cent. Lil’ Wayne dropped a new track(s) every week. He gained the respect of all of his peers. He totes lines that seriously cannot be paralleled. I don’t like the comparison to Jay-Z, he’s not Jay-Z, he’s totally different. If Jay-Z is the Beatles, then Lil’ Wayne is Jimi Hendrix. The Dedication, Drought, Like Father, Like Son, and many other mixtapes from Wayne are classics. Listen to Dough Is What I Got, Upgrade U, and PLEASE listen to Gossip off the Da Drought 3 mixtape, when Lil’ Wayne declares… “I am hip hop, and I ain’t dead I’m alive”. His album Tha Carter III was exceptional. People should listen again and pay attention that he’s talking about everything in that album and lyrically and in terms of his delivery he’s come so far. He’s outshot the competition and he still keeps going. He’s in the studio more than any other artist. All the other artists when they speak of working with Wayne will tell you, the reason why he’s so good is because that’s all he does. He records all day and all night. The last guy to have that reputation….? Tupac Shakur.
3) Our music is a representation of who we are, and that’s what Hip Hop has always been
Over the last three years there have been so many artists who are not only putting out albums, but owning labels now. No artist drops more than two albums before he starts his own recording company. That’s entrepreneurship.
We’re not talking about guns and violence anymore, we’re talking about how much money we got, how many women we got, how we’re BALLIN’. The fact of the matter is that this is an accurate representation of Black America today. While we still have our corners of America is need of a great revolution. It’s time we paused for a second and said to ourselves that 20 years ago, there wasn’t a rapper who was… BALLIN’. There were no abundance of Black CEOs. Of course we’re going to be talking about ridiculous amounts of money all the time, we ain’t always had ridiculous amounts of money. And for that, although I don’t agree with it, I understand that this is the current state of Black America and that’s what they really want to hear. It used to be the d-boys and the folks with a lot of money was the only people popping bottles, now every old extra regular negro with a job that pays him bi-weekly is in the club popping bottles. There is no shortage of VIP in America right now and that’s a good thing, because Black folk have come so far. And that’s what our music is trying to show us.
4) I’m waiting for the day someone tries to sell me a Neo-Hip Hop album
So people think that Hip Hop is dead. I’d argue hip hop isn’t dead, it’s very much alive and well. Maybe some people don’t like hip hop and where it has came. But as much as we people used to say that N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg wasn’t hip hop when it really was, Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, Soulja Boy, Plies, and all these other fools out there that I may not like but someone is listening to, are just as much a part as any. I’ll be honest with you hip hop has been dead everytime the baton is passed to the next generation, I doubt that it will ever be “alive.” Pretty soon someone will start rapping like Rakim and try to sell it off as Neo-Hip Hop and ask me to buy it. I will respectfully decline. Simply put, Hip Hop is alive, it’s a representation of who we are as a people, and that’s what it’s always been. If you don’t like the representation, I suggest you be a part of the change. I love who we are as Black folks and as people in general. I’m happy that we have this medium that brings us all together, and not on some Black shit or some White shit, but just on some shit we all have in common. So to me, that’s what hip hop has been doing for the last three years.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t spend some time telling you who my favorite artists are and some of the albums over the last few years I thought were great and worth listening too.
In order, my top 5 favorite artists right now (this list takes into account talent…lol);
1) Lil’ Wayne
2) Kanye West
4) Andre 3000
Sitting in my dorm room in 2001 discussing hip hop with my friends I said, “One day Lil’ Wayne will be the best rapper in the game.” I was laughed at. I saw then the pieces of what came together so beautifully over the last three years. For the rest of the list, they will always produce great music so I can’t hate.
My guilty pleasure list;
1) Lil’ Wayne
2) Rick Ross
3) Young Jeezy
5) Kanye West
6) Gucci Mane
7) 36 Mafia & UGK
I’m sorry, people in NYC still listen to Wu Tang like it’s the gospel. I’m allowed to listen to my guilty pleasure list… especially when I’m drinking dark liquor. At 3PM on every Friday I start listening to Plies… It’s my favorite thing to do.
Studio Albums deserving:
1) Tha Carter III & all things Wayne
2) Trilla & Deeper than Rap
3) The Recession
4) L.A.X. Files
5) Graduation& 808s and Heartbreak
6) American Gangster & BP3
7) Theater of The Mind
8) The Last Kiss
9) Finding Forever & Universal Mind Control
If you are not taking something away from these albums then something is wrong with your ear. That’s enough music to last you a long time in Hip Hop. I didn’t include mixtapes because we’d be here all day.
3) Kid Cudi
4) Cool Kids
5) Big Sean
6) Jai Cole
These young cats give hope that there is another wave of good hip hop coming soon. I think that in terms of creativity Kid Cudi outshoots the competition, but many will never know that. However, all of these guys are worth listening to.
Thanks for reading. And while I’m on this tour bus I will try and update my blog more often. Follow me on Twitter for more updates than here, @DrJayJack.