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Monday, October 17, 2011

Has Hip-Hop Gotten too mellow?

So recently Jay-z commented on the fact that he thinks weed smoking has gotten to the point where it is affecting hip-hop music in general, making everything extra mellow and soft. A link to his comments is right here courtesy of Contactmusic.com (ironically). The first blush attitude would be to write him off but he isn't completely wrong is he?

Look there are a lot of reasons right now why a lot of people who are considered critics such as myself think today's rap music is watered down. The technology and lowered barrier of entry, the internet and ipod, and the labels themselves are all string factors that have directed the direction of hip-hop but I think there is something to be said by the amount of 'weed' rap that there is. Method Man and Redman were two of the originals who laced cannabis rhetoric in ever song and it was cool, it was their thing. Someone who commented wrote that it is true that every artist now throws in weed smoking or a song dedicated to marijuana on their albums these days and it is true. 50 Cent who is adamant in the fact he doesn't smoke nor drink too heavily references smoking on all of his albums, Snoop has existed for the last quarter century on cripping and smoking. Today, Wiz Khalifa and Currency are the main couriers of the smoking mantle but even the "best of this generation" like Lil' Wayne and Rick Ross are almost constantly talking about the amount of weed that they smoke.


But that's just a small part of why hip-hop seems different now. Part of it is the cycles or ebb and flow of hip-hop, just as high top fades and stone washed jeans seem to have been resurrected, so  has the simple party and let's have fun music that existed in the late 80's. These kids today coming out are generally in a better place and are tired of hearing the jaded street lyrics that they grew up on at the end of the 90's. They are also in a way rebelling against the parents who expect them to become professionals, watch their mouths, and be decent citizens who continue their household legacies. This is sort of parallel to how the grunge movement of the early 90's in Rock started.

There are people who debate the merits of the early movement in rock just as many of us look at this new generation of "swagger" rappers today. You hear false angst and more than half of the albums from people like Big Sean and J.Cole is about how people "doubted they could make it" in rap. Not in life, but just as rappers, as opposed to a DMX or a Busta Rhymes for whom their absolute ability to survive was what was questioned. These questions weren't even about the person themselves, but because of their background and upbringing.


While I'm not saying I want every rapper out to be Onyx, that shit would be just as annoying, the fact of the matter is today, an Onyx like group wouldn't get the love or any play just because of the type of music they are bringing. Hip-Hop has become a version of urban fantasy where the only important thing is how fly you can imagine yourself being since every new act comes out talking about the amount of "swag" that they have. It's the mix and while I am sure there are rappers who are angry, or aggressive, or who have the lion heart of a young Busta Rhymes, will they ever be able to get any exposure because they do not fit into the typical "cool" mold of this new generation of hip-hop.




The issue now is one of conformity, being truly an individual and to the opposite field of everyone isn't really encouraged. Today's pseudo-hipster 'professional' crowd doesn't seem inclined to want or relate to an NWA or PE. Common and Pharrell are the farthest extremes but even they can blend in without much issue. Maybe its the growth of the middle class like myself, maybe it is the drug use, but most likely it's a combination of all of these factors.

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