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Monday, April 07, 2008

Oh Hip Hop, Where Art Thou?

"Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her..." I Used To Love H.E.R. - Common

I love hip hop, I really do.  I love Jay Z, The Roots, Talib Kweli, Common, Kanye, Jay Electronica, Gangstarr, Mos Def,  etc.  I guess you noticed that I have been naming rappers that have made exceptional music.  And lately, that seems to be a really tough thing to ask for in the world of hip hop today - hearing music that is worth dishing out your hard earned $9.99 to purchase a full album on iTunes or anywhere else for that matter.  Everything that I have been hearing for a while now (and I do mean years), only consists of a hot single and that's it.  After the single rides the chart for a few weeks, that seems to be its run.  Once the album is released, true colors are shown in regards to low album sales.  

For example, Flo Rida's "Low" was an infectious song that broke digital download records.  Everyone was riding on its catchy hook, even though my understanding of the lyrics did not go past the chorus.  However, the sales of his album Mail On Sunday is a clear indication of what consumers do not consider purchase worthy.  I mean honestly, we all love Shorty Lo's "Dey Know" because of the beat.  But really, what hip hop connoisseur is going to go out and purchase an album of his?  Certainly not me.  There used to be a time when hip hop reigned supreme on the charts, solidifying its place in the fickle music industry.  Run DMC's King Of Rock was the first hip hop album to go platinum, you would think that those who would follow would keep that in mind and pay homage.  There was a time when you could not turn around without seeing a hip hop album debuting at number one on the charts.  But now, we are left to our own devices when a song like "Crank That" by Soulja Boy comes on and has people going out of their mind.  And I am not just talking about kids, I have seen plenty of adults start "youuuuu-ing" when the song comes on, while I stand around puzzled in the middle of the mayhem on the dance floor.  So what exactly is going on with the creativity that rap was based on?  Whatever happened to the art form that consisted of "two turntables and a mic and one phat mc on the set?"  Whatever happened to a true lyricist and lyrics that say and mean something?  Are we now using the excuse that because hip hop is firmly planted in its roots and has grown massive branches, we can spew out crap and anyone will bite?

I'm sorry, but perhaps I am spoiled just a bit from being an ol' head, I am very fickle about my hip hop.  I was raised on the good stuff - Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante, BDP, X-Clan, Grand Master Flash, Run DMC, Afrika Bambaataa, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, Whodini and I could go on and on.  I can still remember my brother and I writing our own rap to the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".  I am at a loss for words at the state of hip hop today.  The drop in album sales is an indicator that I am not the only one at a loss.  When I am asked what I think about the state of hip hop, I usually say it's crap, but I always lament over that answer.  So again, I gave the question some thought and this is my answer: I believe like everything, hip hop will go through a cycle.  Every cycle starts on a high, hits a really low point and then goes on a high again.  It's kind of like life, there will be bumps in the road, but the trick is to get through them so we can go on and accomplish greater things.  I am hoping that we reach that high again soon, because right now I can honestly say that I am truly disappointed and don't like dwelling in the valleys.  And dear lord, I haven't even started on soul music yet.  That will be another discussion...

My flashback of the day is from the hey days of hip hop.  It was so hard to choose one, but there are so many more opportunities to share, so I am not worried.  Here is one from one of my favorite MC's - Big Daddy Kane, I used to KILL this track...hell I still do!

See y'all soon...

Tha Connoisseur 

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