Monday, October 19, 2009

Switching Lanes

The young breed of new artists has brought a compelling discussion as to where the Hip/Hop game is going. Those of us who follow the music have watched the industry transcend culturally with a sound that hardly resembles what was hot 10 years ago. Artists are more polished and diverse. Drake, one of the most popular young cats in the game, is as versatile as the word defines. He sings ballads for the ladies, spits fire on whatever beat, and he's a kid television star that a lot of people refer to as Jimmy from Degrassi. I won't even mention that Drake is Jewish due to the heritage on his mother's side of the family. He even had a Barmitzva at what he described as a very nice Italian restaurant. My, how the headliners have changed...

In 1999, Jay-Z, DMX, Redman and Method Man all geared up for the Hard Knock Life Tour, which turned out to be rather successful, perhaps one of the best tours of the decade. But it wouldn't even sell out today. Jigga may be the King of the game but the other acclaimed MCs are never heard from... and not by accident. Imagine trying to autotune a DMX record. I doubt Kanye would be down for that. College girls wouldn't spend financial aid refund checks on Redman and Method Man tickets, as dope as they are (were). The rugged gangsta rap that became so famous is gone. Your favorite Hip/Hop artists are even making rock albums now. The electropop Kanye West 808 Heartbreak topped the Billboard Charts last year, despite the mixed feelings towards the change-up. Lil Wayne is set to release Rebirth on December 15, 2009.. or at least that is what Young Money says. I get it though. Some of the hardcore Hip/Hop fans long for the old stuff. But ya'll just have to buy those old albums. The "real gangsta" rappers are either locked up, or doing whatever it is "real gangstas" do.

I'm sorry that it's been 10 years since Lauryn Hill's debut album became the first Hip/Hop record to win the Grammy for Album of the Year. Lauryn took home five moon men that night and I'm not sure if we've seen her since. But I do know that she has given birth to five children with Bob Marley's son, Rohan. So she's making babies instead of music... which is fine... unless you ever really had Lauryn heavy in your track rotation. Anticipate that comeback, even if it's an illusion. Besides, if Whitney (Houston) can rise from the ashes, why not Lauryn?

Let's not dismiss the prevalence of female Hip/Hop artists at the time. Lil Kim, for a variety of reasons, was a superstar. Missy Elliot had emerged as an artist after being praised as a songwriter and producer for female R&B groups. Then Eve, the ride or die chick that captivated men and women, hit the scene to create a powerful line-up of a new type of artist. Problem is, they don't get invited to award shows anymore either, at least not as nominees or performers.

So farewell to the gangstas and the women as are mainstream artists, and welcome to the new age, sophisticated brand of rap. I know, rap is just a word so it should be carefully explained as to what the music part really is. Hip/Hop is judged on the content of the music. As Jay-Z said recently, "What We Talkin Bout?".

Roc Nation's latest artist J.Cole made his national debut on The Blueprint:3, "A Star is Born." Ironic how he ends the song, signing off with his name, as if he were the star born as the track was being played. J.Cole has more music too. I don't have to tell the real Hip/Hop fans about "The Warm Up" mixtape that tops (in content) anything that is played on the radio. You may not here Wale, J.Cole, Kid Cudi (mixtape) on your local stations. Maybe satellite radio is showing love to someone other than Drake.

The question arises, are the long-time Hip/Hop fans ready for rappers to stop pretending to be thugs, or even actually being thugs? The future of the game isn't STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON! They're from Toronto.. Fayetville, North Carolina.. Cleveland.. Some of these dudes even have college degrees. I think it's unfair if the freshest talent isn't taken seriously because violence wasn't their struggle. Yeah, we like that old stuff (Rakim, RUN DMC, Slick Rick, Common, the Biggies and the Pacs). But the new cats aren't hard like that, not much gang banging to be exposed. Plain and simple... the new generation has something different to say and I'm interested to hear what it is.

No comments: