Column: Hip Hop #07

So what exactly is this rap shit today? I assure you, I’m not about to repeat myself. I’ve talked til I was blue in the face about then vs. now, good vs. bad, but what’s it all add up to? Doesn’t really matter. I’m just a guy who more or less knows hip hop, has an opinion, and is lucky enough to have a website as an outlet. Question I’m more interested in now is, what does it all boil down to? As much as detractors – myself included – can talk shit, Drake and his ilk are – save one of those absurd reversals that only rap can provide – are here to stay. 808’s and Heartbreak had its affect, and unlike auto-tuned rap verses, this current sound isn’t something everyone will abandon in two years. As good as the record is, Recovery aimed at tackling the new sound rather than undoing it, complete with its sing-along choruses and such. T.I.’s collaborating with Lady GaGa, Nas digs Drake, I could go on and on.

Like those a bit older than myself who truly remember when greats like KRS and Kool G Rap were doin’ it, our generation’s music is changing, either integrating into the now or fading. Think OutKast – it’s been almost 6 years since “Hey Ya!” ruled the world, we may be waiting on that next record to finally drop, but the current young teens buying albums in droves aren’t even familiar with their music – Big Boi’s new record is the most exposure they’ve gotten. It’s crazy how swiftly music gets old – why you think Usher’s doing songs entirely composed of autotuned vocals? To fit the hell in.

It’s easy to forget how young hip hop really is. Imagine going back to when The Beatles were still touring and trying to explain Soundgarden, Pixies, or Nirvana to a fan. Hip hop, as we know it, will not exist in several decades. Like any musical genre that gains traction, rap has been steadily integrating into the mainstream, more with each passing year. With each passing year, what you may be interested to hear will move more and more into the underground.

So what’s this mean? The currently thick divisions between hip hop and other genres will fade all the more. Rap and pop are already buddy-buddy, I like to call it hip pop, and as this continues there’s no reason it won’t expand all the more. Rap tried a relationship with metal that didn’t really work out, but eventually rappers may be able to comfortably appear anywhere – think KRS and R.E.M., Jay-Z and Coldplay. While many current attempts turn out silly, with a more mutually considered approach, it could all meld. MCs would randomly drop in on your favorite band’s album.

For that matter, who’s to say MCs will still mean what they do now? When rap started off, an MC and a hype man were essentially one in the same, and they’ve since evolved into titans – no way to be sure another shift won’t occur, especially with the increasingly blurred line between rap and R&B (and a number of genres).

While all this makes me a bit sad, it’s not all bad. As this game opens up, hopefully an array of female MCs can integrate so the conversations can expand beyond, “Kim vs. Nicki and no one else cuz Missy’s being quiet.” Maybe a popular girl rapper will create an image beyond the sex toy. Perhaps new white MCs will emerge – with talent, not simply Slim Shady reprints or Asher Roth’s. Or as Nicki recently herself opinioned, a successful openly gay MC. Possibilities for growth are intriguing, not only washed out. Rap growing more open may allow for talent I find destructive to the game, but it will also remove restrictions that deserve to be removed. At the very least, we can feel lucky we lived through hip hop’s early days. Something tells me one day it will be cool as hell that we witnessed the Dr. Dre’s, Nas’, Slim Shady’s, and so on, because regardless of where rap goes, that period can never be repeated. We lived rap history, y’all.