Times will and always do change. Stagnation and an inability to move forward with ones thinking are two of the fastest ways to lose ones ability to have an impact. From political ideologies to the Dubstep revolution that has taken the world by storm, things change and if you are unwilling to accept this obvious truth, grab a snickers and a pillow because you’re going to be waiting forever for things to go back to the days of old.
Optimistically, I always believed that Hip-Hop was a progressive genre led by legendary artists who always put out definitive work, whether it was; an album that seemed to play out in script form like Ready To Die, or the soulful sounds from The Blueprint, to even the melodic harmonies of 808’s and Heartbreaks. Hip-Hop has always moved forward. These three albums are just examples of major shifts to mindsets when walking in the studio. Sure, everyone wants to find their own way and make their own sound, but it was these albums and many more that paved the way for out-of-the-box thinking.
Unfortunately, it is not always about progression, especially these days. Music piracy changed the way artists market themselves and for the old heads in the game, it has been a humbling challenge to stay relevant. Beefs have been spawned and shots have been fired at younger artists, from the same people who seemingly helped pave the way for numerous careers. I look at both Common and Lil’ Kim as legends in their own right. “The Light” was one of the first songs I can remember hearing a rapper openly discussing love and issues surrounding it. I hear “I used to love H.E.R” and get chills because I can metaphorically break down my love for Hip-Hop in similar fashion. Lil’ Kim, although provocative and perhaps the most respected side chick in the history of side chicks, helped pave the way for women in Hip-Hop. Of course, you could spit the hardcore east coast flows that dominated the airwaves of the ‘1990s, but making it sexy and appealing to a wider demographic was how she found her nitch.
These legends both engaged in “beefs” with two members of the Young Money camp recently and it never sat well with me. Common claimed Drake was soft and “Canada Dry” (which was a great line) and Kim did not appreciate Nicki Minaj forgetting to pay homage to her in before the mainstream Nicki’s mainstream blowup. It made things interesting and garnered a buzz for the two older artists, but they (Common and Lil’ Kim) should not have to engage in such behavior. Sure, I have heard the diss records and needless to say, they both went in, but for what? What were they trying to prove?
I still don’t understand Common’s issue and Kim’s track came off like she was the second semester senior frustrated with all the attention given to the new freshman. There was a time when Hip-Hop was rugged, grimy and dangerous; but in a certain way, that time has passed. I look at this new class of artists and I can tell they are having fun,looking out for their people and making money off of being themselves. Perhaps, it is my own coming of age and ability to better relate to lyrics, which allows me to gravitate toward this new generation? For example, I hear stories J. Cole or Dom Kennedy rap about and think to myself with the most animated expressions, “I’ve been in that situation.” These commonalities make the lyrics much more real in ways I could only imagine as an eight year old. I will always pay homage to Hip-Hop of the ‘1990’s, but without an ability to decipher complex rhyme patterns and see through overly-flashy lyrics, it was more than difficult for anyone our age to truly appreciate their words.
Although perception plays a big role in everything, the perceived sense of individuality seen from this new age of artists is something the “gods” (peep the lower case g, no illuminati) of the game should appreciate and understand; as it was their words, that helped give rise to such an open and dynamic way of merging both, the individual and the artist. Hip-Hop spent and continues to spend too much time focused on materialistic and sensationalistic ideas, as artists begin to realize thees more to it than perks of that life, more and more listeners will gravitate toward this humanity, this realness, which is slowly becoming the norm.