Lauryn Hill once said, “Hip-Hop started out in the heart, not everybody tryin’ to chart,” and although these lines always made sense, it is beginning to resonate with me more as I take a look around the landscape of Hip-Hop culture. Things change, and for the backpack Hip-Hop heads, listening to music these days is similar to picking between the red and green pill Morpheus gave Neo. Sure, every song has a message and a target audience, but from a substantive level things are different.
I hear songs that tell me to spend thousands of dollars in the club, wear ridiculously expensive sunglasses and stunt my way to the top. I’m not saying those things are wrong, I’m more so saying those things aren’t me and aren’t the side of Hip-Hop I once connected with on a deeper level than simply dancing in the club gone off two or three red solo cups.
As avid listeners, we can spot the differences between music that is put out there to sell and music that is put out there as something real, but most of America does not and sadly may never have this ability. There is nothing wrong with “crossing over” and going mainstream, but to change the scope of what is deemed “Hip-Hop” makes the situation a bit trickier.
I checked out the Billboard awards a few Sundays ago and noticed two things that sit on opposite ends of the spectrum of the mainstream argument. Wiz Khalifa was named best new artist? There is no way anyone could call Wiz a new artist, but as a symbol of his hard work and willingness to continuously grow as an artist, it makes sense. One could make an argument saying that Wiz changed his style, but he seems to grow with every new project. Rolling Papers was a decent collection of songs with some major hits, but it paled in comparison to Kush & Orange Juice. Rather than continuing along the mainstream path, he dropped Taylor Allderdice which is still in heavy rotation and in a way, a step up from Kush & Orange Juice. Whoever decided on these awards obviously didn’t take into account his first EP or his catalog of mixtapes, which demonstrates these award shows are simply out of touch.
The nominees for Best Rap Song included, Flo-Rida, Pitbull, two nominations for LMFAO and Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass”.
None of these records are Rap records, they are Pop records. I’m appalled that in 2012 these records are given the “Rap” label. It shows just how disconnected these awards shows are when it comes to our genre of music and an unwillingness to listen to the word on the street. No one is checking for LMFAO in the hood; forgive me, but it’s the truth; however from a party standpoint, these records are smash hits, as I have found myself looking out into a crowd of people fist pumping and shuffling off beat. Sure, there are lines that rhyme, but does that does not equal a rap song.
Once again, as fans of Hip-Hop culture, we must do our part to enlighten those who are ignorant to what is so obvious to us. Perhaps this is just the generation we live in, with rappers delving into techno sound thus opening the door for other artists to capitalize on “Rap” music; however calling a pop album, a rap album, will never work. True fans of music as a whole, understanding and appreciating the differences in genres, will never go for it and must play a part in teaching others.