There have been many trends and styles in the hip hop industry, but one aspect of hip hop culture that seems to have increased in discussion is the degradation of rap music. In the entire history of rap music, there have always been bad rappers just as there are mediocre artists in any other field of creativity. What changed seems to be the audience’s perception of mediocre.
Rap music was about unifying each other through creative wordplay. It was created to give people something to dance to, but at the same time provoke awareness of what was happening in sub-par areas of living.
This is not to say there isn’t socially conscious rap nowadays, but there is a drastic change in the ways rappers exhibit their craft. There has been an increase in lyrics promoting materialism and though there has always been bragging, that aspect seems to have completely taken the place of having any actual skills.
Two prime examples of this are Jay-Z, also known as Shawn Carter, and Kanye West. West’s first albums not only showed off his wordplay skills, but also showed off his storytelling abilities. Now his recent works are littered with egotism and auto tune.
Carter refers to himself as “Hov” as in the abbreviation for the name of the Christian god Jehovah.
West refers to himself as “Yeezus” which is immature wordplay on Jesus. It’s almost as if the message they’re conveying to their audience is that they are far greater than us peasants because they can afford gold rims, watches and expensive alcohol.
They aren’t the only ones guilty of this though. Let’s not even begin with the messages rap clique Young Money produces.
Everything is money, codeine, jewelry and women with them. It’s not as if they’ve never produced anything worth listening to, but their most promoted records are the ones people can maniacally gyrate to and don’t have to think about.
Would it kill rappers to make their music more relatable? Or at least limit the number of grammatical tragedies that spew forth from their mouths? The whole dumbing down of lyrics is a major problem in rap music. You don’t even have to rhyme any more.
Say what you will about Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” but in comparison to any song by 2 Chainz or Wacka Flocka Flame, it’s practically “The Iliad.”
Rap consumers know that these rappers lack rapping skills, possibly the skill to be able to string together a sentence and yet they scurry about raving that the new Chief Keef. Better yet, some other barely literate rapper’s album is the best thing to smoke weed or “twerk” to.
Can you honestly compare the lyricism from 2 Chainz’ debut album “Based on a T.R.U. story” to any song from Outkast’s “Stankonia?” I don’t think so, not without sounding like a moron. Slang has always been constant in rap and hip-hop.
There’s nothing wrong with putting a little urban twist on the way you speak, which is why it carried into rap lyrics. You’ve got the whole “izzle” trend that was popular in the 1970s and was resurrected by Snoop Dogg in the earlier 2000s.
There was the Bay Area’s “hyphy” movement and the Southern culture’s contribution of “crunk” music. Each of these fads had their own characteristics that make them memorable. It’s a way to represent where you’re from and also separate yourself from the rest of the pack. One might say you could blame it on their lack of education.
That is a legitimate reason why some people don’t do well later in life, but these are rappers, with millions of dollars, who could now afford further education if they couldn’t before. We’ve still got our veteran rappers Nas, Common, Andre 3000, Eminem, etc. How long before we disregard their contributions in search of something vapid?
How long until they sell out, leaving us searching for a new piece of true rap music? We’ve got good underground rappers, but they have no support. Perhaps producers are afraid to take a chance on someone who might actually make good music.
I think they’re afraid the consumer is too simple to comprehend a good message. We need to go back to the basics of rap. It shouldn’t just be a way for someone to make money.
It needs to return to what made it an art form in the first place.