The fading beat of the Hip Hop Industry

30 Aug

LL Cool J, Run DMC, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls, Eazy-E: what do all of these men have in common? They are all hip hop legends that earned praise from their fan bases by speaking about the hard truths of life, maintaining positive anticipation and buzz about their music, and spitting rhymes on par with that of a Shakespearean actor. They were entertainers and lyrical geniuses that released hit after hit in their day, but what about our day? Like most other music these days, hip hop seems to be geared towards a very narrow audience as well as being more about hot trends, names on the record, and making the sure the songs themselves are wrapped in a nice little package. Simply put, the fact that too many people try their hand at it, how hip hop as lost its sense of humor, and the fact that music is so hard to sample or produce due to copyright have contributed to the death of the hip hop industry in some way, shape, or form.

In the new age of internet blogging, ideas and opinions are shared as are what skills or talents someone possesses through sites such as Facebook, Youtube, and Myspace. These sites and others have lead J-Zone, a poster on a rap site, to declare that following a comment from the rapper Nas about the life-span of the hip hop business, “The high profile artists get some attention, and everybody else gets ordered in ones and twos, if that” as well as how “Great records go unnoticed. Rap is now a disposable art.” Following this train of thought, J-Zone then goes on to say, “When rap stopped being fun, I knew we were in big trouble. Not too many people are doin’ music for fun anymore.” Another thing killing the industry is that copyright laws on these sites has gotten to where “interpolating one line of Jingle Bells in your song can get you sued and you can’t post a remix for promotional and listening purposes only…you can see the music and legal industries have officially declared war on rap as a kneed jerk reaction to their own failues” (256-257, 259).

Looking at J-Zone’s assertions and argument, it becomes apparent that hip hop isn’t dead yet, but it is losing it’s heartbeat. These days it seems that rap lyrics for example, are mostly about money, sex, women, violence, or power. A lack of originality isn’t just confined to the hip hop industry, this is true, but rappers these days just seem to be going through the motions of what will make them the most money rather than what truly sounds good. As J-Zone says in his article “5 Things That Killed Hip-Hop”, there are artists out there that are just that, artists, and continue to experiment and produce true music. As an example of both sides, the trash and the true, I’d like to focus on Kanye West and Eminem.

Eminem is someone who continues to produce amazing and powerful lyrics that resonate with themes such as addiction and pulling oneself out from the darkness and has actually lived through those things. He also isn’t afraid to make fun of himself, or others for that matter as can be seen primarily on his albums “The Eminem Show” and “Relapse”. Kanye on the other hand has an enormous ego and his songs are a majority of the time centered on what was mentioned earlier (women, power, sex, and money). Both artists are manifestations of and represent both sides of the hip-hop coin. Eminem represents the old school style of hip-hop in that his music is less about beats and more about lyrical content and connection with the audience, whereas Kanye is about attempting to (and failing) at making political statements and doing what he needs to do to satisfy his ego. No disrespect to Mr. West, but if more people were like Eminem and weren’t in the industry for money or for feeding their ego, the hip-hop industry would stand a chance. Now, it appears that auto-tune, generic beats, and the fact that anyone can be discovered with little or no talent (read: Soulja Boy), hip-hop’s beat is growing faint.

Works Cited

J-Zone. “5 Things That Killed Hip-Hop”. Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. 253-261. Print.

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