Hip-Hop, in its heyday, was a force of political intrigue, a spectacle of creativity, and a platform for solidarity. In the beginning, there was the music. Funk and Soul were the most popular genres and served as the original soundtrack for the birth of what would become a global and cultural tsunami. In the beginning, there was only the music. The first man on the mic was the man who lugged the equipment into the party. Before rapping gained ground, the DJs were the pillars of the burgeoning Hip-Hop culture. As the skill level of popular DJs increased, so did the length of the breaks on popular albums. As opposed to listening to a song from beginning to end, a skilled DJ could extend the songs rhythm section allowing MCs the instrumental space to rap.
Initially, it was a heart and creativity-driven atom bomb plowing through America and eventually abroad. To date, the momentum of Hip-Hop, and the culture surrounding it, has remained strong, but for many of the wrong reasons. Whereas B-Boys and the innovative stylings of notorious MCs were originally the draw to Hip-Hop, now the personal lives of rappers and clever marketing assaults provide the publicity that keeps Hip-Hop afloat. What were once crafty and comical lyrics intended to entertain and reap listeners, are now violent, derogatory diatribes with no clear goal other than the bottom line.
By the time Public Enemy and Rakim gained notoriety, Hip-Hop had reached its creative plateau. The subculture, at that time, was reminiscent of the pleas of W.E.B. Dubois and Malcolm X. Afrocentrism and social activism were synonymous with the genres moniker. Hip-Hop, in the late 80s and early 90s, can be described as a grass roots movement. Today, however, it’s evident that the grass has been chopped down and the weeds have been left to spread. The value of Hip-Hop has depreciated.
Oscar Wilde presents the idea that the goal of art is to lie in “The Decay Of Lying – An Observation” published in Intentions in 1891. Wilde argues that “Life imitates Art, far more than Art imitates Life” because it is an artists aim to embellish and improve upon nature. Therefore nature and all that is natural could only hope to mimic the beauty and grandeur created by artists. In this way, subscribers to the realm of Hip-Hop have imitated the goings, comings, and ambitions of Hip-Hop music and its purveyors. Similarly, Hip-Hop artists embellish and paint images of reality that aren’t true, attainable, or healthy. Hip-Hop’s social commentary is teetering on non-existence; the clothing and fashion of Hip-Hop heads is currently outdated; the foundation that DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash established is shifting beneath our feet and the cracks in the wall are noticeable to anyone that was breastfed jazz, soul, and funk music.
Hip-Hop is no longer the response to a circumstance or the narration of a universal situation. Hip-Hop culture is a culture that is not changing with society. What happens to an original 1980 Camaro if its left out in the elements? The same thing that has happened to Hip-Hop, it loses its value. Selling drugs, in a day and age when a college education is affordable, is no longer an ideal occupation, but Hip-Hop music would cause you to believe otherwise. Parties and the break dancing, beat-boxing, and MCing of old are now anti-social gatherings of a destructive nature in many instances that are neither engaging nor exciting. Juxtaposed with the fact that, by the account of Julie Watson, Hip-Hop “now generates more than $10 billion per year and has moved beyond its musical roots, transforming into a dominant and increasingly lucrative lifestyle” perhaps my argument will fall flat and on deaf ears (Hip-Hop: Billion Dollar Biz).
I’ve got faith in your depth though, and I know you know that everything that glitters, and has dollars attached to it, ain’t gold. When Hip-Hop is a creative playground and soapbox again, perhaps I’ll appreciate it.