Hip Hop, before becoming a global phenomenon, was once a culture owned solely by the financially poor states of the Southern Bronx districts in New York City. “Authentic hip hop provided an awareness of cultural and societal issues through positive and meaningful messages of inclusion, activism, equity, justice, political consciousness, education, and success”. Since its birth more than 30 years ago in the 1970s, the culture has had many legends and heroes who have engraved themselves in the cultures history books. You had big names such as The Notorious BIG, Tupac, N.W.A and Eminem just to name a few. Although all made different music one medium that all their music had in common was struggle. In the late 80s and the 90s, rap music was arguably at its most prosperous, often labelled ‘The Golden Age of Rap’, however race relations in America at the time were extremely shaky. Police Brutality was a serious problem at the time and the state wasn’t really doing anything to stop it. Hip Hop gave the black communities who didn’t really have anything to fight back with, a weapon they could use to oppose the white hegemony that was in place at the time.
Where previously rap music caused you to sit down and really think about the lyricism at play, taking in the artist’s message, it has now has become a mixture of intoxicated slurs and mumbles; offering nothing of substance but catchy beats and repeated hooks. One could argue that all the catchy beats and party music isn’t all that bad, before rapping became mainstream in culture, hip hop was mainly just DJs performing at block parties inciting people to forget their worries and have a good time. Now however it seems that’s all there is to it. There are artists out there who are still trying to get a message out , but the culture has grown so large that they’re voices are usually pushed out by the ever-growing army of materialistic rappers. Rappers who are fine with releasing an album every 4 months, filled with tracks that are simply the same sex, drug, and party driven content that we hear constantly. Hip hop was once a genre with so many colours, different sounds from different areas where talent truly had a platform to shine; now anyone with a microphone, a youtube or Soundcloud account can join in; which is great, but are they doing it for the right reasons?
Rap of the past was charismatic and passionate, today’s rap seem lazy and stale. It makes you think, why? Why is this happening to our culture? Is it because it’s being gentrified due to its proven money making power or because it’s ‘cool’? Or is it because it’s simply lost its purpose?
By Michael Ukaegbu