Often people say, “Hip Hop is dead”, “The new generation has failed the culture” or the “Golden era has long passed”, you know the usual old head/hip-hop purist narrative. As a young man born into this new generation of Hip Hop I feel the need to protect it and stand up for it; this Hip Hop is the Hip Hop I’ve grown up in and is what made me fall in love with the culture. Contrary to popular opinion I think Hip Hop is in fact currently in its Golden Age., setting the trends and dialogues of the world and dominating every festival; ones that would have been full of rock bands perhaps 10, 20 years ago.
You’re probably about to make a comment about mumble rap or how popularity is now more important than talent etc, the same lines we always hear. However, I feel like the one thing people seem to get confused about is the impact of the internet on the culture. To be honest, if I was an old head I would think the internet is the root of the problem. Anyone with an internet connection could now get their music out there, quick and easy. Due to the sheer speed at which music could be shared, people aren’t spending as much time on music and lyrics and thus mumble rap was born; the fast-paced, slurred but catchy rap style that dominates the airways in the modern day. Also with the internet and the easy access that comes with it, a lot of the time you get the sense of a popularity contest in terms of the ones getting that ‘big break’. It’s almost as if labels are solely hit-driven now, whoever’s hot right now, whether they’re an actual artist or simply just a social media star; as long as they have that popularity they’ll get given a chance, possibly over someone who deserves it. Thus, many one hit wonders are born; the Trinidad James of the culture. The most recent example I can give would probably be the Viral sensation of the Cash me outside girl, Danielle Bregoli or Bhad Bharbie, as she now goes by. Although she acquired her 5 minutes of fame for the wrong reason, due to the spotlight the community placed on her she has now, allegedly, signed a 7-figure deal with Atlantic. Crazy I know.
What people fail to see, however, is how the genre has evolved through the introduction of the internet. I feel in previous eras the culture has had specific sounds, usually by state; New York flows, dirty south slurs; you could tell where someone was from by their sound; the players at the top were usually the best at this specific kind of sound. Now the internet has connected the culture, by allowing individuals to grow up and be influenced by artists from all over the world; hearing different sounds and formulating completely new ones. Hip Hop can’t just be classed as one genre now, the culture has evolved so much that there are so many sub-genres within its walls. In fact, the walls of hip-hop seem to appear boundless, it can’t be confined to a specific sound anymore, the genre seems to grow every day. Thanks to the internet there’s so much good music out there, and bad music of course but when is there not? The same way the older generation had their own individual journeys as fans at the record store scouring the racks looking for new CD’s and tapes, we now have the endless Apple music, sound cloud and YouTube page searches; our own personal journeys to find that specific hip-hop sound that defines us. That rewarding feeling you get when you come across something great is still there, it just comes about in a different manner. Hip Hop has such a grand catalogue now that there’s literally music for everyone; those who say the music right now is terrible just haven’t been bothered to look or haven’t found their sound yet.
For those who say the culture is a popularity contest now, aren’t completely wrong to be honest, however, because of the size of the culture, there’s space for that popularity contest and true artistry they go side by side. Also, if we’re really looking deeply at it, those whom are the most popular in the culture in both reach and success are the ones who are the most talented; the Kendrick Lamar’s, the Drake’s and Jcole’s. I feel like many are so quick to reminisce about the acts of the old and their brilliance, they forget to marvel at the brilliance of the legends that we’re currently watching be created. If an artist is talented enough and consistent enough, no matter how long it takes they always seem to make their way towards the top, it just takes a longer time than these other popular individuals. The artists with true longevity in the game in modern Hip Hop are the talented ones, the popular one-hit wonders are phases that end quite swiftly; take Iggy Azalea for example, I don’t think we’ll see much of her anymore.
Hip Hop stars are the rock stars of the planet in 2017, dominating the charts, dominating the festivals and dominating the biggest headlines. If you think about it, the culture makes so much money it’s astonishing that we still don’t have our first billionaire yet, but as I said the walls of the culture are boundless; it just continues to evolve. Who knows what we’ll see in the upcoming years. The Golden Age of Hip Hop is now, and will always be now the present; to be honest, I don’t think we ever left the Golden Age.