I first remember hearing 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” on the radio on the way home from school in 2005. My mom was blaring it with the windows down because it was just that catchy. The beat along with his (mildly sexual) lyrics were enough to make my 10 year old self laugh, and nod my head in enjoyment. I asked my mom to go and buy me the CD later that night. She came home with the album; The Massacre, along with Eminem’s latest album: Encore. From the moment I popped each of those discs in my walk-man, (yes, I had one), I fell in love with hip-hop. The lyrics, along with the great beats, usually produced by Dr. Dre, had me delve into even more hip-hop. Throughout the years, I noticed that radio rap songs weren’t as good anymore, and I had to then search in CD stores for the type of music I was looking for. Artists like Eminem, 50 Cent, Jadakiss, Nas, and Tupac were some of my favorites. The technicality in which they rhymed, on top of their real lyrics, taught me about life even more so then what some of my teachers did! Although they all had some funny party songs, they usually rapped about real life situations, and it helped me through so much. But as I turn on the radio today, all I hear is teenagers with dyed hair and face tattoos rapping (actually mumbling), about the same things.
I just can’t seem to differentiate between any of the new generation’s rappers, with the exception of a few; J Cole, Drake, and Dave East. But it is not just the artists whom I can’t hear or see the difference in, it is the beats that all sound the same as well. This leads me to the question: what happened to hip-hop? What happened to the genre that I fell in love with as a child? As I delved into some newer “rappers”, I noticed that they all usually rap in the same types of flows. They also usually only rhyme with the last syllable or two in each line. This is a huge difference, as artists from the 90’s and early 2000’s tended to have internal rhyme schemes. The new generations technicality is just not up to par with any of the artists of the older generations. Even rappers from the 80’s seemed to be light years ahead of the Lil Yachty’s and Lil Pump’s! Rappers like Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, and Rakim, 30+ years ago, still cannot be matched. Why is it that the groundwork these artists laid for generations to come, ended up being forgotten about in the genre?
Lyricists like Eminem and Nas, talked about some extremely deep issues, like the songs “When I’m Gone” and “One Mic”. When I’m Gone was a radio single, and the hook was as follows; “And when I’m gone, just carry on, don’t mourn, rejoice everytime you hear the sound of my voice, just know that, I’m lookin’ down at you smilin’ and I didn’t feel a thing, so baby don’tfeel no pain… just smile back.” I look at a radio single from one of the most popular artists of 2018; Lil Yachty, called “Minnesota”. The hook goes like this: “Cause it get cold like Minnesota, ridin’ round on boulders, money sittin’ up, it sits way above your shoulders. I was eatin’ pork and rinds with a b**** from New York Times, I don’t eat no pork and rinds but that b***** was mighty fine.” Need I explain what is wrong here? Some may argue: “at least rappers nowadays don’t glorify gang culture”. But that is far from true. There are rappers like Casanova and Tekashi 69 who repeatedly reference being in the Blood Gang. Even their songs referencing this gang lifestyle are being aired on radio!
Finally, the beats being produced for hip-hop music nowadays have changed immensely, which may be a huge part of what has changed in the genre. Producers like Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, and The Alchemist made beats that were distinct, using all sorts of different instruments and great samples which made ultimately all of their beats distinct to each individual. Today’s producers generally all use overly saturated sounds, using their newest computer technology. There seems to be too much going on in the beat to even have lyrics be on them! In fact, the beats are so overly saturated that a listener may not even be able to hear the lyricism, even if there was any on the track.
There is no real answer to what the main cause of the devolution of hip hop is, however, it is safe to say that the artists lack of technicality and lyricism, along with the production, are main factors. But what drives these artists and producers to lack in these skills, or to not even care about the genre or the legends that paved the way for them to be in this position to be apart of the culture? Perhaps it may be that rap is too commercial now, or that these individuals lack respect for the forefathers of the culture. Maybe it is the drugs that they are on, in which they mumble about in all their songs. But regardless of why hip-hop has changed for the worse, one thing is for sure, the rap game has been in a downward spiral for years, and “old hip-hop heads” like myself, are getting more aggravated about it by the day.