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Hip Hop is Dead: And You Killed It

In 2008 Nas said Hip Hop was dead and he told the truth. At the time people pointed a lot of fingers in different places. Some pointed directly to individual artists such as Soulja Boy. Jeezy felt that Nas was taking aim at all of The Southern artists. Many people pointed to the rise of snap music and the accompanying attire of baggy white T-Shirts with Andre 3000 stating "Your white tee, well to me, looks like a nightgown, make your momma proud, take that thing two sizes down," and The Game stating "Turn on the TV, and all you see is the A, you niggas better make up a dance and try to get radio play."

There was a lot of finger pointing by rappers at other rappers. Who killed Hip-Hop? That was the question everyone wanted to know the answer to. It's simple. There wasn't a rapper that killed hip-hop. It would be pointless looking for a specific artist to blame for the death of hip-hop. Everyone would have a different artist but no conclusive proof. The answer is something much more sinister. It was the fans, the hip-hop heads. That's who killed hip-hop.

I'll get to the point right away. Hip Hop Heads killed hip hop with the arrogance and disrespect they show to artists they don't like and fans of those artists. For those of you who don't know a hip hop head is someone who believes they have a full grasp on the culture and understanding of what hip hop is. But they don't, and they're proud of it.

I first noticed it a long time ago, but it reached a new peak with the release of To Pimp A Butterfly. These were people who chastised and berated others for disliking the album. Claiming they didn't understand the content because they were intellectually gifted enough. As if intellect has always been a measuring stick of what good hip hop is. They praised Kendrick for the the album, and he deserves praise, but they praised him for the wrong reason. These people praised Kendrick for the inclusion of funk, jazz and spoken word on his album. Going as far as to claim he innovated these things. As if West Coast G-Funk hadn't been a genre since at least the 90s with the rise of artist such as Too Short and Snoop Dogg. There's an entire genre called Jazz Rap with legends like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. When it comes to spoken word, Gil Scott-Heron is known as the Godfather of Hip Hop for a reason.

The idea that someone needs a certain level of intelligence is one that has become prevalent. "You don't like J. Cole because you aren't smart enough," is a phrase I've heard too many times and too many different ways. Are certain rappers smarter than other, sure, that's the nature of people. We're all better at some things than others. But, can you tell me with all certainty that Curtis Blow made bad music or it is somehow less important because the lyrical composition is less complex than Juicy J's? Hip Hop is more complex now than it was when it started, the English language is more complex. That is the nature of evolution. 

How can you discount Rae Sremmurd as bad music when people enjoy it, just because they aren't as lyrical as other artists? That's silly. Hip Hop did not start with four syllable words. It started with simple lyrics like "Now, what you hear is not a test, I'm rapping to the beat, and me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet." 

A lot of people hold up Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5's song The Message as the start of conscious hip hop. However, that trick didn't come until 1983, long after hip hop started and contains lyrics like "God is smiling on you but he's frowning too because only God knows what you'll go through, you'll grow in the ghetto living second-rate, and your eyes will sing a song called deep hate." In 1983 that was definitely complex and ahead of it's time, but how complex is it compared with lyrics like "Check my resume nigga my record's impeccable, anywhere in the A niggas know T.I.P. is highly respectable and in the M.I.A. nigga, I'm tryna keep it professional" from 2003's song Rubberband Man by T.I.? It doesn't. T.I. is rhyming multiple syllable words not just incorporating the occasional word like "frowning." T.I's song may not have as deep of meaning as The Message but how can you say it's not more lyrical? 20 years makes a difference.

It's not just lyrical content that people use to judge what is real hip hop. Most notably KRS-One stated that multi-platinum artist Nelly was not making real hip hop because it was too catchy. This is something that continues today. Flo Rida isn't considered hip hop. He's considered Pop but he's a rapper, not a singer. Lyrics like "Your girl just kissed a girl, I do bi chicks, shake for a sheik, I'm throwing these Emirates in the sky, spending this As-salamu alaykum, peace to M.O.N.E.Y," are a lot more complex than people will ever give him credit for. First he says "do bi chicks" that's word play and a double entendre because he continues the theme of  Dubai, India with the use of Emirates instead of dollars. Like Nelly responding to KRS-One "I'm tired of people judging what's real hip hop."

The thing is, it often expands beyond an artist music. Wale doesn't make bad music. But people are concerned with claiming that he's the worst based on other facets of his life. Because Wale doesn't fall into the traps of what a stereotypical rapper is. Wale has said it himself. He's sensitive, in touch with his emotions and would rather make jokes than play the gangster in interviews. He'd rather stay home watch wrestling, play Zelda and check on NBA Draft prospects than go to the club. These aren't my words. They're his. That's just who Wale is. Yet, people question the credibility of his discography based on these things without ever listening to his music. These are hip hop heads.

As a hip hop you're supposed to have a grip on the culture. A true understanding of every aspect of it. A love of every artist for their strong points and individuality from the perplexing Lil B to the stoic Wale to the gangster Freddy Gibbs but that just isn't the case. There is no longer any appreciation for every aspect of hip hop.

Instead there's nothing but arrogance. The constant harassment of  "you're not a real hip hop head if you listen to YG," and things like that. Meanwhile legends like Nas are praising the craftsmanship of YG's album. The fact that you like a more lyrical artist when you can't even comprehend their lyrical content does not meant hat you appreciate hip hop more than someone who doesn't.

You may think that's a little extreme, but listen to what I'm saying. I'm not saying the fans gave up on hip-hop. I'm not saying pirated music killed it. It's the behavior and the actions of the the fans, the hip-hop heads that have killed hip-hop. The sad thing is, they complain that they want the return of real hip-hop and it's never coming back. Because it's dead.

Kendrick Lamar said it best on Hood Politics, "Everybody want to talk about who this and who that, who the realest and who wack, or who white or who black, critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rapping, motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike'd be platinum."

You can hear Darrell on the CP Time and Powerbomb Jutsu podcasts. He also plays classic arcade games on The Cabinet
Darrell S.

Hey, I write stuff, a lot of different stuff, that's all.

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