Hip-Hop is Dead. S#!t aint like it was back in the day. What happened to the Boom-Bap? Im sure youve had your fill of these statements which have polluted our blogs, articles, and our whole way of thinking for the past three or four years. Unless of course youre one of the people making these kinds of statements. Beneath the surface lies a measure of disdain, an undercurrent of fear, and a thinly masked level of hate for the South. Whats interesting about the anti South movement, is that if indeed we are talking about the true spirit of Hip-Hop, then nowhere is it anymore apparent than beneath the Mason-Dixon.
Hip-Hip began as a movement of independence and freedom. A deviation from what was accepted and a leap from convention. Once Cindy Campbells back to school jam turned into the Big Bang of our universe, it set our initial precedent that nothing would ever be the same again. The music, the style, the slang would all be living, breathing, and organically dynamic, no longer hampered by the static of tradition. That feeling of uncertainty, the declaration of youth culture, raging for acknowledgement from the establishment typified our march forward.
For many years, the South listened and soaked up game. They supported the boomin systems and the around the way girls. They supported the almost alien tales of the South Bronx, and Queensbridge. The South threw them bows to Bacdafucup and entered the 36th Chamber. Buying albums, seeing concerts, even though there was no park benches or no shelltoes in its genetic makeup, it remained on the ride, sometimes getting stranded on Death Row. Smoking with Snoop, getting funky with the D.O.C., supporting the alcoholic Liks, deciphering Hiero, and getting Jurassic with the 5. Through all these times, separate from its own experience, the South rode with us through the subways and the 64s.
For the past few years, the general sound and trend of Hip-Hop has moved south with incredible speed. Sure there was Outkast, and No Limit, as well as Cash money. There was Rap-a-Lot. There were pockets of success. But this was different. This was a tsunami. New styles were brought out, new sounds were produced, and the musicality changed. The pace was screwed up, and sped up at different points. Now, outside of initial exceptions, we had artists such as Chamillionaire going platinum. We had sections like Houston and Atlanta becoming major industry hubs. Consequently, sales of New York based artists began to wane. Outside of the G-unit juggernaut, and rock solid Jay-z, the Rotten Apple now found itself on the outside looking in.
Now you hear people yearning for the good ole days with the same fervor that the old south missed the days of Jefferson Davis and General Lee. You get the feeling that these reminiscers are not simply hoping for a return to quality but an end to the new wave of integration. For all the talk of taking it back, the South is taking it back to the future.
What happened to the fun? What happened to Kid and Play kickstepping? What happened to Red Head Kingpin pumping it for hotties? Kool G. Rap, hard as his lyrics were, had the TCF Dancers. Big Daddy Kane was jumping over Scoob and falling back on Scrap. In between snapping necks and cashing checks, even EPMD had Its Time to Party. Dancing was never synonymous with cooning in Hip-Hop. Now that someone else is driving the train, niggas dont dance no mo.
There were plenty of songs devoted to doing dances in the 80s and 90s. If the South aint taking it back, then who is? Yes it cost you $20 to get in the clubs and drinks are $10 a piece up top, and yes there is a dress code. But as Ma$e famously said, why you standing on the walls hand on your balls?
Many of the criticisms leveled against the South are peculiar, especially with the critics so enamored with taking it back. The Afros had an entire album powered by a gimmick. DMX barked like a dog on the mic. Akinyele, a lyricist initially, didn’t really blow up up until he exhorted young women to put things in their mouths.
Andre3000, Scarface, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and T.I. would probably beg to differ with you on the Souths supposed lack of lyrical mettle. So would Little Brothers Phonte and G-Units Young Buck. These guys have lyrical ability in spades. Different speeds, different flows, and song structures. Anything you can do, they can do better.
Yes there are some startling images from a few artists. But in the true spirit of Hip-Hop, they dont care! They are relaying their struggle and experience in terms that are familiar to them, and allowing you the window to see this culture through their eyes for the moment. The A train, and the lowrider have given way to the MARTA, and its still going strong. Chamillionaire and T Paine duke it out for Lord of the Ring(tone)s. Industry events have shifted to Atlanta and to Miami. The love and the movement are no longer consolidated in one place.
Heres the thing. We are from all different places, with different ingredients that make up our experience. Everyone has had their turn expressing what they feel is Hip-Hop to them. From the Wild, Wild West of 129th and Convent, to Piru Boulevard Straight Outta Compton, everyone has had their part in showing you, as Shan and Marley put it, where we come from. Its a new day. Give props where its due. The South is true to the ingenuity, the variety, and the fun expression that is the very lifeblood of Hip-Hop culture. Just-Ice got golds in his mouth, Paul Wall got golds in his mouth. Ying Yang is no worse than Flavor Flav. Relax, remove the stick, and listen. The South got something to say.