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Today’s Hip-Hop: Does It Have To Make Sense?

Engaging a group of students in a conversation about today’s Hip-Hop music, I asked them to quote for me lyrics from some artists who are presently deemed hot MCs. It goes without noting that when most names were mentioned, I immediately opined, “What is he talking about”?

To which one youth responded, “Does it have to make sense?”

Truth be told, I’m becoming an old man. Now granted, I haven’t started wearing the black shoe polish in my hair to compensate for the lack thereof. Nor am I wearing super-sized headbands to hide my receding hairline (which, might I add, would look ridiculous with me dressed in a shirt and tie, standing at a chalkboard teaching Math). My oldness is appearing in other debilitating forms. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, and my memory is fading, quickly.

But probably the worst indication of prolonging the inevitable is the fact that I have not the slightest clue what many of these rappers are now talking about. I guess that wouldn’t matter if I still didn’t have an infatuation with the music that I fell in love with as child. I find it easier to fall in love than it is to fall out of it. However, I’m getting old, and I know it because I am now starting to quote the words my parents used to say to me when I was a child.

Words such as, “I don’t know what this garbage is y’all are listening to today.”

I can barely tune into the local radio station that caters to the Hip-Hop-oriented demographics, because the majority of songs sound as if they were made for a strip club compilation CD. I don’t know about other mature adults, but at this stage in my life, I only want to listen to strip club songs when I am in the strip club. Not when I’m in my car during the day, either transporting my 13-year-old daughter to or from school.

Then if I’m not listening to strip club songs, I’m being force fed songs that I literally need translation for. I understand Hip-Hop is a young man’s sport, but would it be wrong for me to suggest that it doesn’t have to be a genre of music precisely geared towards a specific age group? And would I be inherently stupid not to believe that our young folk only want to listen to strip club songs or songs about trapping?

People oftentimes will say, “There’s a lot of conscious Hip-Hop music out there. You just have to find it.”

Before we go any further, really consider that quote. If I have to seek consciousness, then what am I presently in the midst of?

It pains me that our music has drastically changed the way it has. Truth be told, it wasn’t all conscious then, but various options provided for us diversity. And due to that diversification, conscious Hip-Hop was readily available and made mainstream. Now, we know that it was for the monetary profit for corporations, but it would be remiss to say that our community didn’t profit from it as well. Arguably in a far greater capacity than just dollars and cents. Some would suggest that systematically, it was determined by the powers that be to dumb us down by over saturating our community not with the spirit of Malcolm, but instead the fictitious life of Montana. We’ve replaced the idealization of strong, Black women with only the sexuality of Foxy Brown.

Plainly speaking, we’ve been duped to believe that we don’t have much more to offer to each other than lying *ss street stories and bedroom tales that should remain inside the bedroom of consenting adults. Man, I’m getting old because I do remember the time when I would relish those same stories that are being spoken to our children, by our children today. I done spent many of nights jumping up and down at a club, screaming to the top of my lungs foolishness. I’ve been watching the movie Scarface since it came recorded on two separate VHS tapes.

However, apparently that wasn’t all that I was doing. And more importantly than anything that I must stress, that was not my only alternative. Unlike today’s Hip-Hop oriented entertainment culture, I was given viable options, which lent to my balance. My greatest concern of our culture for today’s youth is that they are not getting the same balance. And what they are being fed is just as unhealthy, dangerous, and detrimental to their well being as foul food or contaminated water.

So, “does it have to make sense?”

Given the impact and influence that our youth allow the music to have on their lives, I reckon that it should.

Cornell Dews is a proud parent, classic Hip-Hop fan, and AllHipHop.com contributor.

  • s0rethumb

    Great write. I can relate. This era of music makes me feel like when I no longer listened to Kool & the Gang with my parents at black light basement parties and started smashing my tape recorder to the speaker to record “Looking for the Perfect Beat” and breakin on the linoleum. My folks thought me and my friends lost our minds. I feel like today’s music is more destructive because corporate is all up in it and suits like to perpetuate the soft bigotry of low expectation. What they failed to realize is the corn fed farmer kid was going to fall for the same non-sense making (trap) music.

  • Negro Peligro

    Man its music its cyclical. You have to let the nothingness run its course before the conscious comes back. The weird thing is the poorer we get the less we want to talk about our problems and party. The richer we are the more we want to reflect.  

  • AS HE STATED AGE IS A BIG FACTOR AND RADIO ISNT THE ONLY MEAN TO HEARING MUSIC THIER ARE TONS OF SERVICES IN WHICH YOU CAN LISTEN TO WHAT YOU LIKE WE ALL KNOW WHAT RADIO IS ABOUT SO WE NEED TO STOP ACTING LIKE ITS HASNT ALWAYS BEEN A PROBLEM ALSO IF YOU GO BACK REMEMBER IN THE 80’S/90’S PARENTS WERE OUT PROTESTING GANGSTER RAP, 2 LIVE CREW AND THE OLDER PEOPLE WERE SAYING THE SAME THING HE IS SAYING I MEAN THE PLAYERS HAVE CHANGED BUT THE LYRICS HAVENT THEY ARE MORE FORWARD THANKS TO GUYS LIKE 2 LIVE CREW TAKING IT TO CONGRESS ON THE FREE SPEECH… BACK THEN YOU HAD TO RAP SUBLIMINAL OR FACE BEING BANNED FROM STORES AND RADIO I JUST THINK ALOT OF OLDER PEOPLE NEED TO RE THINK THIER YOUTH AND STOP BLAMING RADIO…ALOT OLDER GENERATIONS WHO GREW UP ON SOUL MUSIC OF THE PAST HATE HIP HOP ANYWAYS I MEAN IT HAS GROWN ON THEM BUT IF THEY COULD OF DID AWAY WITH IT THEY WOULD OF MY PARENTS INCLUDED LOL I REMEMBER BEING GROUND FOR BRINGIN BIGGIE CD INTO THE HOUSE LOL

    • Bumpy Johnson

      im 22 and i can tell you hip hop music ( if you can still consider it hip hop ) is at the lowest point ever. it actually sucks ass…chief keef, 2chains <– are hot right now…these guys are amazingly garbage

      • Orus Dias Delaney

        Im 33. u were just born when it got large. Parents were liable 2 have 2 getting busy 2 a Jodeci track

  • Bruce Sykes

    I just listen to Eminem, slaughter house, and odd future. Everything else is trash.

    • but you should also check out blu a guy name hopsin elzhi who si joe budden and royce favorite rapper out side of there click and my self go to youtube and put verse then type crazy just shot a video about being talented and not getting the shine and its driving me nuts.

  • S. Long

    I feel just like the author of this story, grew up and raised on HIP HOP lifestyle. I don’t want to have to just give up on HIP HOP like some of my peers. I’m glad that guys like Jay-Z, Nas, Common and a few more others are still making great quality music to this day. If not I would just listen to old music and live in the past. 

    • bisolabliss

      Outta those 3 you named-checked, please enlighten me as to what quality music Jay-Z is still making?

  • Funny, I am with you on all this, but I actually enjoyed that Travis Porter video. ::hmph::

    • Byron Starnes

       Nothing wrong with that( I would didn’t watch it) but it’s that you love Travis Porter but people who love this won’t support street knowledge.

  • Q.

    Great article. Two points stand out to me the most:

    1) “Hip-Hop is a young man’s game.” I beg to differ. True, Hip-Hop was established by the energetic youth looking for an outlet, and for a voice in this world. However, you can’t put an expiration date on talent and creativity. All the OGs and pioneers of Hip-Hop are in in their late 30’s and 40+ now. Jazz pioneer Miles Davis made some of his most innovative music after age 50. Hip-Hop has grown up, but we’ve been conned into thinking that Hip-Hop is only for kids, and this industry has done an excellent job of stifling our culture by perpetuating a childish thought process. If Hip-Hop is only for teens and early 20 year olds, then that means OUR GROWTH IS STUNTED. Get it?
    Better yet, what other genre of music renders their artists irrelevant after their 30s? Answer: None   Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney. Enough said.

    2) “The game lacks BALANCE”–that’s the key word. We’ve always partied, clowned and wiled out in Hip-Hop, but we had alternatives, options. Back in the day, you could dumb out to some Digital Underground, then stimulate your consciousness with some Public Enemy. We had emcees with street knowledge and book knowledge (Rakim, Ice Cube, Nas, etc.) We had cats who really put in work in the streets but told the pitfalls of the game as opposed to glorifying some kind of fantastic success in the streets that never happened. The intelligent and skilled emcees were held in high regard. Bottom line, the game had more YIN and YANG balance back then, light with dark, masculine with feminine energies. From my perspective, the wicked industry gradually infected the game with an abundance of dark, feminine, BITCH energy–little heart and passion, mostly lust and false bravado.

    •  I get that basically then the real question is why aren’t the conscious artist making the same or greater effort to get pushed out like the other music.

      • Q.

        There are a lot of talented, “conscious” artists who’ve been busting their tails for years to be successful in the industry, with some carving out respectable careers entirely off of touring and independent sales, while maintaining control of their brand and product. The problem is the unconscious and greedy ones who allowed our culture to be sold on the corporate auction block, compromising all self-respect and values to obtain the highest level of shine.

        There has been an agenda in Amerikkka to stifle the Rise of the Black Youth since day one, so we should’ve expected attacks on the revolutionary and uplifting side of Hip-Hop music. But we Black people/consumers have to take responsibility too for co-signing some of these clowns who’ve mis-represented both our culture and us. Maybe WE sold out by supporting unintelligence in our music. We lost control of our own image.

      • real talk…

    • Mongo Slade

      wow u said something right there

    • Byron Starnes

       you speak the truth dog, I love this post.

  • Best Comment Advanced Dialogue

    A lot of these young rappers can rap, even the mainstream ones but they just need to focus their attention on something meaningful. 

    Rap makes sense. A lot of older people say that they don’t know what rappers are talking about but it isn’t all slang, and the punchlines nowadays make it obvious as well, it’s just a style, don’t get lost.

    People don’t fear GOD nowadays but they don’t know his power. If they knew how he affects us because of what we do, nobody would be rappin’ about anything bad just because they want to or because it’s cool. 

  • Orus Dias Delaney

    A lot of these kids rapping are rappin to what they were conceived to. Trying 2 remix it. Annoyes me. I have my old school CD’s from that I bough back in ’87 to ’07 on here. Not afraid to still listen.
    My cousin hipped me 2 NWA when I was 8(a long time ago.) I just had to dub a few from wax to blank tapes 4 him and friends. He got in trouble. My dad liked it and told me not 2 sing FTP outside. Also made sure I knew it was music. 

  • I agree with you to the FULL extent. I`m seventeen, love HipHop as if it was my child, but there`s to many nothing asses trying to be rappers. They have the mindset of I don`t have to go to school, let me sound like the next guy that`s rapping. Get a few fans & YouTube video hits & I`ll become a rapper. Its sad, but true. I only listen to JayZ, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, J. Cole. Artist of that such. These new age “rappers” are just highschool dropouts with a Get-Rich-Quick scheme.

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  • jamaicanbornanbreed

    nowadays it dosen’t have to make sense…..just listen to bars from drake or wayne or tyga or manaj or ross….hip hop music has not had to make sense since lil john got on wax and screemed at an transparent side….my problem is when folks tell me hip-hop is evolveing….it’s not…whuts evolveing when in hip-hop there is three topics and three topics only…1.bitches in the club..2.thugery and trap music or better yet punching bitches in the club…..3.my swagger(boasting about women or jewlery or cars or money.etc)……dats it…..there is room for nothing else…..i remember growing up with hip-hop and there was tons of topics…sometimes one rapper would tackle a bunch of topics…i remember big daddy kane would rap about being the illest on the mic..then how much the ladies(not bitches) loved him…then he would rap about him being a 5percenter……now these dudes aint dat rounded….if they not talking about there constant conquer of women or lies about them in the trap or about there god damn swag a word i feel should be liquidated..then these dudes have nothing to say….dats why i think rap is dying…there is no room for growth…and when something stops growing its death is inevitable…i actually have to go to the underground scene to listen to good hip-hop…which in my opinion the only thing clinging to life as far as hip-hop is concerned…..for the people who might think me or the publisher is tripping…..this is my point…hip-hop is going backwards because now whut you say dosen’t have to make sense…..one of the 1st hip-hop battles dat is well known was when bizzy bee an old school rapper dat has the same attributes as these young rappers such as…unoriginalty(bizzy bite rhymes off everybody)..gimmicks..etc etc…bizzy was a party mc and was well known for rocking the house but that was it…son wasn’t lyrical he was only about the party….u see whut i mean by bizzy having the same attributes as these new young rappers…neways bizzy was facing kool moe dee because of something said by an heckler…kool moe was from the threachous 3 and was a lyrical rapper…moe wasn’t into biting no one else flow or style fore he had it in spades…for moe nothing was more important than his rhymes making sense..every word every bar…precisely put together…..now everyone knws the story(i hope)….the battle was a mismatch and kool moe wiped the floor with bizzy of course..and to qoute the great krs-one dat was a changing of the guard in hip-hop history….because dat layed down the rules/foundation to hip-hop…from dat point on it was not cool to bite someone style and it has been like dat till recently…it was also a must dat whut you said made sense..and since then it’s grown out of control….to a point where now we are starting to digress our morales and ethics as far as hip-hop culture and it’s all for the gwap…..now this generation is not the 1st to sell out..look at mc hammer….but this genaration dosen’t follow the old school rules of hip-hop so no one has a backbone and they all want dat instant gratification so the difference with this generation and ours is that in this era ..THERE ALLL selling out…..they have this laugh now cry later approach(look at young buck)…so in all this music no longer has to make sense and dats the problem

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  • brotha_man

    fast food iz poision suprised they didnt include drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex to this fast food dieting.

  • y wud any1 give their $ to an artist who just talks shit about how much $ they have & u dont

  • Gret article. They word is “Balance”. There’s room for every kind of record but why do all the records being played fall into the same subject matter.

  • Tim Thomas

    It seems to me that to be a rapper all you have to do is be friends with someone who is. One rapper gets established, starts his own label and signs his friends, regardless of their talents. I think the industry is to blame as well. $$ Talks. If you have enough hype surrounding you, real or manufactured, somebody is gonna put you on. Look at Drake and Niki Minaj. They could not hold a candle to any legit rapper in the late eighties or early nighties but because of the hype monster they are the biggest artist out today. One more point is that I don’t think record labels are willing to take chances on individuality and creativity leaving new artist no choice but to sell out or starve. 

  • Sniggih Smalls

    It’s Foolishness. Pure Rubbish. I miss old hiphop.

  • dashademuzik

    How old are the people writing these articles? Maybe it’s “Industry Speak” to call “Rap Music” which is a component of Hip-Hop, HIP-HOP. Rap is a part of Hip-Hop, Hip-Hop is a CULTURE. “Rap” comes from the EMCEE/M.C. and or the D.J. which are 2 or the 4 elements/components that make HIP-HOP. Does HIP-HOP have to make sense?.. Does Graffitti have to make sense? Does Break dancing have to make sense? Call it what it is, RAP Music! Now, does rap music have to make sense? Rap Music DOES make sense, but almost everything we hear through mainstream media is made for one purpose and is targeted to a specific audience. If all of the so called Conscious Rap supporters would elevate an artist they thought was worth it an 3 or 4 of those artist were gaining mainstream momentum like your Lil Waynes and Kanyes then the scale would be balanced. But what do I know, I’m just a doing what I do youngins. -Da’Shade Moonbeam

    • Byron Starnes

      NOPE you “youngans” are doing what the powers that be what you to do BE DUMB. Don’t listen to “A Song for Assata” don’t listen to ” Just to get by” listen to all this nonsense and just allow the gentrification of Hip Hop to continue. The sad reality.

  • Thee_Gooch <—- Twitter

    BIG KRIT!…. He does it for all age groups. “Thank God and Stay Humble”

  • i just artists could understand nobody cares about your bedroom drama, whether you sold drugs or not , all we care about is good music.

    • Byron Starnes

      and you are either NOT BLACK, DUMB or Stupid. Hip Hop is BLACK CULTURE. I’m not even racist dude but you are LOST-look at your post and read it to yourself and get back to me with your lack of proper grammar.

  • insaneangelic

    Rap music now is a product of the media corporations. Then on top of that people who listen to the radio feel regardless of the ability if a rapper isn’t on MTV, BET, Clear channel radio, or Radio One they’re nobodies. Masses have been programmed so now good MC’s have to lower their standards just look at Twista last year they played the hell outta Make a movie, and Call the police yet they never played Back to the basics, Hands up lay down, or 3 minute murder. Everybody would rather listen to mindless party music which is cool but no one wants a message   anymore which is all the Exec’s that work for the media wants.

  • antmosess

    Very well spoken Mr. Dews , but you speak a truth that only makes sense to your peers ; and is lost on many youth. (Antmosesss)

  • Base instinct rules common man, civilization is for the enlightened…all music is energy, but some energy is focused at the urge-driven essence of man, and some music is focused at the mind of man. Some people only wanna dance, their minds are really not involved in the experience;they only want something that will motivate them to move their body and release energy. Some people want to experience the artistic excellence of a well thought-out and put-together piece of music, to appreciate the art and the artist for a job well-done. If you’re real about what you’re going after, you already know what is the difference. If you don’t care, then it doesn’t make a difference to you. 

    • Byron Starnes

      Problem is there is NO art form which is focused on the MIND of man; Starships would NEVER get airplay back in the day because SELLING out would mean going POP. Most of Rap ( I refuse to call it Hip Hop) today is POP unless you getting it from underground mix tapes. POP culture is not Black culture-it’s Hollywood. Thus the disconnect from the generation prior to this one.

      • Byron Starnes

         excuse the typo.

  • Fedupwss

    Best advice I can give is Idiot proof your music and take off the dunts cap and really listen to the words that are coming out of your speaker. You don’t need a college degree to call a spade a spade.smh Hip Hop is like a religion and some of the Preachers in this game are false profits selling your behinds down the river.

    • daRealMigos ▬|ι═══════ﺤ

      It’s (dunce cap), and I think you mean (false prophets)…

  • Fedupwss

    Also, Hip-hop used to be full of Righteous teachers now we have a bunch of modern day minstrels selling snake oil. I’m not saying any names but, you know what I mean. It’s not a black thing it’s a human thing and the status is murky to say the least.Hip hop is for all races and is being degraded and luted by big corporations. We can no longer support an industry which screws up the next generation making it ok for women to be dispalyed as sex objects and pushing cushions. Every video has the same dumb concept, Really? are we that dumb and do we want a race of degenerates running around chopped and screwed smh. I grew up on hip hop and follow other genre but hip hop is breaking my poor lil heart. Miss you Tupac but Nas has restored my faith with Daughters.

  • concernedhiphopper

    Well, race has something to do with it. You have corporations marketing mostly “black” hip hop in the mainstream. There are very few white artists who are part of the mainstream even though there are thousands of white artists in the underground. Reason being that there is a form of racism being had. Corporations want to sell an ideal to black America. That ideal is to spend all of your time trying to be a gangster who demeans women, drinks expensive drinks, buys merchandise no one needs etc. This is the message and has been since 2Pac, Biggie and all these other poster children for corporate, white America. The essence of hip hop has never been this commercial crap you here even though it influences every rapper to this day. In regards to the article, I think we forget that America is filled with rappers who actually make conscious, coherent music. They just aren’t marketable to a system that wishes to make its money off of those who don’t have it due to other racial issues in America. Another issue is the slide from selling music to teenagers to selling it to children. Hip hop has entered the Pop world and in doing so allows for a dumbing down of the music even more… Artists like Soulja Boy make there money off of dumb. Kids like dumb because its easy to follow. It is rebellion.