Questlove, ?uestlove

Questlove Explains Why Commercial Hip Hop Is Failing + More

(AllHipHop News) In 2013, the music industry experienced its lowest five week stretch in Soundscan history and the last week of July 2013 had the lowest weekly total ever (4.68 million copies). Earlier today (May 20th), Questlove spoke on how even commercial Hip Hop is failing due to the changing climate and its stagnant relationship with innovation.

Questlove answered questions from Vulture readers about his recent five-part essay series on Vulture which focused on the change and demise of Black culture. In his answer to one reader, The Roots drummer explains how Hip Hop’s apparent dominance is deceptive and that it’s not only the art that is suffering but the sales:

Now the commercial heads aren’t doing big numbers anymore. Big Sean went from selling more than 300,000 copies to under 150,000. 2 Chainz moved more than 600,000 of Based on a T.R.U. Story, but was down to 250,000 for B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. Rick Ross, for the most part, held steady as a gold-selling artist between 2006 and 2012, with albums in the 550,000 to 750,000 range, but his last time out he got to 300,000. Future’s Honest, one of the most highly touted and advertised releases of the year, moved 11,000 copies in its third week on the chart, and has only sold 85,000 overall so far. 

Questlove and The Roots recently released their 11th studio album, …& Then You Shoot Your Cousin, a body of work predicated on experimentation. According to Questlove, while Hip Hop may have a few acts indulging in that level of experimentation, innovation is becoming lost on the art form”

In DJ/sonic terms, it’s similar to what happens with a siren: When it’s headed our way, the pitch is a little higher because sound waves are bunched up. As it moves away, they spread out and that pitch drops. Well, hip-hop culture has redshifted. The pitch has dropped. Innovation may exist, but it’s not the dominant characteristic anymore. It’s moving away.

Check out Questlove’s full Q+A on Vulture here.

  • ladynamor

    Finally someone willing to tell the truth about the lack of innovation and artistic integrity in music today. If Black people in America wasn’t robbed of their true African Heritage and rituals in the first place, and had a history passed down from forefathers that they could be proud of, they wouldn’t fight for Hip Hop as hard as they do. We SHOULD be sensitive about our music, It may be one of the only things we “own” in history, If we don’t give it away. Hip Hop needs to stand up and start making some rules, and enforcing them. Come together and save the culture.

    • STFUUIgnants

      Very well stated

    • Nemesis_Enforcer

      How do you make rules and enforce them? What can you do if someone makes music that you don’t like? Storm into their home and tie them up? I agree with most of what you said but you got very unrealistic at the end.

      The ONLY way to save the music is to control it. But in order to do that, you have to control THE MARKETING. It’s all about what music gets the exposure. And as of right now, you’d be up against the machine that doesn’t want to see the true culture return. They want the ignorant messages so they can control minds and fill the jails. There is no enforcing your will on them. You have to out-pay them for radio time, blog site pages, etc.

      Either that or raise awareness of their existence so that people know when they hear something, it’s not because it is ‘good music”. It’s because someone is trying to send poison to your community and you need to move a different direction.

      • ladynamor

        If more major label artist begin to see and tell the truth, they will affect the companies that sponsor and support these artist. It can become “unpopular” and literally comedic with the right language and Late Night TV Talk Host behind it, Which Questlove has plenty of association with. It has been done before. It can be done again, Gas Face. Just today you see that Forbes is trying to make Iggy Apalea hip hops savior. Rules meaning whats whack is whack, no frills. 3rd Bass over Vanilla Ice (at least) and so on. To mock and promote foolery should not be allowed in Hip Hop, Let PoP Music exploit these clowns.

    • God Body

      For us to own hiphop, we have to get over the fact that it’s not about sales anymore (and it never really was to begin with). Just because someone sells over a million records doesn’t mean their good in hiphop. Macklemore selling over a million to fans who are most likely not partakers in hiphop culture. This to me means he isn’t hiphop. He raps but that’s about it. When white people were not interested in hiphop NWA and the like sold millions of records out of the trunk of their car, those days will not return.

      Technology has made it easy for just about anyone to record a track and release it. A lot of people do hence the massive amount of free mixtapes available. So it’s not about recording music and releasing it either. We have to start living hiphop instead of trying to record it and sell it to each other to consume. That’s gone and past. If someone wants to be a popular music artist that’s cool, go do that, but please take the hiphop label off it. Y’all ain’t hiphop anymore. Your just another worker for the man, trying to get by.

      The only reason the masses were ever drawn to hiphop in the first place is because it was some exclusive ish they saw the cool kids creating among themselves and they wanted in. Record execs formulated marketing plans to maximise consumption and that effort has lead to this state the music is in now. Lowest common denominators everywhere. Boring as **** uninspiring music made with the same mind set as you would make washing detergent or or paper clips. so now it’s about celebrity culture which is the most vacuous pass time known to man. Most of you hiphop head know you don’t like it, but you get caught up in it from time to time. Just by coing to this website, hoping to catch something of the old days when artistic integrity meant something. Not being wack was a real endeavour. Now none of that seems to matter anymore. You got little kids expressing their opinions about ‘get money’ when one getting money in this hiphop hustle save a few chosen ‘massas favourites’.

      If the Don Sterling situation doesn’t show you something you might stay permanently blind to it. It’s pimp game and it has been for awhile. That’s realest part of it. We’re all being pimped. whether your name is Kendrick or Nikki or Busta or Gucci or Kanye your being pimped to the masses and they stick the hiphop label on it and we let them.

      • bisolabliss

        My…My…You seldom come to this forum, but when you do, it’s to drop ‘Ether’. My hats off to you for a well articulated post.

  • TruthSerum

    His comments could equally applied to all genres of music, nobody sells what they use to, the internet killed that. And if you notice, the few acts that still can sell Double platinum or better are cats like Eminem, lil Wayne & Justin Timberlake, who have been around over 15 years each and have a fanbase that grew up with them that still remembers what a record store is. Truth is, even when you get a Highly promoted, critically acclaimed record like Kendrick’s, most folks in his fanbases age group would rather chop their hand off at the wrist then use it to reach into their wallets…..hell, Macklemore has the entire Gay community behind him and hasn’t pushed anywhere close to 2 Million. Those days are just about over.

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  • lbt

    Maybe it’s because those artist suck. Hip Hop is about saying something. Let someone who has something real to say shine. All the popular “artist” say the same word15 times in a row and all of a sudden they have a #1 hit. Maybe if the radio played something worthwhile people would get off this crap they call music and listen to something good. As it stands right now though, all they want to listen to is something with a good beat that easy to remember.

    Play something with a message or worth listening to.

    • Or better yet, rhyming a word with itself over and over again…or even rhyming the SAME PHRASE over and over again. Thats just lame and shows no skills.

  • I agree with most others….Questo’s answer could easily have been “Cause this ish is wack!”

    • W.E.B. Du Bois


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