Hip-Hop music and culture is over 40 years old, and, in four decades, its reach has grown from block parties in the South Bronx of New York to all seven continents around the globe. And just like anything that is more than a flash in the pan, endurance was essential if rap expected to survive the test of time. And it has proven its resilience over and over again. However, some changes and trends that Hip-Hop has become a part of are more harmful than helpful. Yes, they do help keep DJ Kool Herc’s creation in the headlines and on top of the charts… But at what expense? And how do they help continue to push rap forward so that it will be around to inspire future generations?
AllHipHop.com has come up with a list of disturbing trends in rap that need to be addressed. If they go unchecked, these self-destructive tendencies will continue to harm a culture that has helped so many. And that is the last thing that anybody wants, especially those people (myself included) who are proof positive that Hip-Hop can change lives for the better.
5). Self-Declared Classics: Rap is very competitive, and so confidence is essential. Yet, to declare your own work a classic, that’s presumptuous even by Hip-Hop standards. It not only gives a project lofty expectations, but also seemingly restricts the artists who put that status on their own work. Because after you reach the top, or put yourself there, there’s only one way to go. And especially for new rappers who do that, it could potentially stall a career just as its getting started because the song or album becomes bigger than the artist (or the project flops). The people are who ultimately determine the affect of an artist’s work, and while Hip-Hop legends do have some material that’s widely regarded as “classic” under their belts, it’s the entire body of work that have made them iconic. Not just a single release. There’s another name for that and it’s “one-hit wonder.”
4). Biting: Biting rhymes in Hip-Hop isn’t anything new, but, nonetheless, it is still something that’s been going on a long time and is counterproductive to the authenticity that Hip-Hop prides itself on. And while in a few cases it’s perceived as paying homage, like with Jay Z’s “What More Can I Say”: I’m not a biter, I’m a writer / For myself, and others / I say a B.I.G. verse, I’m only bigging up my brother. In many others, it’s seen as nothing more than theft and artistic laze. Fortunately, with the issue of recycling rhymes recently brought up via Drake using Rappin’ 4-Tay’s lyrics and then reportedly paying him $100,000, biters are now being held accountable for being “overly” inspired by others. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come if rappers continue to steal from each other. Or, best case scenario, they just stop doing it.
3). Calling Yourself God: Similar to biting, Hip-Hop’s references to religion have been around for a long time. And expressing one’s faith or belief in a higher power through Hip-Hop is great (e.g. Rakim’s references to the Five Percent Nation and its ideology, Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” record, Malice becoming No Malice, etc.). But, in some instances, rappers referring to themselves as God with no context other than to be provocative or to brag does nothing more that put forth an affront to many people’s deeply-held beliefs and /or make an emcee look really stupid. A few cases in point – Lil B on “Look Like Jesus” (I’m God / I look like Jesus / And I’m coming with that motherf***ing heater) and A$AP Ferg on A$AP Mob’s “Persian Wine (Young Trap Lord, might die on a cross / Gold link chain swing down to my balls). Considering many people regard Jesus as a peaceful savior and that lots of religious organizations have its members take a vow of poverty, those two lyrics are not only potentially very offensive, but also make no sense at all.
2). Face Tattoos: To be fair, a “bad” tattoo is subjective, and so what some might perceive that way could be viewed as “good” by others and/or it has the ability to be covered up. But based on what has been seen, there are definitely questionable choices that have been made by a number of rappers – especially the ones who get ink on their face. And while it is true that someone like Game will probably never have to go to a job interview, the tattoo on his face that has changed three-times might limit his chances for business deals. And I want to be clear: I’m in no way singling Game out, but using those artwork choices as an example of how if Hip-Hop expects to produce moguls beyond just entertainment, rappers who are face tattoo recipients might want to consider getting them removed before entering an environment that could have people in it who have never even heard a rap record.
1). “Culture Vultures”: Recently, Hip-Hop has been receiving a lot of attention from people within it accusing the powers that be of trying to exploit rap and disconnect it from its essence as well as glorify ignorance. From Damon Dash criticizing Lyor Cohen to Chuck D having a war of words with Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg to Wes Jackson calling out MTV for their coverage of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, it is clear that Hip-Hop is at a crossroads. Perhaps, now more than ever, it is important for rap, its trail blazers, and its power to be recognized so that its history doesn’t get distorted. Everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, etc., has a place in Hip-Hop! But if there is no balance and credit isn’t given where it’s due, it puts the integrity of it all in jeopardy and that is unacceptable.
What do you think? Are there other trends that need to stop? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!