The views expressed inside this editorial aren’t necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com or its employees.
We Bid One Decade Adieu & Welcome Another (Spoiler Alert)!
And we are alive in
Delicate hearts, diabolical
Mos Def, Life in Marvelous
Times, The Ecstatic, 2009
We can take a stroll down memory
lane and relive the many disappointing moments the last decade offered.
We can reminisce over missteps taken, errors made, problems unsolved.
We can look back and remain restricted to the pastlike Lots
wife. We can. But we wont. We are Hip-Hop. The past might be
prologue, but it hardly says much about the possibilities awaiting a
culture and generation not quite through tampering with the world, in
order to make it as good as its promise.
We have expunged one tense
and theatrical decade, and now, we cut open the ribbons unveiling a
fresh, new one. The next decade is sure to be very interestingin
multiple terms. If the last is any indicator, certain predictions can
be made, even from this hollow ground upon which we are currently poised.
Here, I hope to briefly offer 5 of such predictions.
In no way are these guaranteed,
but I believe 10 years from now my estimates would have yielded enough
proof worthy of a I Told You SoNow, **** Me! editorial.
Internalization of Hip-Hop: If you still think Hip-Hop is
a North American culture, restricted only to the United States borders,
youre bound to be sorely disappointed in the coming years. As Africa
and Europe especially come close to dominating the Hip-Hop scene with
new and challenging rhythmic and lyrical twists, I hope the narrow-mindedthe
jingoisticamongst us would be able to pay off the deductibles on
the heart surgery transplants sure to become commonplace. Whether we
choose to be upfront or not, many of us have an unhealthy commitment
to tribalism, coastism, and sexism when engaging Hip-Hopwhich
is deep, as it in no way reflects Hip-Hops true nature. In
the next decade, however, Hip-Hop would most likely be hit with the
triple evils of Diversity, Novelty, and Complexity. Heres to hoping
we have enough compassion in our hearts to tolerate and celebrate
voices unlike those we are used to.
(Continuing) Commercialization of Hip-Hop: If youre a purist
like myselfwith an almost Nazi-esque demand that Hip-Hop remain free
of all commercial contaminationget your oxygen tank fully functional.
Youll be needing a whole lot of it. For those who believe Hip-Hop
is slowly losing the rat race or loosening whatever gridlock it had
on corporate America, slap yourself three times. You might be overdosing
on morphine. At no other period in its history has Hip-Hop made more
millionaires than the last few years. And thanks to the ubiquitous nature
of Rap music todayin restaurants, airlines, TV ads, Magazines, Disney
merchandise, beer commercials, student loan promos, lecture halls, classroomsthe
next decade almost promises a steep rise in commercialism for Hip-Hop
music. No indication suggests a dissipation or depreciation any time
soon. As much as CD sales might be down, the same cant be said for
Hip-Hop merchandise. On the backs and bodies of kids and adults alikeHip-Hop
lives. In their ear drums, through MP3 players and iPodsHip-Hop lives.
On their TV screens and smartphonesHip-Hop lives. Theres too much
money left in this Rap business, and until the cow is drained of all
milk, that creepy, bald, White guy with the baseball hat and the white
T-shirt tucked into his khaki pants is unlikely to halt stroking that
sensitive area gently but firmly. (Of course its not just
White men anymore. A couple of Negroes here; a couple of suffragettes
there. But that goes without saying.)
Were three full decades into this thing called Hip-Hop, and I believe
the next decade would yield greater validation than the last did of
an artist-base fed up with WWF beefs and jerry curl spats. Signs of
the last few months suggest many commercial rapperswho in the past
never even bothered to construct parallel rhyme schemesare getting
a tad bit discomforted with the overflow of ringtone rappers, and are
now turning to a more lyrical landscape for refuge. Artists whose debut
body of work spoke of nothing but mediocrity and minimalism began taking
seriously the musical debt owed to fans for demanding $10 for music
made with $.10 concepts. Artists would likely become more serious and
engaged on the musical front as well as the money frontwhich raises
a favorite topic of mine: The
Death of Record Labels.
Say adiós to the ba**ards who ruined Hip-Hop! Its improbable
any of the major Rap labels would make it across River Jordan. Even
the Big 4Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI, and Sony
BMGare likely to be left with only two standing by 2020. The age
of record labels is probably past for good. Good. Of course uneducated
rappers are inextinguishablewhich means record labels would still
exist in some forms (to take as much money from the uneducateds
as possible), but most rappers would come off far smarter and business
savvy within these next 10 years than ever before; either through diligent
study or unforgiving, unpleasant catalysts. One way or another, artists
would come to see how
unnecessary a label is
to selling a brand and marketing directly to consumersconsumers who
never believed the worth of an artists music was only as valuable
as whatever big-name label was printing the CDs or sponsoring the concerts.
Artists would probablyagain: by compulsion or coercionbecome more confident in striking million dollar deals with
corporations and organizations smart enough to still believe
in the buying and selling power of Hip-Hop. Yes, more commercialism;
but more control, freedom, and maturity for artists abused and infantilized
by cowardly foster parents (industry executives) for decades.
Return to Roots:
I believe the next decade would produce uncontrollable nostalgiagreater
than previous yearsfor the Golden Era of Hip-Hop. As we move
further away from that often romanticized age, fans of all stripesbut
most likely older oneswould demand that artists return to the
roots of the fully grown tree which, today, feeds the cultural
needs of millions and provides shade to whomever believes Peace,
Love, Unity, and Having Fun are fundamental principles in the preserving
of a democratic society. And, indeed, many artists would employ aesthetic
supplements to nurture those nostalgic impulses. Dont be freaked
out if hi-top fades come back in vogue, or if gold chains replace silver
jewelry as the new Bling-bling. The next decade should
also bring about a great resurrection of the other 3 Hip-Hop elements
buried to make way for the MCs (and Rappers) rise to prominence.
A possible development in this fetish of antiquity might be the stepping
up of older artist into mentorship roles. If there is any singular crippling
force in Hip-Hop today, it is the fear, resentment, and jealousy many
older Hip-Hop artists arbor against their offspring. Fear because they
truly dont know enough about this new generation and what its
intentions are. Resentment due to the countless occasions upon which
younger artists have foolishly dissedand rendered inconsequentialthe
generationand contributionsthat spawned it. Jealousy because of
the millions flowing into the coffers of artists who have no clue what
it meansand perhaps never willto perform not because Uncle Charlie
promises a Rolls Royce, a Rolex, and a blinged-out crucifix if some
single goes platinum, but because 3,000 people have just descended onto
the park to break-dance and boogie to new mixes and the vocal virtuosity
sure to accompany them. Older artists shake their headsrightfully
sowhen witnessing the defecation of a culture they worked tirelessly
to keep in the hands of consumers and performers; but if Hip-Hop is
to make great strides in the coming decade, they would have to humbly
approach the young artists, with arms stretched forth, granting their
blessings to continue about the business of reminding the world why
kids from the ghetto, barrio, and reservation can never be counted out.
Hip-Hop fans, for all their complexity, might be some of the stiffest
in the world. The moment a well-known artist switches up on fans without
prior warning, backlash follows almost immediately. Whether right or
wrong, whether good or bad, whether wild or dull, the artist is never
appreciated for pushing the envelope. The artist is told to quit playing
around and return to Real Hip-Hop. The next decade, unfortunately
for some, might turn out the Eat Your Heart Out decade. Artists
with trans-national and trans-lingual collaborations wouldnt have
much need of a fan-base still bent on subjecting all songs to the Gang
Starr or CL Smooth test. With even greater cross-genre breeding to follow,
Hip-Hop songs might sound (and look) quite different than what most
are accustomed to. Some for commercial reasons, some serving more productive
purposes; but this predictionthat artists would begin taking career-defining
risks (fans be damned!)is perhaps strongest of all. For too long,
artists have sat in the pockets of fans, controlled and contained, smothered
and subdued. Well, no more! Hip-Hop artists would arouse anger in some
fans and earn gold stars from others, but what a thrilling experience
it is sure to be. The innovative uses of dynamic technology should provide
equal amount of enragement and excitement from fansone side arguing
organic Hip-Hop is being eroded; the other reveling in the ability
to make music quicker and easier. But what a thrilling experience it
is sure to be.
Its important once again
to remind readers by no means are these irrefutable predictions of the
near futureMs. Cleo is yet to anoint me with oil. But as one decade
goes by and another opens its doors, if these 5 markers are kept in
heart, fans and artists might not be taken aback by any twists and turns
guaranteed to show up lurking at every nook and cranny.
See you on the other side,
Tolu Olorunda is a cultural
critic whose work regularly appears on TheDailyVoice.com and other online journals. He can
be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda@gmail.com.