Hip-Hop: We Bid One Decade Adieu & Welcome Another

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Rebellion Hip-Hop: We Bid One Decade Adieu & Welcome Another (Spoiler Alert)!

“… And we are alive in

amazing times/

Delicate hearts, diabolical

minds/”

—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 past—like Lot’s wife. We can. But we won’t. 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 interesting—in 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 So—Now, **** Me!” editorial.

The

Internalization of Hip-Hop: If you still think Hip-Hop is a North American culture, restricted only to the United States borders, you’re 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-minded—the jingoistic—amongst 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-Hop—which is deep, as it in no way reflects Hip-Hop’s true nature. In the next decade, however, Hip-Hop would most likely be hit with the triple evils of Diversity, Novelty, and Complexity. Here’s to hoping we have enough compassion in our hearts to tolerate and celebrate

voices unlike those we are used to.

The

(Continuing) Commercialization of Hip-Hop: If you’re a purist like myself—with an almost Nazi-esque demand that Hip-Hop remain free of all commercial contamination—get your oxygen tank fully functional. You’ll 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 today—in restaurants, airlines, TV ads, Magazines, Disney merchandise, beer commercials, student loan promos, lecture halls, classrooms—the 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 can’t be said for Hip-Hop merchandise. On the backs and bodies of kids and adults alike—Hip-Hop lives. In their ear drums, through MP3 players and iPods—Hip-Hop lives. On their TV screens and smartphones—Hip-Hop lives. There’s 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 it’s not just White men anymore. A couple of Negroes here; a couple of suffragettes

there. But that goes without saying.)

Maturity:

We’re 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 rappers—who in the past never even bothered to construct parallel rhyme schemes—are 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 front—which raises a favorite topic of mine: The Death of Record Labels. Say adiós to the ba**ards who ruined Hip-Hop! It’s improbable any of the major Rap labels would make it across River Jordan. Even the Big 4—Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI, and Sony BMG—are 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 inextinguishable—which 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 consumers—consumers who never believed the worth of an artist’s music was only as valuable as whatever big-name label was printing the CDs or sponsoring the concerts. Artists would probably—again: by compulsion or coercion—become 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 nostalgia—greater than previous years—for the “Golden Era” of Hip-Hop. As we move further away from that often romanticized age, fans of all stripes—but most likely older ones—would 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. Don’t 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 MC’s (and Rapper’s) 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 don’t know enough about this new generation and what its intentions are. Resentment due to the countless occasions upon which younger artists have foolishly dissed—and rendered inconsequential—the generation—and contributions—that spawned it. Jealousy because of the millions flowing into the coffers of artists who have no clue what it means—and perhaps never will—to 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 heads—rightfully so—when 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.

Risk-Taking:

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 wouldn’t 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 prediction—that 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 fans—one 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.

It’s important once again

to remind readers by no means are these irrefutable predictions of the near future—Ms. 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,

comrade!

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.

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