June 15th, 2009 | By Sonnie Johnson
In the 70’s, a new form of music took over New York City. Young men and women needed a new sound and the creative forces of their generation gave it to them. Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and a host of “DJ’s” carried the sound from hoods, to street corners, to clubs, and now it’s all over the world. What started as RAP, turned into the Multi-Billion dollar Hip Hop Industry.
Few Examples, Have More?
The 80’s showed the adolescence of Hip Hop. It resembled the first day of kindergarten. Everything was fresh and new and you were super excited to see what the next day held. Run DMC mixing rap with Rock n Roll, LL Cool J driving the ladies crazy, and Will Smith showing kids how to cope with everyday life.
Few examples, Have More?
The 90’s changed the game. When you started middle school, you knew the rules. Yet, you did everything to see how far you could push it. So came the birth of Gangsta Rap. The cool kids, the West Coast, basically ran the industry. Snoop’s Gin and Juice, Dre’s Let me ride, Ice Cube’s No Vaseline, and every Tupac song.
You learn a lot about yourself in middle school, just as we learned a lot about ourselves during our Gangsta Rap period. We learned the fragility of life by losing two of our biggest stars, R.I.P. Tupac and Biggie. We learned the money making ability of Hip Hop. Most importantly, we learned the power Hip Hop held over the masses.
Few Examples, Have More?
The new century brought about the bling. In high school, you did everything to fit in, that’s the Hip Hop Industry of the last 10 years. If you say you got this, I’ll say I got that. If your necklace has 50 diamonds, I’ll get 61. You think your girl is bad, I got 5 girls. A truly artificial and commercial approach to life and music.
But, as every cycle eventually does, the money bragging and one upmanship of the last decade is coming to an end. It’s replacement is not fully known yet, but we are definitely experiencing the change in the music.
The question: Will we continue the cycle and have “College Hip Hop” as the next step or will the music mirror the statistics and produce “High School Drop Out Hip Hop”?
Complicated question. I vehemently dislike the dance crazes of today. Every time I hear or see Soulja Boy, I imagine crushing his vocal box. Yet the conservative in me, the free market lover in me, can’t help but appreciate his abilities.
To take a song from the Internet, to the mainstream, and build a name and niche for yourself is worthy of praise. Whether I, as one singe person, like or dislike the finished product, I like the lesson. Before Soulja Boy was an artist, he was an entrepreneur. Before he became one of my least favorite artists, he was a young black man navigating the bumps and bruises of decision making. Before he ruined radio for me, he picked a destination and reached it.
Now, he’s worth more than a lot of artists who “sold a bunch of records and still owe dough.” Jay-Z, Imaginary Player. He is a true product of the American Dream. How can I hate on that?
Plus, how can I look past the clues to the next generation of Hip Hop. Rap started with entrepreneurs. Hip Hop started with entrepreneurs wanting to make money off the Rappers. Then the created industry took over. Rappers were no longer in control of the music they made and the music became more about the money than the art form.
With the invent of social networking, the pattern is starting to reverse itself. An artist can make the kind of music he/she wants with no outside influence. All they need is a hot beat, lyrics, and an ability to promote themselves.
I HATE to admit Soulja Boy is the spark and catalyst to this movement. Those of us who lived through the first decades of Hip Hop find this impossible to believe. We speak of Beastie Boys, Too Short, and Slick Rick and find it heartbreaking to add Soulja Boy.
I’m sure 70’s babies had squabbles with 80’s. 80’s babies had squabbles with 90’s and so forth. We don’t have to like it, but we must continue to support Hip Hop. At this stage in the game, the new genre hasn’t taken hold yet.
Will it be, “College Hip Hop”? Hip hop music that is open to new ideas, formats, and experiences. The experiment is already in progress. Kanye West and Lil Wayne creating Rap N Roll, Gospel Rap reaching into churches, and Hip Hop songs and dances gracing stage plays.
Or will it be, “High School Drop Out Hip Hop”? Hip hop music that refuses to look at itself in the mirror, so it emulates others around it. “My President’s black, My Lambo’s blue”, a love song that places a name ahead of true emotion, or beef songs because I can’t get my album to sell.
The fight for the new generation of Hip Hop is underway. Either way the wind blows, looking back at the catalyst, should bring you great hope. Self made, still in high school, big dreams, passion, and most importantly success.
Enough success, that leaders in the game are calling you out. Enough success that bloggers, like myself, take time to write about you. Enough success, that laughing at the haters comes with ease. Enough success that one ridiculous song after another, gets infinite radio play. Enough success to make true lovers of Hip Hop question the direction of the music.
Do not fear Hip Hop fans. Rejoice. Hip Hop’s constant evolution and experimentation solidifies it’s longevity and importance in America’s culture. Hip Hop’s ability to set the tread in dance, clothing, and over all style proves the power of our generations’ creativity. Hip Hop’s power to create massive followings motivates this generations ability to capture a piece of the market.
Hip Hop has made a full circle. Now the money is starting to flow back into the hands of the people that actually make the music and though the industry is mad, consumers should be happy. Creativity will make it’s way back into the music.
But we have a very important role to play. We must seek out and support the artist that are moving the music forward. The young entrepreneurs that grew up in tough conditions and made it out. The young artist desperately trying to figure out who they are, through rhyme and reason. The young sister’s forcing their way towards a true level playing field in Hip Hop.
Soulja Boy may have been the catalyst, but we can help influence the finished product. Get on Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, and any other social sites and find the music, support the artist, and have your thumbprint of the next generation of Hip Hop.