Google+ Q Dot: 6 reasons Hip Hop is killing itself

Thursday, December 13, 2012

6 reasons Hip Hop is killing itself

Top reasons why Hip Hop is killing itself.

If the music industry at-largestill truly believes that the internet is what has driven sales into the ground over the past decade, the hip hop industry has a much more formidable enemy that has nothing to do with the internet: Itself.  It’s almost comical  but at the same time really sad to the point of tears. Our beloved Hip Hop, the once cool, authoritative, voice of young America is eating itself alive and save for a few bright, smart new artists bucking the system, there is no end in sight.

What has led to this cannibalism? My opinion (for what it’s worth) is that we as an industry have abandoned our artists in favor of a superficial “lifestyle”. The culprits in creating this mess are as follows:

1. Club Promoters.

They’re in every city.  They flood your facebook timeline and inbox with invites. They call themselves “hip hop” promoters or “Urban nightlife” promoters yet there’s generally one slight problem to this labeling. They actually DON’T promote hip hop. Sure they may play some rap music throughout the night but these aren’t hip hop shows these are discos.

These promoters throw the biggest parties in town. You see the pictures online every weekend of a flooded dance floor. The flyers promoting these nights are cookie cutter are glossy images of half naked chicks, bottles of liquor and whatever promotion is going on, generally free cover, drink specials and the 28 birthday parties going on that night. But not one performances by a hot young local act worthy of the crowd. Half the time they don’t even mention the DJ’s name that night. If someone was living under a rock and had no clue what hip hop was they’d think this Hip Hop thing was about models at birthday parties drinking funny named liquor. Not music. 

Here’s the kicker – and the reason why other genres will continue to outlast hip hop: In ANY and I mean ANY other genre of music from Rock to Country to Jazz to Classical to comedy, if you want to enjoy that particular style of music you have to go listen to BANDS PLAY LIVE MUSIC. The lifestyle and the artists are not separated as they are in hip hop. Sneaker exchanges, alcohol sponsored club nights and networking events are all separate events not one cohesive experience.

2. The all about me attitude.

It’s what’s made the battle circuit so wildly popular in recent times. The game’s most popular MCs are focused on – you guessed it – themselves. This is a culture built on being “better” than the next guy. Because of it our fans are becoming extremely shortsighted. Our artists are the only artists who very seldom pay homage to the greats before them. Many kids taking guitar lessons learn songs by greats like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, The Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash but in Hip Hop, younger audiences are not familiar with groups like Tribe Called Quest, NWA and others. If a rapper today were to perform a hip hop cover he’d likely be laughed at. Hell, he wouldn’t even consider it an option but in rock music we have thousands of bands who JUST PLAY COVERS ONLY and make a damn good living at it.  Jazz music routinely honors it’s greats by re-recording classic tunes. Gospel does the same, Classical does the same. Country music is so nostalgic, many of it’s popular singers have been in the Country music industry for 20+ years. Music IS their job. It’s their 9-5. In Hip Hop, there’s an unwritten rule that says once you hit a certain age you’re too old for hip hop.

3. Our culture has morphed into a caricature of itself.

Just listen to commercial radio. Listen to the songs that are labeled popular rap songs. It’s embarrassing. Music is a vehicle to connect people emotionally – rappers wonder why they have no fans and why no one’s career is lasting longer than a few singles. It’s because the feelings are fleeting. We don’t build emotional connections with our fans, we have one night stands. We love em and leave em. It was fun while it lasted – but then the fans go right back to something with substance. Something that will connect with their souls as corny as it sounds. The fact that the popular songs are popular, we have a myriad of independent artists, who in my opinion is the lifeblood of music, trying to get known fast so they copy these trends isolating themselves into obscurity before they’re ever noticed.

4. Crabs in a barrel – but not how you think.

We often talk about our local scenes as crabs in a barrel. Full of hatred for the guy who’s moving up and the attempts to pull him down. That’s not where the problem lies. The crabs in a barrel mentality comes from the top of the hip hop industry and really is more of a cultural issue that stems beyond the music. Everyone says once they get on, they’ll come back and bring their people with them – but somehow one part of that little equation never seems to come through. That’s the coming back and getting your people part.

Truth is, there’s no such thing as a self-made anything. Everyone get’s help from somewhere and in this business, where you can’t learn it in primary school, you need mentors to lean on to provide information and resources or in some cases to bring a few good men and women along with them on their journey who can help spread those resources and the information back to the bedrock of their communities.

In reality what happens is generally the people who make it to the top aren’t used to having shit to begin with so a) they don’t want to share any of it for fear of losing it to the next person or b) because they haven’t had shit they truly don’t know how to share at all, even if they wanted to share it.

So what tends to happen is a much more complicated crabs in a barrel scenario. For example: A guy can get out of the barrel that sits on the ground on his own if he works hard enough. In some cases, the other crabs may just directly or indirectly give him a stepping stone to get to the top of that barrel. It’s when he reaches his hand out to the barrel that sits above that barrel on the ground where he finds it hard to get help out. A lot of your blog buzz MCs get stuck in that limbo – looking for a hand up and out of that barrel but instead sitting at the top of the bottom one.

5. No sense of history

Sure I touched on this in #3 but it needs another vantage point. Looking at the Soundscan results from this week, bands like Led Zeppelin can release a greatest hits album once every 2 or 3 years and somehow generate another 250,000 in sales. Aerosmith can release an album and sell 150,000. Why? Their fans preserve their history. They pass that music on to their kids and their kids, kids. If Afrikaa Bambataa dropped a new album today, or a greatest hits how many do you think he’d sell? If KRS-One dropped a new joint he might do 15,000 units. That’s it. It’s sad.

6. We’re not a culture of discovery

Hip Hop isn’t into the dirty underground clubs, the secret shows and the sub genre fanzines like it used to be. As a WHOLE It’s not nearly as into listening and finding new music as we are one that just takes what is given to us on MTV 2 and commercial radio. We’re honestly lazy. It wasn’t always that way. Hell, hip hop was confined to those basement clubs before it was accepted as a mainstream form of music and that’s what made it cool. Now, we find ourselves in the situation of #1: trying to live a lifestyle for a few hours a week that we can’t keep up outside of that.

Enjoy and share with your homeys. Maybe we can change some of these things!