Well, it’s actually rap music that’s dead
I only made the same New Year’s resolution I’ve made every year since 00′, lose weight and finish a screen play. However, now I’m thinking I should add one, to smack the next fool who complains about people who say that “hip hop is dead.” Noz at XXL is the latest to bravely step forward and proclaim that hip hop is not actually dead, it’s only different. Really. I’m shocked.
Of course, what the “hip hop is dead” crowd (and Nas) are really arguing is that rap music sucks ass lately. And yes, for most of the chart toppers, that’s true. (I’m going to have to copyright this next line since I’ve got so many biters on it now attributing it to “a friend”) Rap music is the new hair metal. I’ve said it a few times over the past five or six years. Nelly = Winger. Compare some currently popular rap video with the one for “Cherry Pie” from Warrant. See?
This isn’t about a lack of “substance.” Usually, that’s what people think this boils down to, that no one is making records like PE anymore. It isn’t that trite. Even Ludacris can take a stab at making a song with “substance” and not do a terrible job of it.
“Swagger” is the problem. It’s become the most overused word in rap music criticism. It’s become, at least among those for whom rap began with Tupac and Biggie, a prerequisite for a good MC. It’s also become a prerequisite for who gets signed and who doesn’t. I suppose many thought Lupe Fiasco would herald a new age of swagger free MCs, and that his album flopped (sort of) could be seen as a testament to the power of swagger.
Hair metal was about swagger, too. Rock was about who could do the most smack, sleep with the most groupies, down the most JD. How high is my hair, Brett Michaels may have asked, just as Paul Wall may wonder how iced out is his grill?
Cars, clothes, and hoes have become apparently far more interesting than the music. We have rampant ghost writing and beat jacking. It’s all terribly boring and tedious on the Billboard 100*.
Noz, this is not about people getting older, either. there’s vital rap music being done young cats that old heads can appreciate. If I can still appreciate the goofiness of Three Feet High and Rising or Rakhim’s harder than you navel gazing on “Don’t Sweat the Technique” there surely must be something to like these days, right?
Change is exactly what rap music hasn’t been doing a whole lot of lately. That’s the problem.
*There are of course very many artists out there doing interesting things. With selections as diverse as POS, Swollen Members, Mos Def (his new disc is pretty challenging and good), Count Bass D, there is a lot to like and good reasons to say that hip hop is not actually dead. I think by pointing this out, you can make a better argument that hip hop is not actually dead.