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Hip Hop Is Not What It Used To Be
What Constitutes Music?
According to Webster's Dictionary music is: "1. the art of combining tones to form expressive compositions 2. such compositions 3. any rhythmic sequence of pleasing sounds"
The overwhelming majority of people would probably agree that the third definition most closely relates to what they view music to be, a melodic rhythm that is pleasant to listen to.
Although there will be varying opinion, the general consensus would be that rhythmic melodies that are either sung or played by instrument would be considered music.
When hip hop or rap music, as it was called in its early stages, first came on the music scene many people questioned whether it was actually music. Although musical arrangements played in the background the lyrical portion of the songs were spoken or "rapped", not sung.
Older generations labeled the new genre as non-music while the young innovators of this music argued that it was a new musical form that should be accepted as true music.
As the debate continued more and more artists began to come on board producing more rap songs. The musical form started catching on and before anyone realized it rap music was a major player in the music industry.
Music labels like Def Jam that specifically catered to rap artists began to form. Soon rap music was being incorporated into everything from movie sound tracks to NBA commercials. But the crowning glory was when special categories for rap music began to be included in music award shows.
By the mid to late 1980s it was clear that rap music, later to be known as hip hop, was a major part of the music industry and American culture.
one of the original pioneers of rap Kurtis Blow
Hip Hop legends The Sugarhill Gang
The Sugar Hill Gang
In its infancy rap music lyrics were friendly and innocent which no doubt helped to stem the initial resistance to its inclusion into the music world but as rap music evolved that all changed.
In the latter part of the 1980s and early 1990s rap music, now known as hip hop, began to take on a new persona.
Gone were the days of rapping about "These Are The Breaks"(Kurtis Blow), Its Like That (Run DMC) or "Rappers' Delight" (Sugarhill Gang). A new style and direction was ushered in which changed the hip hop scene into what it is today and that was "gangsta rap".
Gangsta rap brought in an entirely new tone and feel to hip hop. The innocence was gone and replaced by a more hostile, menacing and intimidating attitude.
Rap groups like NWA led the way with songs that talked about retaliation against the police, using drugs and contained disrespectful depictions of women.
NWA's lyrics were so explicit that their music was banned from many mainstream American radio stations.
NWA and other groups like them claimed that their music was a reflection of real street life in the neighborhoods in which they lived and that they were simply expressing their opinions about it in real street language.
In spite of their attempted defense of their music, NWA and other gangster rap musicians found the mainstream music industry was not in agreement with their style of music prompting them to form their own record labels to be able to record and sell their particular brand of music.
Even though there was a nationwide movement to ban gangster rap it caught on and thrived evolving into what we see on the hip hop scene today.
original gangster rap group N(*gg*z)W(it)A(ttitudes)
New Millenium Age
As rap progressed and evolved, for the most part, it continued on a downward spiral culminating in what we hear today.
Although there were some "clean" rappers along the way like Fresh Prince and LL Cool J, many rap artists opted for the more explicit and degrading form of rap.
New age artists like Lil Wayne almost exclusively use lyrics that are disparaging and defamatory to the point of including infamous remarks referring to Emmett Till, the 14-year-old teenager who was brutally beaten, killed and dumped in a river in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at and flirting with a white woman.
In the song the Emmett Till reference was in relation to Wayne describing intercourse.
Many present day hip hop artists routinely use vulgar, explicit and demeaning language in their songs in an attempt to sound "street" or "down" with only a very few taking the high road.
In today's hip hop the message seems to be one-dimensional talking about street or "thug" life. Rarely is there mention of any other area of life which limits the range and limits of the music.
No one it seems raps about love, family life or anything positive which is sad because there are so many other things that could be embraced in the music.
Maybe some of this generation's hip hop artists need to sit down and listen to their forerunners to get some new "old" ideas.