"Conscious Rapper." "Real Hip Hop." I can vividly see the stale faces that usually come with either of these terms. For a long time true music lovers were forced to overuse them to separate the gems from the cubic zirconia, and artists who were perhaps tied to one of them loathed the label because it put them in a box. So where did this disdain come from? Circa 1973 a genre was born...more importantly a culture. Though many try to argue the exact origin and earliest influences, you can't deny it spawned and arose from poverty stricken neighborhoods full of African Americans and Latinos alike; communities that needed an escape. These people needed a language outside of the one spoken by media. Hip Hop was that language. But it wasn't just spoken with words, this language also spoke through Breakdancing, MCing, DJing, and of course Graffiti. So here we are, a community of people "living" Hip Hop; using an art form as an escape from reality. Of course it was hype. Of course it was upbeat. Of course it used call and response...that's what was needed. Not too much emphasis on lyrics right? At least that's what those who favor today's commercial sound argue. From that some of the earliest Hip Hop classics were created. As time went on the harsh reality of living conditions for this birthing community as a result of the crack epidemic, social injustice, and a myriad of other things was so dark that there became a need for more reflection, or detailed accounts of life in the music. Some coming from what they saw around them, some from their own involvement in these things. Many members of these communities would soon become a part of the problem...apart of the crime...apart of the violence — mainly to survive and rise above the oppression and poverty. As this "new" genre became an outlet for expression and escape life continued to happen...and Hip Hop continued to happen with it. Hip Hop was changing. Now that the high of artistic expression had come down, life was still rough and people wanted to talk about it. The general notion was, there's nothing to celebrate right now, but with this lyrical ability and genre-crossing musicality we can talk about what's really going on in these streets in a raw, uncensored way. From this we get some of our greatest classics of all time during what many call The Golden Era of Hip Hop. This "thing" had now reached millions, and had gotten bigger than ever imagined. All the while those struggling remained struggling. But now, everyone wanted in...even the non-struggling. Actually, those in opposite positions of those who endured the struggle now wanted in...but not completely in. Just a little. They must still feel comfortable. It must entertain them. It must not threaten. So dumb it down...dumb it down...dumb it down. The result of this "dumbing down" can be heard just about everywhere to this day. Doing this made the most money, and gained the most popularity and recognition within American society. But wait. There were still some artists with lyrical capability and a story to tell...or artists with some head bangers that attempted to be that escape that once offered a whole community solace. What do we call those people? Ahhh, Conscious Rappers or Real Hip Hop artists. You know, those irritating little artists who live the essence of the genre, and carry out the purpose behind its creation. As more time passed, we got comfortable with this separation. Let's take these artists from what should be the only category, and place them into this "special category" resulting in the genre and culture becoming re-defined. Because it's all about growth right? Subsequently, Hip Hop continued to travel this direction until one day we looked up and here we were. Delivery that puts you in mind of Cat in the Hat, paired with printed tight leggings, recycled beats, and meaningless lyrics. What is this? Oh, that's right! Everything goes in cycles. But what part of the cycle is this? Now we're desperate, we want that old thing back. "Real Hip Hop, now!" "We want it now!" "Bring back those Conscious Rappers!" (really just rappers with skill and a message), "Bring back real Hip Hop!" (really just artists who have true MC talent and who are capable of rockin' the mic and getting a group of people hype through the pain) Trust, this isn't about excluding anyone. Those who appreciate the art form are invited to engage in it without permission. But in all actuality the people who hate these terms are right...they shouldn't exist. Perhaps if we hadn't gotten away from authenticity, there wouldn't be a need to distinguish.
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