I think 2015 is officially the year we can all agree that hip-hop is in a vegetative coma close to death.
The generation before us would easily say that it was long gone, but as a millennial I'm ready to finally admit it.
The genre that was initially an art form meant to speak power to truth and ignite a once invisible subculture has now been sold and mocked. Hip-Hop was about rebellion, now it's about corporations. Hip-Hop was supposed to be a revolution for those who couldn't speak anywhere else - now it's a good ole' boys club for the rich and ignorant.
Rappers don't write their rhymes and neither do they narrate their true life experiences. It's about "the look," "the trend," and "the beat." Unfortunately, these tenants have been manufactured by greedy imperial culture vultures who are trying to sell the genre rather than evolve it.
The biggest wake-up call for me this summer was the ascension of now Hip-Hop King, Aubrey "Drake" Graham. If we are simply talking sales statistics and Billboard numbers - since that's what artistry is entirely judged by now - no rapper comes near Drake right now. He has #1s across all charts and he can still sell an album better than many of our current mainstream artists around.
His recent album was really a surprise mixtape, and yet still went gold on the first week of its release. The rapper can draw large crowds that bill his name along. Long story short, Drake is indisputably running things right now.
And for a while, I let him and many other artists like him slide. Sure, he wasn't from the hood even if his rhymes sometimes implied he could be - but neither was Kanye. And even though I find his vocal range questionable, I didn't mind them in his songs because let's not forget how we allowed Nelly to get away with Sweat/Suit.
Everyone loves Drake because he can get into his emotions and make middle-class folks unleash their inner crunk without feeling awkward. Women say he is a vulnerable rapper that appreciates them in his lyrics. But despite all of those things, I appreciated what I assumed to be his originality. Because in a world where Bow Wow's rap career is still being entertained by the press, I can appreciate the sincerity I once thought Drake had.
I repeat: the sincerity I once thought Drake had.
Despite how petty and attention-seeking Meek Mill has taken their "beef", his remarks about Drake having a potential ghostwriter were somewhat validated in the leaked Quentin Miller tracks. And even if Mr. Miller has denied it--because that's what homeboys do while on payroll - it is suspicious enough to raise legitimate questions on Drake's entire creativity.
Too often he has left Mr. Miller off the credits for sounds and lyrics that the public thought he did all by himself. I could go from 0-100 real quick about why all of this is a problem in so many ways...but you can get why hip-hop plagiarism is perhaps one of the worst within the music scope.
You can't compare this to Britney Spears having auto-tuned vocals that nobody ever thought she really had to begin with. Basically, Drake's having a potential ghostwriter questions the entire motive and existence of his brand.
And unfortunately, regardless of whether or not the allegations are true (I think they are, partially because he has yet to actually address them head-on) he's been bought by the protection of his commercial success - and that's not Hip-Hop.
The genre used to have "real" beefs - ones where there was an equal footing regardless of commercial success. Tupac and Biggie were both at the same level of collection impact and bi-coastal lyrical dominance during their tragic rivalry. 50 Cent had less hits before he toppled Ja Rule. Jay Z and Nas were once in different trajectories before we saw who advanced further in the end. But the music made us pick the winner - not social media memes and/or shots at one's financial status.
There is a sort of classism in rap now that has been over-saturated in conspicuous consumption and being within the industry's capital favoritism of sorts. Now rappers act like R&B divas when comparing how many units their music sales as if that has ever actually bared any legitimacy to their skills within the genre.
Fun fact: "Crank That Soulja Boy" is one of the highest selling downloads of all time...and "rapper" Flo-Rida has many to boast about on that front as well. According to the new logic - that would make them some of the most talented "rappers" around...
Yeah, I didn't think so either.
Rappers crave Grammy's and MTV awards more than ever now - and when they don't get them, their labels go even harder in campaigns to help make it a reality. The new Kendrick Lamar doesn't fool me one bit...being in Taylor Swift's epic pop video isn't a relapse - it's called strategic marketing. So does this soon-to-be forgotten Fetty Wop making his global stage debut during her tour as well.
We, the listeners, are no longer prioritized as much as we used to. Sure, money is a part of the motive, but it wasn't as blatant in the lack of craft and skill in the music. Back in the day, horrible Hip-Hop was teased and sent back to the drawing board. Ask Vanilla Ice.
Today, it's more of the rule than the exception. Ask Iggy Azalea.
And because everyone wants to make money, nobody wants to speak up - because the integrity is no longer there.
This is why I can no longer act as though my taste for Hip-Hop is still alive and well. Either the music debases women, LGBT, or attempts to pit my dark brown skin tone against my lighter brothers and sisters. Or it's just about problematic sex, drugs and money.
The current state of Hip-Hop has been sold. Rest in peace, for now.
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