As a was scrolling through my Facebook timeline just recently, a colleague of mine posted an article called “There Are People in the World Who Are Concerned About the Current State of Hip Hop” published by the The Onion, described as an “American news satire organization.” I wasn’t familiar with them either until during the 2013 Academy Awards when they tweeted that godawful tweet where they called 9 year old actress Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt.” Yeah. Pretty fucking digusting.
Anyways, I would never consider bringing traffic to their site after that whole debacle, however, the title caught my eye so I decided to speed read (it wasn’t that hard). Some of the quotes from the article that stood out to me were:
“They experience true anxiety, day in and day out, about where the music has been and where it’s headed, almost as if their own futures depended upon it.”
“Believe it or not, these are otherwise normal people who are unable to listen to a single track by someone like Lil Wayne or Rick Ross without immediately worrying about whether the song remains true to hip-hop’s roots,” Wolfsheim continued. “This is a real thing that happens.”
“According to estimates, approximately 237 million words have been devoted to the theory that the music has changed because today’s performers didn’t “come up as hard” as earlier generations and will “just say whatever it takes to sell a record.”
Before I continue, I should advise you that reading the entire article (it really isn’t that long) will give you a more in depth perspective. It is set in a satirical tone (this means that it’s not meant to be taken seriously.)
However, I take it seriously. You know why? Because I know these people. They live on Twitter, some are in my lectures and others are acquaintances and and former colleagues. But none are friends. You know why? Because I can’t stand them. I find it incredibly annoying that a bystander of music, someone who is incapable of writing, producing or performing a song will sit hours at a time on their virtual soap box and criticize hip hop that doesn’t meet their high brow (and I’m using this term as satirically as the Onion) standards in music.
As a photographer and filmmaker, I do feel that I have some sort of right to critique (not criticize) photographs and motion pictures since I myself am aware of the artistic process and possess the capabilities to produce such work. However, when it comes to music, something I have zero talent in, I take a more subjective, backseat approach. See, even as a blogger, I try and keep my commentary strictly in an observational tone. And if I happen to absolutely hate something, I make sure my opinions come with a “this is my personal opinion, go check it out for yourself” disclaimer.
At the end of the day, I think its sad when people don’t let hip hop, which they claim they love so much, progress. By constantly making nagging comments (much like a tightly wound parent) about how the current state of hip hop is incomparable to the days gone by, you’re stunting its growth. You can’t expect something to flourish and maintain its momentum if it doesn’t evolve. And evolution always brings change. The world has changed. New technologies have been introduced in every aspect of life. Society has become more accepting of certain things and social norms have greatly shifted over the past 30 years. You didn’t expect art to change as well?
The majority of people that I find complaining about the current state of hip hop tend to be in their very late twenties to mid-thirties. Now, let’s assume some of y’all have kids. Do you sit there, day in, day out telling your children how they’re less-than-stellar compared to how you were at their age? I certainly hope not. I’m pretty sure that what you do do is tell them they’re great kids and you’re proud of them for doing the best they can. And I’m pretty sure you have an astute understanding that they’re growing up in a fairly different world than the one you did. Well guess what, its the same with hip hop.
Our hip hop forefathers and mothers should no doubt be celebrated and respected. However, some of them need to take a seat, perhaps in a rocking chair (I’m KIDDING!) and let the new generation shine. Maybe they wear skirts. Maybe they have offspring before marriage. Maybe they get high off of cough syrup. But so what? Just because you don’t like the current trends that dominate hip hop doesn’t necessarily make them bad. Because before skirts, baby mommas/daddies and promethazine, there were baggy pants, uzis and blunts. And before that there were Adidas tracksuits, fighting for your right to party and crack. And during all these different times in hip hop’s evolutionary timeline, someone was there to complain about how it was wrong.
At the end of the day, you’re entitled to your own opinion. But just remember, there may not be anyone that’s willing to listen to it.