Hip Hop: 4 Signs that this is a Dying Genre

Great article by Nick Cannata-Bowman which helps put into words my feelings over the last few years about hip hop and the future of hip hop.

Photo:  Tidal Launch

From The Cheat Sheet:

Hip-hop is a music with a history dating all the way back to the 70s, having evolved in each decade since. What we have today though is completely unrecognizable from the genre’s origins in the streets of the Bronx, New York. The modern industry features megastars like Jay Z and Kanye West, raking in millions of dollars on album sales, huge-scale arena tours, and award-show appearances. In the midst of all that, it’s easy to forget that the goal wasn’t always to make money.

The hip-hop industry as we know it now certainly has quality artists. Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and more have helped pioneer the next generation of rappers, but even that’s not enough to overcome one simple fact: Mainstream hip hop is effectively dying.

1. Ego has become prioritized over music

The things making headlines nowadays concerning hip-hop and rap typically won’t be about quality music. More of what we hear is the latest incident from Kanye. Or Jay Z’s most recent comments about how his music streaming service is making history. Outside of that sphere, typically all we hear the biggest rappers talking about is how great they are, sans the actual proof of that greatness. It’s become more about puffing your chest out than simply going into the studio to make good music, which in turn has diminished the quality of what we’re given.

2. The original motivation behind the genre is gone

Hip-hop began in humble roots, acting as a voice for the disenfranchised of the younger generation. It’s since been packaged, commodified, and sold to the masses, having long since lost its original meaning. Most lyrics now are about making stacks, while pointless beefs with other artists over social media dominate the landscape. At the risk of sounding like the old man on the porch waving his cane, “back in the day,” hip-hop used to be a movement that stood for something. What it stands for now certainly isn’t the same anymore.

3. The music we do have has become oversaturated and inane

Let’s take a second to cherry-pick some relevant example. Some select lyrics from O.T. Genasis’s hit song “CoCo” that peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100:

I’m in love with the coco
I’m in love with the coco
I got it for the low, low
I’m in love with the coco

Values aside, an ode to O.T. Genasis’s love of cocaine is as far from artistic integrity as you could possibly get. Odds are it took O.T. little effort to write, while yielding a whole lot of reward. When the bar for a hit song becomes “repeat ‘I’m in love with the coco” over and over again, it becomes fairly clear we’ve arrived in a bad place (also worth noting, Tyga repeats “rack city bitch” upwards of 54 times in his hit, “Rack City”).

4. Money is all that matters

As it is with any art, there’s nothing in this world that can’t be commodified. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to make a living off of your art, the role models young rappers have in the industry are the ones setting the tone. Aspiring rappers see their idols rolling around in Scrooge McDuck-esque piles of money. This in turn makes their art a means to an end; the creative process is corrupted at its very roots, when the goal is to get rich. It’s also of course driven by a number of socio-economic factors, with “getting big” acting as the straightest path out of poverty and into a mansion.

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