“Times have changed… and it’s cool to look bummy and be a dumb dummy and disrespect your mummy. Have you forgotten… who put you on this Earth? Who brought you up right… and who loved you since your birth?”: “Hey Young World” – Slick Rick
Recently, I turned on a local “hip-hop” station while driving on some Saturday errands. For about 20 minutes, I listened to what was coming through my speakers. My attention was completely on what the station was playing – I wasn’t on the phone and I was in the car alone so there was no one to distract me. After stopping, I got out and put my headphones in my ear and listened to some playlists I have in my phone – dying to hear Notorious B.I.G, Scarface, A Tribe Called Quest or Outkast. As I listened on shuffle, it made me wonder “What in the world happened to hip-hop?”
“People look at you like you’re the user, selling drugs to all the losers – mad buddha abusers. But they don’t know about your stress filled day, baby on the way, mad bills to pay, that’s why you drink Tanqueray, so you can reminisce and wish you wasn’t living so devilish”: “Everyday Struggle” – The Notorious B.I.G.
Hip-Hop’s initial purpose was to give voice to an otherwise voiceless community. Its formulation was very organic. You didn’t need to be a great lyricist or have a great singing voice to be a part of the movement – you just had to be able to move the crowd. Hip-hop was initially about the DJ’s who spoke with their ability to spin and cut records. Eventually, it evolved into an art where DJ’s would spin and MC’s would get the mike and rock the party. There was little if any suburban love for this new way of music and its survival couldn’t depend on downloads and ringtones. Like any new art form, there was skepticism and criticism from those who could not understand its origin. They viewed hip-hop as unnecessary and an emerging culture they wouldn’t embrace on any level. This made it incumbent on the founders and the audience of hip-hop to push it to the next level – making it recordable.
“My stereo’s bump and the ATL funk, you can call what it you want either way the s*** bumps”: “Gangsta Beat 4 Tha Street” – Eazy-E
Depending on your age or how early you were exposed, your first recollection of hip-hop may vary. If you grew up on the west coast, maybe it was Ice-T, Too Short or NWA. In the south, maybe it was UGK, the Geto Boys or Two Live Crew. In the north, maybe it was Run DMC, LL Cool J or Slick Rick. But if you were exposed more than once and liked it – you became hooked. The beats, the lyrics, the sound all encapsulated cool. Depending on the crowd you were associated with, you appreciation for the sound grew as you and your crew got deeper into it. It got so deep that regardless of where you were from or where you grew up – you begin to appreciate the sounds that came from other areas outside of your own. This became the heart of hip-hop in its evolution. The ability of its artists to make music that represented geographical identities without alienating the potential for fans outside of it.
“Before the BDP conflict with MC Shan, around the time when Shante dissed the Real Roxanne.
I used to wake up every mornin, see my crew on the block every day’s a different plan that had us runnin from cops; If it wasn’t hangin out in front of cocaine spots, We was at the candy factory, breakin the locks”: “Represent” – Nas
Intelligent word-play meant everything. It wasn’t about just putting words together that rhymed – artists had to be able to tell a story with lyrical content that in some cases bordered on melodic improvisation. Combine that with beats made off of jazz and r&b canvas and hip-hop was born. It meant everything to kids and young adults. In some cases, hip-hop became a daily part of a particular generation’s life. You listened to the radio every day. You watched videos on MTV or The Box – hoping to catch one the new hot joint of the day, week or month. You learned lyrics (some people even know the entire full length version of “Rappers Delight) and you were proud to flow along whenever a song came on that you knew by heart.
“Summer ’88, or was it ’89, or was it wintertime, ah, never mind; I’m in my room, boomin’ drawin’ LL Cool J album covers with Crayola’s on construction paper. I’m trying to f*** my neighbor, I’m tryna hook my waves up, I’m tryna pull my grades up, to get them saddle lace ups”: “Sixteen” – Andre 3000
It was a simpler time. Even if you didn’t always understand the lyrical content or some of the songs were to mature for you – you could feel it. It was just its time and growing up in the 80’s and 90’s meant that hip-hop would grow up with you. But what happened? Where did Hip-Hop go?
To be concluded….