Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is hip-hop?

There has been some discussion as to what real hip-hop is lately. Presently, it seems like hip-hop and rap are drastically different than the hip-hop and rap of twenty years ago. So, what is real hip-hop? Which is better?

Some of today's hip-hop is very similar to pop music. And on the other hand, many other rappers are staying true to the old school nature of rap. So I want to know what you think about the state of hip-hop today. Do you think that hip-hop today is better or worse than what it was in the past? Which artists are the best example of what you believe hip-hop to be?


  1. Personally, I think rap has changed greatly since the 1980's. Many people would not agree with me but I would actually say that it has changed for the better.

    1980's - deep funk baselines, guitar strings (Rapper's Delight)
    Some combinations between Rap music and Rock Music (Run DMC - Walk this Way)
    NWA AND PUBLIC ENEMY changed rap greatly. They started the rise of Gangster Rap which became huge on both the east and west coasts.

    1990's - Tupac and Biggie Smalls - Gangster rap continues but with more focus on partying and having a good time. This is one of my favorite time periods for rap. The West coast was dominated by names like Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg. The east was taken over by Tribe Called Quest, De La soul, Gang Starr etc.

    2000's - Some musicians adhere to strong lyricism (Lupe Fiasco Eminem etc) while others sell out and sing commercial music to make money (Soulja Boy, Lil' Jon, Tyga, Cali Swag District etc.)

    Late 2000's - Strong lyricism in combination with catchy beats. This is my personal favorite era of rap as I believe rappers are finally starting to combine lyrics with social issues. Some of my favorite rappers have just started to earn their stardom (J. Cole, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Chip tha ripper, Curren$y)

  2. As Alec commented above, hip hop has definitely evolved as an art over the past few decades. Some artists aim to replicate a sound from the past while others alter them slightly. Still others come up with entirely new sounds. This is why I see the evolution of hip hop as more of a "branching out" than strictly a kind of transition from one sound to another. For example, as more rappers work with producers of EDM backgrounds, the mainstream sound is changing (just turn on your radio). However this does not mean that other artists aren't still trying to maintain that classic sound (albeit many of them have been relegated to the "underground" subgenre).

    It's important to avoid understating the role other genres of music have played in the development of modern hip hop. Given that producers often sample or create beats that mirror what is currently popular, the changes noted in Alec's post come as no surprise. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that a lot of hip hop out there is swept under the rug by an industry that is incessantly looking for the next big thing. In other words if it's been done before, the general public loses interest.

    So do I think hip hop today is better than that of the past? Maybe. I know there's more variety out there today, so if "better" is defined as the potential for enjoyment by more people I don't know if I could argue against that. Those who listen to the radio enjoy what they hear, while other fans of classic hip hop have access to music of the past and present (even if they might have to dig deeper to find it).

  3. It is difficult to say whether the hip-hop of the past or the hip-hop of the present is better because it changes with the times and styles, as does everything. Older generations would most likely claim that old school hip-hop is better and has more depth, and younger generations may say the opposite.

    Hip-hop is a fashion, it is currently changing and everyone adapts to its styles. It is an unanswerable question whether old or new school hip-hop is better, it is purely a personal choice.


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