Historically speaking, hiphop had always been seen as a subculture. A distant planet that was unknown by suburban america and consequently the rest of the world.
A time where Kool Herc starting hosting his first parties, reuniting feuding gangs, drug addicts and other members of the South Bronx community. A time were Africa Bambataa created the Zulu nation and gave birth to the ‘Infinity lessons’, a manual where a generation could self educate and be acknowledged, living under the culture of the ‘oppressed’ without turning into an oppressor’.
A time, were a municipal disinterest by the government, had left thousands of people stranded within their boroughs with little opportunity and chances to escape their harsh reality.
A time were graffiti or ‘writing’ , the concept of ‘breaks’ in the beats, b-boys competing for street credibility was a medium of expression where a young disgruntled generation, left to themselves, could express themselves.
A time of change, of unity. A cultural revolution. Which brings me to my questions: what happened to hiphop?
As an avid fan of not only the music but of the culture, I am sometimes left perplexed and saddened by what I see around me. Lets get this straight , I am not a hater nor a judge, I believe anyone who expresses their art, as it is a form of expression, a form of identity and as an artist myself should be free to put it out there.
Lets get back to the basics: late 1970s, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five release ‘The Message’. The lyrics were frank , political and with clear socio economic connotations. A song which depicted clearly a rawness of the situation that was currently being lived everyday in the boroughs of New York.
In Miami in 1990, Luther Roderick Campbell (Uncle Luke) and the 2 Live Show were busy fighting their own political battles which would not only represent a fight for freedom of expression but for the whole future of hiphop in the years to come.
This brings me back to my previous questions: what happened to hiphop? Is today ‘s message more about being rich , fancy cars, stellar earnings, streaming , followers and what kind of jet they want to buy next week rather than their actual words.
A past generation of ‘woke’ artists are probably turning over in their seats listening to a lot of the music being played now. Not a critisicm, but what’s happened here, where’s the inspiration , where’s the fight and hunger .. bringing people together, provide ‘food for thought’ .
In terms of music, hiphop is now the most listened, streamed genre of music world wide, turning it into a multi billion dollar cash cow and effectively making it a proper established ‘culture’. At the same time, this globalization has ripped out it roots and paradoxically it could not be further away from what true hiphop intended to inspire.
Lets take a moment to look at the situation in Italy (where i currently reside). We have a lot of up and coming hiphop stars Sfera Ebbasta, Capo Plaza and Ketama126 to name a few. A new generation of artists who seem to refute the influence of the older generation and seem content with creating a mind numbing amount of singles , using ‘chopped and screwed techniques’ that drill into your mind. Looking at it objectively, for the new generation ,it all looks great, but on the other side the lack of guidance and need of something more than a fancy beat us needed.
In a country with political instability, economic deficits and enormous social turmoil might be interesting to consider there actually is no message. All you need to do is listen and traslate what the previously mentioned artists actually say.
Maybe many artists minimize themselves or more sadly just don’t care? a the affect they have on society young people is just a spin off for their promoting tours and labels?. Do artists need to go beyond the music, help the community and be an inspiration to the young? Good Kid Mad City by Kendrick Lamar, Swimming by Mac Miller, 4 Your Eyes Only by J Cole are just a few albums where through different sonorities, rhyme schemes and overall atmosphere of the music you can really take a dive into an artist emotion and therefore really connect with the music.
Now that the current ‘hiphop’ scene (if we can still call it hiphop) has now become the primary culture, this includes fashion, modern art swell as music, we are in desperate need of a niche culture of counter culture. Don’t get me wrong, the advances we have made in all facets of hiphop culture are fascinating, but when it comes to the music what we have is not good enough.
We need more Kendrick Lamars and J Coles , hiphop heavyweights, to keep their message alive. We need something to believe in, something radical, emerging hopefulness to carry us to the next beat. A heart beat..
This is what I want, This is the music I need.