Editorial: Death of the Conscious Rapper

The 90s was the placeholder for creative gold coming into formation. Rappers such as, Jay-Z, OutKast, Fugees and others became domineering forces associated with hip hop. But only one above named rapper, Jay-Z, would maintain relevance in hip hop.

Often politically charged, humanist rappers are labeled a “conscious rapper.” The first successful group, De La Soul, progressively changed the perception of “hip hop noise” by adding soul. The hip hop culture young and effervescent bubbled in new areas of media. Television shows such as, A Different World, Martin and Living Single captured the “pro-black” style worn by a culture. Hip hop gave leverage to young film makers like, Spike Lee and John Singleton, creating an untapped market following the conscious rappers direction. The lyric by De La Soul, “Black medallions, no gold,” or culture before money was the unofficial mantra. The jazz inclined rhyme speakers would unintentionally initiate a trend followed by young rappers like, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, and more. These rappers sustained a positive dialogue with rhymes uplifting people.

Today we are reminded of the prophetic times through artists; such as, Lupe Fiasco, Common, and Jay Electronica. However, most of the “good for your soul, hearty rappers” are unsigned artists packaged and sold through the internet (blogs, etc) or the new-age underground.

The unwritten rule seems to be if you’re a fan of Jay-Z you can’t be a fan of Nas. But, what is expected from a culture learned by competition? Hip hop introduced itself in cipher battles in the park and “repping your block.” This may have founded the tradition, but it does not have to define a culture. Some argue the industry; others argue the fans are at fault. But, clinging to one side does not bring the return of an era so golden. The conscious rapper died when cultural unity subsided.

4 Thoughts

  1. Radio is dead. Clear-Channel ate it up. So it’s hard to find good music the traditional ways, but it is out there. Unless you have a nice Public or College radio sittaon nearby, you won’t hear anything new/fresh/beyond formula . As for Sirius/XM, forget about it: of the 100+ channels of music usually one or 5 channels are going to play new out-of-formula stuff and most of that stuff is classic (Little Steve’s Underground Garage, etc)Back 30+ years ago, we had only 3 or 4 sources from on-high to send music down to us, over the FM: those sources didn’t have total control over the actual _production_ of music and its songwriting, like they do now. Nowadays it’s flipped: a million sources for music, and only 2 or 3 produced types of music within each genre, and they are elevated and pushed on us. Country and hip-hop are just another new turf for these pop-expert producers to dabble in. But back in the day, you had artists who could be more freeform and experiment and give us some awesome music, and they had less noise to penetrate (those 3 or 4 channels from on-high I mentioned, the occasional Paylola etc).The audience is fractured to much for those days. So yeah, today’s music ain’t got the same soul. Modern country/hip-hop are pop fused to appeal to the widest audience, and it’s sad because new music rarely produces the visceral emotions ( I love this or I hate this ) the way they used to. New stuff is so homogenized to grab as many fans/customers as possible. Is it any wonder I’d rather listen to my Old Dawgs Waylon/Willie albums (acquired tastes to today’s kids) 1000times over than the latest Taylor Swift or Rascal Flats hit?I’m just a grumpy old man here, I know, but I do really want these hot young artists with fire in their hands to stray from formula. Surprise us, inspire us, make art instead of always making product.

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  2. Ricardo :

    Radio is dead. Clear-Channel ate it up. So it’s hard to find good music the traditional ways, but it is out there. Unless you have a nice Public or College radio sittaon nearby, you won’t hear anything new/fresh/beyond formula . As for Sirius/XM, forget about it: of the 100+ channels of music usually one or 5 channels are going to play new out-of-formula stuff and most of that stuff is classic (Little Steve’s Underground Garage, etc)Back 30+ years ago, we had only 3 or 4 sources from on-high to send music down to us, over the FM: those sources didn’t have total control over the actual _production_ of music and its songwriting, like they do now. Nowadays it’s flipped: a million sources for music, and only 2 or 3 produced types of music within each genre, and they are elevated and pushed on us. Country and hip-hop are just another new turf for these pop-expert producers to dabble in. But back in the day, you had artists who could be more freeform and experiment and give us some awesome music, and they had less noise to penetrate (those 3 or 4 channels from on-high I mentioned, the occasional Paylola etc).The audience is fractured to much for those days. So yeah, today’s music ain’t got the same soul. Modern country/hip-hop are pop fused to appeal to the widest audience, and it’s sad because new music rarely produces the visceral emotions ( I love this or I hate this ) the way they used to. New stuff is so homogenized to grab as many fans/customers as possible. Is it any wonder I’d rather listen to my Old Dawgs Waylon/Willie albums (acquired tastes to today’s kids) 1000times over than the latest Taylor Swift or Rascal Flats hit?I’m just a grumpy old man here, I know, but I do really want these hot young artists with fire in their hands to stray from formula. Surprise us, inspire us, make art instead of always making product.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Like

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