By Jason James
At the beginning of 2010 I decided to implement a new routine into my daily schedule. Before my early morning workout everyday I downloaded a mixtape from one of the millions of rappers who’ve emerged onto the internet radar over the past few years.
Feeling a little disconnected from the trends and all around current events in Hip Hop, I wanted to get back in touch and see where I fit within the grand scheme of things. What I discovered was a bit unsettling.
First off, I realized that I don’t fit in at all and secondly I learned nothing. Not a f***in thing. The reason for that being is because the vast majority of them are pure garbage.
Yeah, I said it. And I don’t care how anybody takes it. If you rap and you feel any type of personal attack coming from me in this article, it’s because you too are trash.
I remember back around 2006 when the 80’s first started to make a comeback. Being an '80s baby myself, at first it felt nostalgic and it was cool to re-visit that era. But then I actually thought about the '80s and the events that occurred during that decade. Other than the birth of our beloved culture, nothing really good happened in the '80s.
Everybody was high on coke (and eventually crack) and just living an all around horrible existence. The music was awful (with the exception of Hip Hop) and either due to the drugs or just complete stupidity, everybody looked retarded. Not to mention my Dad left us in ’86 (thanks again coke!) and me, my mom and my brother were damn near homeless well into the early '90s.
So what was this new fascination with that era? Why were people so desperate to go back to a decade of corruption and over indulgence? Here’s my theory…
Somewhere in the late 90’s/early 00’s the suburbs got a hold of Hip Hop and made it their own. Privileged kids from all over North America became infatuated with the idea of “The Hood” and unlike the suburban kids of the early 90’s, the younger generation didn’t really have any idea what actually goes on in the poor Black, Latin and sometimes even White communities.
The generation before mine bore witness to the horrors of the crack epidemic and they were very well educated on the evil that came out of Reaganomics. Therefore they had a firm grip on what artists like Rakim, Public Enemy and N.W.A. were talking about. To an extent, they understood the struggle and were in full support of uplifting the people. Then, much like the hippies in the 60’s, they all grew up and moved on to other things.
This generation, however, seems to have lost that passion. Being a fan of Classic Rock I often listen to the music from the 60’s and draw inspiration from how motivated the people were to bring change to the world. The Vietnam War was underway, Black communities across America were being unfairly targeted by law enforcement agencies and political corruption was at an all-time high.
So what did the people do? They marched to Washington D.C. and told them what they thought. They wrote songs to empower the people. They formed groups to protect the communities that were under fire. They stood up and told the evildoers to fuck right the fuck off.
And now in 2010 we’re back to where we were in the 60’s. We’re right in the middle of a war that we should not have started or been a part of, political corruption is worse than it’s ever been and now not just the poor communities, but literally every community that sits outside of the extremely wealthy 2% of the country, are under threat of total collapse. And what are we doing about it? Nothing.
I read a great quote once from an author whose name I can’t remember. It said, “Popular culture is a direct reflection of a society’s stream of consciousness”. I think of this quote over and over again on a daily basis. Especially whenever I hit the blogs and cruise around for interesting articles and new music. All I see is a fast food culture that is unable to conjure even the slightest of genuine emotions. An era of people that love to bathe in artificial self-importance and undeserved credit and the art we’re creating is a complete manifestation of that.
I’ve spent hours pouring through mixtape after mixtape; in some cases even albums and out of hundreds of “artists” I’ve found maybe 3 or 4 emcees that are actually saying something. Everybody else just seems so consumed in their own illusions of grandeur that it’s not even really music but more or less a showing of how low the human race can go. And in return the listeners are responding to the garbage and touting it as true artistic expression. But there’s a catch.
I think this generation is actually smarter than the previous ones. The whole hipster movement is really a big joke based in irony. The corny music, even cornier fashion, it’s all a test to see how far you can run with the joke. The more outlandish the better. And I think that the carefree attitude that came with the 80’s fits perfectly into the culture as a whole. Grow a funny mustache and stand around drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon at some hole in the wall art gallery looking at shitty paintings by shitty people. Yeah, that’s so f***kin stupid it’s cool. Attacking the real issues at hand doesn’t make sense culturally because it takes too much effort. This generation wants it quick and as stripped down as possible so it’s easy to digest.
So when you look at the music that’s being created, downloaded and heralded by critics as the next “big thing”, what you find is an endless abyss of sound that will not be remembered in 10 years. The labels, being the passionless loan sharks that they are, could give a f*** less. The kids like it so they’ll put it out there to make a couple bucks. And when that artist is so partied out and coked up they can’t even play an instrument or put words together anymore, f*** ’em. They’ll just find the next ridiculous looking idiot on twitter and package them the same exact way.
My point is, let’s bring good music back. Let’s stand for something. Let’s just be human f***ing beings again.
Let’s get back to a time where the music actually meant something. Let the music determine the image rather than letting the image determine the music. Who cares what an artist is wearing or who they know. Who gives a shit about metaphors and similes. Let’s move back towards passion and subject matter. F*** the packaging and the fashion; let’s get into the heart and soul of it all.
Let’s leave a real legacy, not just a bunch of pretentious bulls*** and sub-par art.
(Jason James is an artist, freelance columnist and writer for RefinedHype.com. You can listen/download his most recent album, "Marvelous World Of Color", here and you can contact him here and here.)
artwork: By commentsjunkie