NOTE: I've uploaded this in video form to my YouTube channel! Check it out if you're not in the mood to read.
I told myself I wouldn't do this. I mean, this topic is so controversial I'm bound to get tons of hate for it. But big bad 2016 got the best of me.
So, might as well add my name to the list of people who died in 2016, because I'm probably gonna be crucified after this article.
Modern Mainstream rap music is garbage, and here's why...
Actually, in order to tell you exactly why I hate modern rap music, I gotta take you back to when hip-hop first began...
Rap and hip-hop has come a long way from where it began. Back in the 70s and early 80s when Hip-Hop was still in its infancy, there wasn't really a correct way to rap. Sure, there were people who did it poorly, just as there are today, but back then the genre was more lax with what was considered hip-hop. Also, the lyrics in those early days really were just...something else...
Breaks on a bus, brakes on a car
Breaks to make you a superstar
Breaks to win and breaks to lose
But these here breaks will rock your shoes
And these are the breaks
Break it up, break it up, break it up!
They were kinda basic and cheesy by the standard of today, but they were still incredibly and undeniably and influential part of the genre's history. Hip-hop's forebears took rap from the underground and slowly but surely turned it mainstream. It went from being a subculture confined to Harlem to a national (and soon enough, a global) juggernaut of a music genre.
...So it kinda sucks that we've done everything we can to mess it up.
When hip-hop started, it was party music. And that's okay. But once people started to realize how powerful and wide-reaching the music was becoming, they started to change it up a little bit. People like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five decided to use their position in the eye of the public to speak out against the injustices being perpetrated back then. So they made songs like "The Message" to let people see what they see outside every time they step outside. When they open their door, they don't see a clean cut lawn, a nicely paved concrete walkway, or a bird bath. They see cracked cement stoops, trash everywhere, and people without homes at all. Worst of all, they even see animated penguins completely misusing the lyrics of their songs for comedic effect.
Anyway, after "The Message", people started realizing that this music they'd been using to party and have fun also had the ability to make people listen and pay attention to issues. They now knew they could use it to say something about their day to day struggles, instead of using it to escape from those struggles for a night or two. Groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A. soon rose to the forefront of rap, and started using it to make a point. Rap music had not only changed, it had evolved into something that scared the parents of the people who needed to hear it most: the new generation; the generation that could actually DO something about what was happening.
And then the 90's hit, and gangsta rap started to get popular, and sure, a lot of the bad things that were talked about before were now being glorified and romanticized...But they were still very conscious of society's views toward them and their music. Tupac Shakur is probably the best example. Yeah, he made songs like "Hit Em Up" which were aggressive and violent, but he also made songs like "Brenda's Got a Baby" and "Changes" which were deep, unapologetic looks into the lives of the less fortunate. Rap was still very much a vehicle for change. It just needed the right driver with the right key to start it up. Tupac could have been that, but...He tragically died in 1996.
OR DID HE?
After the 90's, rap started to lose a lot of its symbolism and activism and instead, opted to go full-on party again. There was still the odd song that talked about injustices, but they weren't anywhere near as common as they used to be. There were a few artists like Eminem that talked about the white side of hip-hop's divide in songs like "White America", but that was about a totally different landscape. Hip-Hop and rap music were no longer used as a tool to try and bring about the evolution of society, it was more of what it once was. Party music. What you were saying didn't matter as much anymore. What DID matter was if the intended audience could get their butts to clap at the same BPM as the song.
And if you ask me, that's almost completely antithetical to what rap should be. Music is expression. There are songs in other genres that can talk about bad things in life that need to be fixed, but there's only so much you can sing about and actually be taken seriously. Sometimes, you need a gritty, realistic look at the world. And hip-hop/rap offers that. You can say a lot more per line, you can spin a tale more fluidly and make the listener come as close as they possibly can to seing what you're saying. It's the perfect genre to make a point, and for a time it was doing just that.
We've got songs like "Trap Queen" by artists like Fetty Wap, "Black Beatles" by Rae Sremmurd, and freakin' "Dance (A$$)" by Big Sean. These songs are only a very small portion of what is wrong with hip-hop now.
You've got artists like Desiinger, Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, and Lil Uzi Vert who basically mumble everything to the point of incomprehensibility. They slather their vocals in auto-tune because pitch correction has become less about correcting pitch, and more about making you sound "better".
Pro-Tip: If you can't sing in the first place, pitch correction WILL NOT HELP YOU.
And I know you could argue that this is just a further evolution of hip-hop, or maybe even a return the partying roots it grew from. You'd be able to make a pretty strong argument, too, but allow me to address an issue that has been bothering me for a while when it comes to hip-hop.
The main critique of hip-hop from most of the world is that it's "too violent" or "too misogynistic" and that it sends the wrong message to the children today. And they'd be right, to a point. Because now, music doesn't try to be challenging like it once was. Even outside of hip-hop music doesn't change much. In genres I grew up with like Country, there's almost no variety. In modern Pop, there's nothing of note. it's as if the music industry has nailed down what works and what's a risk, then draw a line between the two and vowed to NEVER cross that line again.
And in a genre like hip-hop, that's a death sentence.
When you have a type of music that once pointed out what's wrong with the world and it's treatment of certain races and cultures, and then turns around years later and starts to glorify the same lifestyle is was trying to rise above years before, there's something inherently wrong. You've built a box for yourself, and ensured that anyone who was willing to listen or able to help will now not lift a finger, because you seem to be doing just fine. All those parties, all those women, all that money! How can life be that bad when you've got all of that?
Remember when I said hip-hop and rap was a vehicle for change? Well, while it's probably got a few flat tires, a peeling paint job, and some rusty parts, it's still able to be tuned up and driven. And with the right care, it can become brand new and just as good as it once was.
But, like before, we need the right person with the right touch. Otherwise, the vehicle will sit in the backyard and become overgrown with weeds to the point where nobody can save it. Hip-Hop isn't quite dead yet, but it's coming close.
Let's see if we can't change that, shall we?