What Is “Real” Hip-Hop?

Written by Sam

Monday, October 18th, 2010 at 3:46 pm
Views: 5832


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As with a lot of my posts, this rant is kind of inspired by Erykah Badu.  She basically says that rappers should be ashamed of themselves for making poppy music, and selling out to corporate America.  One thing that has started to get on my nerves, is when people try to distinguish between what is “real” hip-hop, and what isn’t.

Now I get what Erykah’s point is.  I’m not mad at her opinion.  Hip-Hop is becoming highly corporate, but I feel like that is an inevitability considering where the music business is at.  Since THE FANS are refusing to pay for music, we can’t get mad when artists try to sell products that people actually pay for.  This is the game in 2010.  And until consumers of music are willing to pay for music again, this is a phenomena that we are going to be living with.  Deal with it.  It’s going to be hard for your favorite artist to turn down a check from a corporate entity when they aren’t seeing similar checks from their record label.

Another one of Erykah’s complaints that I have heard numerous times is that the hip-hop with heavy electronic/synthy beats is some how not valid.  Now that is just retarded.  Has anyone ever heard of this rapper, his name was Afrika Bambaataa.  He was kind of sort of a hip-hop pioneer.  Have you heard his production?  So anyone who says electronic music isn’t hip-hop needs to kill that noise on the quick.  The whole irony is that when hip-hop first came out, a lot of music people didn’t want to acknowledge it as a legitimate genre of music.  So when a bunch of old head music industry people (no shots) start saying some thing isn’t “real”.  Then guess what?  It is probably very very real.

It’s actually part of a greater issue that I have noticed.  There is just a generational shift going on in hip-hop.  People have a tendency to be scared of what they don’t understand.  When it comes to hip-hop the business, the music, and the culture are all changing.  There are a lot of older people in this industry, and while I have tons of respect for them, they don’t understand the changes that are occuring.  Since they don’t understand it it, they decide to label it as un valid.  This is a monumental and frequent mistake that is being made in the culture right now.  I feel like for the most part the average 16 year old hip-hop fan is going to identify with artists like Wiz Khalifa, Kid CuDi & Chiddy Bang as opposed to some artist on that lyrical boom-bap tip.  This is just part of the evolution of the genre.  There comes a point in every genre where a younger generation segways out from what the older people think is cool.  I think it’s very normal for a 16 year old kid to look at some older dude with baggy jeans and a North Face listening to some boom bap type sh*t and think he is corny.  That’s what young people do.  They create identities for themselves, and nothing makes a young person happier with their identity than when older poeople sh*t on it.

Finally I define “real” hip-hop as the music that people care about.  Not the music that taste makers from 1999 would approve off.  Soulja Boy is kind a perfect example.  People like to throw that kid under the bus for a bevy of legitimate reasons.  His music is poppy.  He is a lame.  He got tooled on by Kat Stacks.  Well you know what is real?  His 2.5 million twitter followersThat 6 million he made this year?  Well that seems very real to me.  I just find it funny when some of these artists get labeled some sort of lyrical master on a blog site, but can’t get 20 people to show up to see them live.  What’s “real” about that?  I’m not sitting here saying that Soulja Boy is some sort of a musical revolutionary.  I’m just saying no one has the right to invalidate his music, when clearly so many people identify with it.  The question of what “real” hip-hop is definitely too complicated of a question to properly answer.  However, maybe the question we should be asking is if *insert artists name* has fans in REAL LIFE!  Because if there is one thing I have learned it’s that the artists who have the people, have the power.  If a critic defines their music as “real” or not is irrelevant.


  • http://www.facebook.com/sneakypeteworld Peter Von Sneakster

    Thanks for being ignorant to what hip hop is about. well done, sir

  • Aquaaura

    Well, said Sam. This generational segway is turning a lot of people's stomach for sure. I think your article articulates it justly, indeed. If you have real world fans and they are willing to show up and pay to see you live and buy your music then your music is legitimate. However, if there aren't any markets checking for you, then you can't label a guy who is making The Forbes List as artificial. In business school they have a simple rule, ” Have a product and Sell the product”. If artist aren't selling the product then, they need to do market research to find out where their customer base is or what appeals to them. Hopefully it isn't catchy electro pop, because, until you get that gizmo into your shop, the cool kids aren't gonna be checking for you.

  • OCA

    Sorry Sam, but you failed on this one.

    The foundation of hip-hop is rhyming, everything else is just a complement. Electro beats, differents flows, and things alike are all good, but if your rhymes are weak then your not staying true to this art form. Therefore, it is not true hip-hop. Outkast brought a different sound to hip-hop, but was stayed true lyrically. Soulja Boy brought a new sound to hip-hop, but failed to stay true lyrically. You don't have to be the greatest lyrically, but the difference is that hip-hop will welcome different sounds, flows, and beats also as long as artists build solid foundations lyrically.

  • Urboyo

    Ok! Sam check this out dawg, if you need to really know what real hip hop is please do me a favor and go on youtube and look for Krs-one giving a speech at UNLV, I guarantee that you will be moved and inspired by what you hear and you might actually learn a thing or two. If you take your job serious you will check that out and when you do please respond with your thoughts because I am curious to find out what you get from that. As for me dawg I really dont give a shit what a 16 year old thinks or listens too or what he or she thinks hip hop is. All I know is I'm from the Bronx and I grew up in an era where you really had to deliver there was no internet and ways of people forcing an image or beating people over the head with their music to the point where you think you have to like it, at the end of the day it all boils down to the music and the impact that it leaves on you I'm 31 and still love hip hop and thats mainly in part to the artists that I grew up on, its because of groups like WU-Tang and Tribe called quest and Rakim and Krs-one that I even pay attention and try to stay current on whats poppin right now. Ive accpeted the fact that we live in a different time and this generation of kids have their artists that they are growing up listening to the same way I did and believe me I got love for the south being that I live in Florida now and I see the difference in cultures and music I have nothing but admiration for some of these kats out right now, but the truth of the matter is also that a lot of the shit out now is trash has no substace or staying power I find it hard to believe that in 20 years Gucci Mane or Wacka Flocka or even Soulja Boy will have the same impact in peoples hearts like Wu tang or Run dmc did for my generation, thats just my opinion. Like you said real hip hop is music that people care about not music that people just like for a month or two and then move on to the next hot thing of that moment. Hip hop started from nothing and became a phenomenon all Im saying is lets treat it with a little more respect if you are able and privilaged to be a part of the game just play the game right theres room for all types of styles and theres room for every region of the world to put their interpretation and spin on how they want to represent hip hop. Just make some good music. When I was 16 I was listening to Nas, look at some of the shit these kids are listening too then we wonder why they act and look the way they do. Take some responsiblity in your music thats all I'm saying to these artists the money is there and always will be.

  • Rgerm01

    Papoose got ryhmes/lyrics, but his shit is wack. So rhymes ain't everything player.

  • Rgerm01

    Hip hop is a fluid concept my G. I hate the fact that old heads try to put it in a box. I don't listen to 3/4 of the stuff that comes out nowadays, still you have to acknowledge rappers from this era that can actually rap: Kanye, Wayne, Fab…. You can catch me bumping Nas (illmatic), Reasonable doubt, Yeah Baby, Life after, Supreme CLiente. I guess the point im trying to make is there's some music in this era the will live on and resonate in later decades.

  • mta

    he is good lyrics he just dose not have the best style at time but he can rhyme. Probably be better as a ghost writer

  • Urboyo

    you obviously did not read a word of what I wrote if you did you would see that Im actually giving credit to a lot of the artists of today.

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