Over the past decade and towards the end of the last century we all witnessed the state of hip hop decline and eventually die from the amount of wacknees infecting its vessel. The early 90’s are what some believe to be “The Golden Age” of the Hip Hop culture. All between 1990-1996 we saw the debut of artists such as Outkast, 2pac, BIG, Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop Dog and The Legendary Roots crew. The genre of hip hop or rap music was so broad you were exposed to artists on the mainstream and the underground that would be pillars in your collection. Not to say that the level of wackness was less however we had so many choices that the weak were cast aside as one hit wonders or novelty acts. Since the birth of the No Limit movement the level of under par music quality has overtaken the amount of true art within the culture. Now before you take my words as disrespect to Master P and what he did for hip hop please understand my statement. I have the upmost respect for Percy Miller and what he did for hip hop. P opened the door to being self made, taking notes from the careers of MC Hammer, Too Short, and the 2 Live Crew about how to make the streets follow you P allowed many young artist to have more power in the Major label offices. However this changed the industry, where it became more important for you to be self made rather than developed. It was smart on the industries side because why spend money trying to break an artist when you can just distribute an already established act to the masses.
With this new level in hip hop music, the culture was exposed to more consumers and hip hop itself became more or less “youth culture”. The money spenders saw huge dollar signs. This produced the machine of hip hop, where originality was thrown out and cookie cutter acts were produced to serve the trends. To me this began after the death of 2pac. Before his death to be a biter was the worst thing to be in our culture, but right after you became used to hearing 2pac copycats. Does Lil Zane ring a bell? This tainted the purity of the genre and many labels decided to jump on the band wagon of what was hot rather than seeking something new and innovative. This was the downward spiral.
Many hip hop purists believe that the southern rap scene is to blame. The more simplified lyrics, the dance songs, the call and response styles were very southern styles and added to the genre, more so than damaged it. You must remember acts like The Ghetto Boys, Big Mike, Outkast, UGK, and 8ball and MJG were all lyrical southern acts and very respected before the onslaught of southern rap. I believe the majors pushing “gimmick” acts were the last straw in the battle for hip hop relevance.
The wackness that killed hip hop was around long before it demise and it took years grow. I and many of my comrades thought the Cash Money movement was the tipping point. I remember watching Juvenile “Ha” video in the dorms and thinking how wack it was, but somehow knowing it would be HUGE. In retrospect this was a masterpiece of southern rap, and by far not as low as the standard went in years to come. Songs like “Laffy Taffy” and “In my White Tee” untimely killed the genre. I call this stage “The Dark Ages”. This gave a clear path to acts many purist despise, like Solja Boy Tell’m, Wacka Flocka Flame, and Lil Momma. The hip hop music that I grew up on was in the dark and could not be found.
During this dark time there were some shining stars, beacons of light if you will. Acts like Slum Village, and Little Brother shined though, making a path for Icons to trail. Icons like Kanye West would not have had a place in the genre if it were not for those two acts. If not for West, we would have no Lupe Fiascos, no Cool Kids, no dare I say it Drakes. This opened a new branch to the culture, and intellectual hip hop was born. Years from now SV and LB will go down in history for holding the torch during the darkest times. And now we have an abundance of promising new architects to bring the purity of the culture back to the people. The reconstruction period is here. Artist like Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, Jay Electronica, Big Krit, Dom Kennedy, Big Sean and many more remind me of the hip hop I want to know about. They make songs that I want to learn, spitting lyrics that I want to learn and repeat. These are the first of many to come as we rebuild the sleeping giant. Keep your ear to the underground to hear the steps.
You figure it out.