Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014. Let’s be honest, 2013 wasn’t Hip Hop’s best year. Now, that’s not to say that it was horrible, but it did leave a lot to be desired. The usual suspects i.e. Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Drake and Future, pretty much dominated mainstream radio, whether they made music or not. Again, because 2013 was a somewhat “blah” year for Hip Hop, you knew what to expect from them before their albums came out.
Rick Ross talked about his cars, clothes, and hoes. Lil’ Wayne found new metaphors for fellatio. Future cried/rapped using Auto-Tune on every damn song that he was on. Drake was just as confused as ever, not knowing whether he wanted to sing or rap, so instead he opted for a hybrid of the two, all the while being passive aggressive towards Kendrick Lamar for mentioning him in Big Sean’s Control. Needless to say, out of the box subject matter was not high on the list of priorities of most rappers in 2013, with the exception of Macklemore for making a song speaking out against homophobia.
Even those that are on another level (some would call them elitist) seemed to have disappointed and confused some of their fan base. While some considered Magna Carta… Holy Grail to be one of Jay-Z’s best albums, seasoned Hip Hop heads thought it was just another sub par album of several that Jigga has made lately. Jay-Z has also come under fire from many for not being an entertainer-activist a la Harry Belafonte for his refusal to pull his clothing line from Barneys after an alleged case of racial profiling. And Kanye West seemed to spaz out on anybody at any time, for no reason at all, while making an album that, depending on who you talked to, teetered the line of genius and an incoherent mess.
So where does that leave our beloved Hip Hop? That’s the question. At one time Hip Hop was, as Chuck D called it, the CNN of the Ghetto; with acts like X-Clan, Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy providing a voice from the front lines for the Black and Latinos that were/are often overlooked by America.
During Hip Hop’s early days, especially 1988, rappers found time to speak about and against social ills, in between partying and bullshitting. In 1988 Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary and NWA’s Straight Outta Compton shed light on the negative consequences of the era.
But oh how these times are different. Instead of trying to bring about change, especially as the gap between the haves and the have-nots gets bigger, rappers want to act as if “we’ve overcome, flaunting material things, and riches in the faces of those that need to “get on their level.” Incarceration rates keep growing among black males and public schools are deteriorating, while rappers are turning a blind eye because they’re too busy counting their Benjamins.
Unlike the socially conscious and informative albums of 1988, this generation fails to see the importance of addressing these issues with any level of selflessness.
What do you think? Am I being too hard on this generation? Or do you think the “each one teach one” philosophy is dead?
Talk to me, I’ll talk back.