The State of Hip-Hop is terrible. Why? Because corporations fucked it up! I’m astounded at how fucked up this shit is. Like, hip-hop in the 90’s was dope. Real art. Real music. Now rap music is straight trash. Don’t get me wrong. There a few artists out there making good music, underground and above ground too. Artists like Immortal Technique in the underground and artists like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar in the mainstream. But, overall, the music represented in the mainstream media is a bunch of ignorant and base nonsense.
The main topics of lyrical content have always been the same in hip-hop: I got money. I got girls. I got cars. I’m gangsta. I’m the shit, etc. This generated from MCs spittin in ciphers on the corner and rockin the mic at hip-hop parties. But, with those topics, artists were creative in presenting them in a lyrical and entertaining fashion, with some form of intelligence.
Nowadays rappers like Soulja Boy and Trinidad James go for bars without really rhyming any words and somehow completely missing the rhythm of the beat. It’s astounding how bad one some of these songs are that actually make it to the top of the charts. Apparently, all 2 Chainz wants for his birthday is a big booty hoe. But we’re still not sure what he does or who he does it for. And if I hear one more rapper talking about he’s gonna bang somebody’s girlfriend, baby mom or wife, etc, I’m gonna kidnap all these wack rappers baby moms and put em in a warehouse and gang rape them for a week straight with all my homies and put the video on WorldStarHipHop. Who fucked whose bitch now? LOL But, I digress…
Seriously though, what happened to hip-hop? How did this happen? The short answer is major labels saw how popular and profitable hip-hop music was becoming and bought out independent labels and forced rappers to make music that they insisted would sell. The fact is hip-hop music did sell. The highest selling artist for the decade 2000 to 2010 was a rapper named Eminem and he was named Billboard’s Artist of the Decade. Hip-hop moguls like Diddy and Jay-Z each have a net worth north of 400 million dollars. So, clearly hip-hop sold. But, did it sell its soul?
Some people believe that artists like Jay-Z and Kanye West literally did sell their souls to the devil and are part of a secret society called the Illuminati. Just, like everyone else, I’ve seen the YouTube videos that attempt to prove that artists have hidden meanings and images in their music videos that show they’re Illuminati. But I don’t have any first hand knowledge of this and it seems far-fetched so I can’t really comment on whether or not Jay-Z sold his soul to the devil. But, I can say that labels have put a muzzle on rappers when they try to make political statements with their records, yet they say it’s ok for those same rappers to rap about killing and selling drugs to Black and Brown people and degrading our Black and Brown sistas..
Look at what happened to Lil’ Wayne for example. Lil’ Wayne is known for his extremely violent and sexually explicit lyrics. Really, in his songs, he’s probably killed more Black men and degraded more Black women than the Ku Klux Klan. Nonetheless, Lil’ Wayne made a song called “Georgia Bush” where he criticized President George Bush for how he handled Hurricane Katrina and his label would not allow him to put it on the album. So killing Black people in his songs is ok, but making political statements that might empower Black people is wrong? How is that just? Obviously, racism has something to do with it. The heads of these major record labels are not Jay-Z and Russell Simmons like some people think. Record labels like theirs are underneath the three umbrella corporations: Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group. And all three of those companies’ CEOs are old White guys. Like Mos Def said, it’s all mathematics. Lupe Fiasco wanted to put out an album that his label deemed was politically controversial and they froze him out. So, Lupe took it to the streets. People protested. An Internet petition circulated and it amassed over 30,000 signatures. So, he and the label compromised and made a hybrid album. When the album dropped it was number one on the Billboard charts and Lupe’s highest selling album to date. But, Lupe still asserted that it was not the album he wanted to make. And look how much he had to go through to make it halfway.
I’m not saying everything needs to be Gospel music or have a message, just real music that’s fun and creative with content. The founding principles of hip-hop set forth by the legendary Afrika Bombaataa are peace, unity, love and having fun. Look at old school songs like Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and 2 Pac’s “California Love”. Those are great songs that still rock to this day and don’t destroy the listener’s brain cells by listening to them.
Hip-hop has always been street and rappers from the streets and can still make street records. But if you look at artists like Nas with his album “Illmatic”, the Notorious B.I.G. with “Ready to Die” and Mobb Deep with “The Infamous”, etc, you can see how vastly superior their music is in terms of lyrical skill, word play, delivery, straight up rapping ability and overall quality than these street rappers’ music today. A street record doesn’t have to equal a dumb record like the ones we hear these days on the radio.
FM Radio plays a role in this too. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated ownership of radio stations, among other things, it opened the door for Clear Channel, which previously only owned 40 stations, to now own over 1,200. That’s one company responsible for what tens of millions of people hear everyday. Sounds like a monopoly to me. That’s too much power for one company to have. Through distribution companies and this thing referred to as “payola” Program Directors of these FM stations are paid, albeit illegally, to put music on the air. That’s why it feels like you hear the same five songs in rotation everyday. Record companies paid for that play.
But, we can’t assign all the blame to corporations.
There’s you and me too, the people. If we don’t support negative mainstream hip-hop with our dollars, they will have to make a change. Companies will always care about the bottom line and if they’re losing money they’ll listen. Every time a wack rap music video comes on MTV Jams, change the channel. Every time you hear some garbage song on the radio, change the station. If you hear a song with evil content while you’re partying in a club, walk out.
I have to accept blame in this as well. I’ve been a hip-hop fan since I was 12 years old. I love 90’s hip-hop, as illustrated in my Top 10 List on the side of the homepage. I’ve been DJing for about four or five years now and I must admit when I’m DJing a party, I play that ignorant bullshit and it rocks because people are familiar with it and on a certain level it works. I’ve contemplated quitting DJing at clubs and lounges that want the bad music several times but that doesn’t work for me. It seems like there’s no alternative except for the occasional 90’s nostalgic party or a happy hour. A stark reality is that I have bills to pay. And I still have fun DJing those parties with bad rap music because the feeling you get from rocking a crowd is a high I can’t really explain. It’s a sense of euphoria that can be addictive like a drug. And the crack music I spin supplies the high. And us DJs are merely dope boys.
It’s going to take a movement to change things. The question we all have to answer is: Who’s going to make the first move?
1. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
2. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
3. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
4. Nas – Illmatic
5. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
6. Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star
7. Mobb Deep – The Infamous
8. Common – Be
9. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
10. Kanye West – Graduation
There’s just something about Reasonable Doubt that feels so right. It feels like leather on leather seats in the winter. It feels like Versace shades. It feels like the hustle. It feels like you’re on your grind and you’ve almost made it. It feels like a champagne toast with all my real niggas and bad bitches around us. It feels like yachting off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Enough metaphors, you get the idea. That’s why Reasonable Doubt is my favorite album. It takes me on a journey no matter if I’m sitting still at an airport gate or riding around DC in the whip.
Midnight Marauders is literally the first rap album I ever bought and is the reason I fell in love with hip-hop and the reason I’m even a DJ and why this blog exists.
Black on Both Sides got me through some rough times and I believe listening to it actually makes me a better person.
Black Star holds a special meaning for me because the black star in my ancestral Ghanaian flag.
Jay-Z made my list twice because he is my favorite artist and his albums are so dope. I remember when the Blueprint came out back when I was in high school me and my homies thought we were Roc-A-Fella and we had our own clique called FAMLIFE. I can relate to the B side of the Blueprint so well. Good times.
1. Phil Ade
7. Fat Trel
8. Chaz French
9. Uptown XO
10. Muggsy Malone
These are my favorite DMV rappers who get the most spins in my iPod and on my radio show “The Hip-Hop Corner” on WMUC Digital, UMD radio. I’ve made a lot of changes to this list as time has passed due to my own evolution and due to being put on to music by other people. Some other notable rappers from the DMV who I like are: Shy Glizzy, Tabi Bonney, Black Cobain, Oddisee and yU of Diamond District, Ra the MC, Phil Da Phuture, Chris Barz, Gordo Brega and Castro. This list is not definitive. I didn’t say these are the greatest rappers in the DMV but they are my FAVORITE. Obviously, this list is very subjective and is based on my personal opinions and tastes. I have relationships with lots of rappers in this area and I hope I didn’t offend anyone by leaving anyone out. I wanted to give people an opportunity to discover some dope artists. Note: I do not consider Baltimore to be a part of the DMV. There may be DMV artists who did not make this list because I have not heard of them. If you think that is the case, tell me about them! Artists, if you think you deserve to be on this list, email me your music! firstname.lastname@example.org (This list constantly gets updated.)
Aside from the fact that my mom was from Sierra Leone, this video touched me in so many ways. I remember tinkering with things around the house when I was a child. I still kinda serve as the handyman for my family. I thought it was beautiful how David reached out to Kelvin and brought him to MIT to inspire him. In reality though, Kelvin has inspired us all. His name is DJ Focus and that’s appropriate due to the attention he gives to his craft. On those days I’m feeling tired of lugging around my DJ equipment or tired of messing with the sometimes faulty equipment in WMUC Studios I’ll be obliged to be thankful for all the equipment I have and grit my teeth and work it out. So, thank you Kelvin, you’re an inspiration.