By Sydney Williams
The feeling, understanding and relation to lyrics are what keeps music alive. When we have nothing else to look forward too or when we feel lonely, the only comfort left is the music on our iPods; that is what keeps us moving.
But with the sound of music today, I am starting to worry if those who need that feeling most are not receiving it. What happens when the music just starts becoming words relating to no one? What happens when that sound becomes another blur or just a word meaning nothing?
Out of all the genre’s of music, hip-hop/rap is suffering the most in the music industry today. It is scary to think that a music artist can change someone else’s life just because of the lyrics in their songs, either in a good or bad way.
I recently read an article written by Foster Kamer about interviews with Zane Lowe of BBC Radio 1 and Kris Jenner each with Kanye West. The main point of the interviews were to get to know West better, become familiar in his creativity in his music, and learn what he thought of the industry and the affect it had on radio music today. West was passionate and tried to state his opinion to rap artists and to the people as honest as possible, “rappers won’t make anything other than traditional radio rap because they were taught to hate themselves and make mediocre music,” West said.
Most who read this article would think that West was being mean and cocky, when in reality West was sending out a message. In rap music today you hear the high-pitch sounds in the background of the music, the eight chorus lines to 16 verses, and the catchy beats that make the song a hit on the radio.
Rap artists are the new radio. There is no competition. They are “not driven by motivation to make music [but] driven to have money and to have a safety net of money,” aspiring musician and producer senior Endre Wagner said.
Yes, everything involves money, that is our source of living, however, the difference between the rap artist’s today (Soulja Boy, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz etc.) and the ones before them (Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Outkast etc.) is that rap artist’s today do not care what they put on the radio, and the “message” that they are sending as long as they are getting paid. Artist’s before them wanted to portray an actual image to the listener that would make them think, and see something in a different way.
For example, In the song titled, “Keep Ya Head Up”, by Tupac Shakur written in 1993, Tupac delivers a message about staying ahead of the struggle and showing respect to all, regardless of race or gender. Meanwhile in the song titled, “I’m Different”, by 2 Chainz written in 2012, is about him being different from other rappers, because he likes cars, jewelry, girls and money. I am confused 2 Chainz. I thought that is what everyone liked. You are “different” all right.
In rap music today, all you need to have is a catchy beat that everyone can dance too, and your song would appear on top of the 100 list for rap/r&b music. The song titled “23”, by Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus and Juicy J, repeats the words, “J’s on my feet…..so get like me” twice in the chorus, “if you’re a lame, that’s a shame you can’t hang with us..” First off, who cares how many Jordans you have, and because someone’s personality is not like yours they are considered lame? What kind of message is that to our young listeners who are beginning to figure out who they are as a person?
“It gets to the point [where] you know you made it, and [you’ve] reached that pinnacle of success. So much of it isn’t built for the rhythm anymore, it’s built more on the brand,” Wagner said.
Compared to 1990s and early 2000s hip-hop, rap that is being played on the radio today cannot even rival it. Rap artist’s are not being artists, they are being entertainers. They are not making it for the art, but for the idea of being rich and famous intrigues them most.
Many artist’s like Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Schoolboy Q, Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Chance the Rapper and more rarely get time on the radio; most people do not even know who they are, but that is what makes them the best ones. They refuse to make music they know will get played on the radio, so instead of becoming famous they become rich. Their music grows because of their fans.
The late 1990s and 2000s was the golden age of hip-hop. However, it is not all the artist’s fault for putting out meaningless and provocative music, it is also their record label.
“Labels have controlled everything. They don’t see the value of making music anymore,” Wagner said.
At the end of the day, it is up to the music labels to make and sell music to the people of the world. Rap artist’s in the music industry could be making life changing music, however their label will not allow them to put it out in the open for others to hear, because of how it might portray them in a positive way.
Both labels and music entertainers are releasing music to the public that tell listeners women are female dogs, so do not treat them with respect, and how to act and dress.
“[Music labels] look for people who can sell, and look for contracts and then gamble on artists who aren’t even artists. There’s a competition of people who aren’t even good,” Wagner said.
In the late 90s, the most known hip-hop artists were Biggie (Notorious BIG), who died in 1997 and Tupac, who died in 1996. They both rapped about how they were raised, the harshness of living in the ghetto, the life they lived and how they could change the world (if they had had enough time). Truthfully, if they were both still alive they would laugh at the industry today and shake their heads in disappointment.
If they were still here, hip-hop would not be the same as it is now. Tupac and Biggie would keep the industry prospering, weave at all the people who were not good and would try to make them better. Today both of their music still lives and gets played by people around the world, but we are not able to feel and understand it like how we used too. Everything evolves and so do our minds.
Hip-hop used to be bonding thing. A sound that kept us together. It has now been turned into a misunderstood outlet of music. It has been dumbed down by the negative message and lack of skill. Tupac and Biggie would be sad today because the sound of the realest music was not real anymore.
The artist’s who are in the know now will become the who later. The sound of hip-hop is not even a sound anymore, but a blur of voices on top of a beat.