Friday, June 8, 2012

Ways To Improve Hip Hop

Since its birth, the culture/form of music known as hip hop has been through so many ups and downs, trials and tribulations, as well as multiple changes in its sound, and this is from the "golden age" of the 80s, the East Coast resurgence & the West Coast dominance of the 90s, the "shiny suit" era, the "bling" era, as well as future eras that (heavily) involved ringtones, dancing, gimmicks, etc. Now, I still have aspirations to enter the music business, however, first and foremost I'm a (long time) fan and it's an understatement to say I don't like everything, especially the majority of what's considered "hot" these days. With all due respect, today's generation is MUCH different from my generation what it comes to hip hop. It also goes without saying that hip hop in general hasn't been the same since the unfortunate deaths of Tupac and Biggie, and each year since 1997, the quality has decreased more and more, even while most artists still brought something worthwhile to the table. So, with all of that being said, here are a few of my ways to improve hip hop.

1. Diverse radio and video play
This was the first choice that came to mind. I remember a time when it came to the radio and video, you would often see and hear different material constantly. The only time you would get the same thing would be during a specific countdown during the week and the weekend. Nowadays, you don't get that at all, and that's one of the main reasons why I don't watch videos or listen to the radio that much. On the radio specifically, you hear the same thing every single day, and hip hop wise, radio (and video for that matter) is literally dominated by Maybach Music Group and Young Money, and I'm personally not a fan of either. Artists that could benefit from some of this attention you never really hear from, and most of those artists are underground. If all artists would get similar attention for what they do, hip hop would be so much better.

2. Stick to your sound
Over the last 5 years (or more), most artists from New York have all but abandoned their original sound to do one of two things, sometimes both: 1) cater to today's audience for purposes of sales and mainstream acceptance, and 2) adopt a more Southern sound. These decisions had led to VERY slight success, but most importantly alienating long time fans. Can you imagine if during 92-93, when Death Row Records was the hottest thing out, artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Black Moon, and MANY others essentially tried to copy (for the lack of a better word) that CA sound?? I can't imagine it either. One thing that makes an artist stand out is having his/her own sound and identity, and you lose that when you try to do what everyone else is doing. I know most artists want the mainstream acceptance, but you shouldn't switch up your entire sound to achieve it.

3. Cut down on the release of mixtapes
Mixtapes at one point were considered exclusive ways to get material you otherwise would have a hard time getting. You would also get a variety of freestyles over popular instrumentals at the time. Even DJs had their own sound. Now, mixtapes are of a completely different breed. Not only are they still being released at a rapid rate (some with original material, credit on this one), but it's beginning to become the normal practice. I'm all for putting out product to hype a new album as well as keep your name out there, but today it seems as though artists are dropping mixtapes quicker than they would release albums, which also means an artist would mention they have a new album on the way, but they would come out with a mixtape and we'll have no mention of the album whatsoever (examples are Jadakiss' "Top 5 Dead or Alive", Fabolous' "Loso's Way 2: Rise To Power). Also, it's not a good thing when the conscience is that your mixtape was better than your studio album.

4. No dependence on guest appearances
Guests on albums have always been a part of hip hop since the 80s. In today's hip hop world, it seems as though you have to have an appearance from a "major name" to even generate a buzz for yourself, and without it, there's basically no hope. For example, Phonte, known for his contributions with the tremendous group "Little Brother", released an excellent album last year (Charity Starts At Home), and not one of his songs were played on the radio. Had he linked up with someone like Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, or Drake, I'm sure things would be different in more ways than one. Having someone cosign for you, so to speak, is one thing, but it shouldn't take having a major name appear with an artist in any form just to generate a buzz. With or without a guest, an artist should still be able to make a name for themselves through sheer talent.

5. Bringing back subject matter
Ask me what your average artist talks about today, and I'll draw a blank. Outside of a good number of underground artists, established and new acts like Nas and Big Krit, respectively, about 75% of what we hear today is really about nothing, literally. I personally don't see how an "artist" like Rick Ross continue to achieve success and notoriety when he raps about the SAME THING over and over again. After a while, people should begin to see through that instead of continuing to give him a pass based on a good ear for beats and a hard work ethic. It's not about being "too intelligent or diverse". As an artist, even if we don't/can't relate to everything someone raps about, we at least want to be able to know what we're listening to and what artists are talking about.

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