Dear Hip Hop:
As a long time fan of yours, plus someone who has aspirations/goals to enter the business, I'm not at all pleased with how you have been treated within recent times. Before I talk to you more about that, I want to take a trip down memory lane.
You were created in the mid 1970s in the South Bronx (NY), thanks to one of the first founding fathers, the one and only Kool Herc (true legend). From there, you began to grow and become stronger as the 1980s emerged. Thanks to artists such as Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, N.W.A., Ice-T, The D.O.C., Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, Grandmaster Caz, Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Kool Moe Dee, and a LONG list of others who paved the way for what we have today, you became a force to be reckoned with, and all claims that you was just another fad were all but dead. You were political, straight forward, honest, influential, controversial, tough, competitive, street smart, brilliant, creative, original, and innovative. You had it all. You spoke to thousands of people in urban areas across the country, not just blacks, but people of all races. 1988 is widely considered to be your defining moment, but you would have MANY more in the years to come.
When the 90s arrived, those same attributes were still present, and although things became a little more violent, gangsta, and aggressive (also attracting major media attention in the process), you were still the dominant force of the day. The success continued, as you became a global phenomenon, a lucrative, multi million dollar business. Nas, Jay-Z, The Notorious BIG, 2Pac, Death Row Records, Bad Boy Records, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Ice Cube, Black Moon, Smif N Wessun, Organized Konfusion, Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Redman, Das Efx, Outkast, The Roots, Scarface, Fugees, and MANY more all creatively thrived in this era, and much like the 80s, this era is still fondly looked upon by those who lived it to this day. Thanks to your continuous influence, most artists had their own style, which made the material so fresh and a pleasure to listen to. You were not a war on anything or anyone, but this era did see its share of casualties, especially three in particular. Eazy E lost his life after a battle with AIDS, which not only shook the hip hop community, but also began to address AIDS awareness more. Largely thanks to the increasing amount of hype and press, the mid-late 90s saw the unfortunate emergence of the storied East Coast vs. West Coast "beef", which directly or indirectly saw the STILL unsolved murders of The Notorious BIG and 2Pac. Their deaths shook our very foundation to its core and their losses are still felt to this day. At this point, we were all in mourning with you, continuing to wonder what was going on with our culture at the time, and things clearly haven't been the same since.
Things started to become more commercial as the late 90s turned into the millenium. A good number of established artists (mostly from the 90s) held you down nicely, along with newer acts such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Eminem, Ludacris, Fabolous, etc. You were still treated with the respect you deserved (especially from the Underground scene), however, as the years went by, the creativity, quality, and originality declined at an alarming rate. Artists who should've been recognized for their talents, and the time and effort they put into their craft were often overlooked and deemed either being "too intelligent or too lyrical". In the meantime, artists who came and went, either had nothing to say (literally), hopped on the latest trend, and/or had some type of silly dance, and they received almost tons of radio and TV play like they were the second coming of another golden age. The decline was SO stunning that Nas boldly proclaimed that you were dead, which drew a lot of criticism, mostly from southern artists, and biased or not, I understood where he was coming from.
ALL of this brings me to today's current hip hop world. It's in complete disarray, as it's SO many gimmicks and clowns dominating the culture with no end in sight, and for some reason, this is accepted, whereas this would NOT have been tolerated in previous eras. This is hip hop MUSIC, not a damn circus. It's very ridiculous. And since when did it become accepted for grown MEN to wear skirts????? The WRONG artists are continuing to be lauded, while other artists have to work that much harder for recognition.
Overall, hip hop, things NEED to change. We cannot let our culture turn into a glorified freak show, not to mention having it degenerate into a genre where money is the SOLE motivation and the love for the art is secondary, or in today's case, non existent. I (and others) will NOT sit by and let this be the exception to the rule and allow you to be disrespected and turned into something you were never meant to be. Hip hop, you're all most of us have, and without you, what's next?