Hip Hop is losing the essence of what made it an impressive art form. Most rappers in 2016 don’t care about lyricism, the history hip-hop, or even writing their own rhymes. I am only 24 years old and I remember a time when it was a crime to let someone write your rhymes for you. If you called yourself a lyricist that meant that you better write all your rhymes. Growing up I remember being amazed by the skill of hip hop’s elite wordsmiths. I would have debates at lunch tables with my friends about who had the best verse on a song, the best rap album at the time, and breaking down witty metaphors and wordplay. We used to clown rappers for trash bars but nowadays its normal to have mediocre abilities as long as the beat is hot and hook is catchy. If the 2016 XXL Freshman Class is any indication of where hip hop is going, the genre is declining. With the exception of a few artists on the list, I think its XXL’s worst Freshman list. Artists on the lists like Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yatchy, and 21 Savage have been getting press for how terrible their rapping skills are, but at the same time, many hip hop fans today support their music. I was having a conversation with one of my friends about all of this and he said that the youth are free to use hip-hop to express themselves the way they want, but hip hop is not as impressive anymore because it seems like anyone can do it and be successful. The skills of rappers nowadays are very limited and I am just wondering what happened. Here is my open letter to Hip Hop.
Dear Hip Hop,
I believe Nas should have waited until 2016 to drop Hip Hop Is Dead because it’s more relevant now than it was 10 years ago. Before some hip hop fans get defensive, I do want to say I am open to new flows, beats, and styles as long as there is talent involved. Anyone can mumble on a beat that took 10 minutes to make, that takes no skill. I think it is more impressive when someone knows how to properly put words together that tell a story while simultaneously keeping rhythm and being creative. I know hip hop has always had its whack MCs but today it’s rare to find a rapper that can actually rap. I see more entertainers today in hip hop than rappers; at one point in time rappers boasted about being both. I just want to know what happened. Is it laziness? People only wanting to party and do drugs? Caring about making money more than making something that will last the test of time? Or are people just not into lyrics anymore? It’s sad that kids today think 50 Cent is old school rap. Kids are not doing the same type of research that my friends and I did growing up. They just listen to whatever is hot at the moment and move on to the next thing. I can count a number of mainstream lyricists on my hand right now and that’s scary. A decade ago, I could have named 30 plus who were still relevant.
The fact that we do have lyricists today like J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Wale, Logic, Big Krit, and Chance The Rapper means that there is still a market for intellectual rap. If you look at the album sales for these rappers most of them have gone gold or platinum. Some more than once. We need to support this type of rap more and question those with less talent. Do we really want a generation of youth that’s greatly influenced by hip hop culture, not hearing any social commentary and lyrics that challenge their thinking? We are living in scary times and that is the last thing I would want for the future. Tupac said, “Listen to the words people say in their lyrics, and tell me, if that’s some real sh**, if that’s real to you, you know what I mean. Listen to what they saying, don’t just bob your head to the beat, peep the game, and listen to what I’m saying. Hold us accountable for it.“
He said it best when it comes to critiquing hip hop music and I feel like we need to stop accepting everything we hear and start challenging these artists to be more creative or leave hip hop music alone. Hip hop is a sample and drum based genre, but what draws people to it is the profound lyrics, honesty, and rawness. Hip hop is losing the reason why it became popular in the first place and I am asking all of hip hop to demand more of our beloved culture.