Is hip hop really dead?

I think that hip hop dedicated emcee Nas raised the debate. Now it is up to us to answer yes or no to this interrogation.

However, I think it would be senseless just to debate on whether hip hop is dead or not. Our answers should be full of nuance instead of being blinded with a common artistic blur.

Since its creation in the Bronx, NYC, in the late 6O’s, hip hop has often been in a 911 emergency state. Real, authentic hip hop emerged from the street, mainly from the black commnunity and was aimed prior at street audiences. Although a common misconception that hip hop is about self expression only is widely accepted, this point is often totally misunderstood.

An emcee is supposed to express himself, but a lot of other artists do- without having any hip hop spirit in their way of expression. If hip hop was about expression of self only, then acts like Marilyn Manson and Emo boys would be hip hop too…

You are hip hop, not only by proving your emceeing skills, but by carrying the heritage of hip hop culture with you which means to me, that, regardless of your skin color, you can relate to hip hop culture in one way or another. That’s being hip hop to me.

But I digress…the question is to know whether what we call contemporary hip hop music is dead or not.

Many people who have grown up with masterminds such as Ice T, NWA, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash might be really disappointed with the turn hip hop is taking right now.

Even in the early 80’s hip hop wasn’t expected to become the commercial value it is right now. Emcees and DJs did their art much more for their own pleasure and for their wide street audience.

Emcees like Public Enemy and NWA played the role of social commentators and opposed some resistence to the US discriminatory policies against Black Folks. Their words had some weight and were largely supported by people living in the hood.

Nowadays, hip hop is totally different. Not only has it become commercial, but its audience has changed. I sometimes have the feeling that it has lost its original meaning. Many of you, commercial rappers rolling in your benzos with your hoes and jewels have buried hip hop alive. You made the whole world believe that hip hop was only about the grand hustle and making big dollars.

Many of you, weak underground rappers have stabbed the soul of hip hop. How can you, clowns in the game, make people believe that you can bless a mic? Regardless of your color, you HAVE to be skilled and to be convincing to rap!

More strikingly, a great majority of you, suburban youths, have spat on real hip hop like Nas raps while revering so called rappers who are closer to pop artists than anything else!

However, I do believe that hip hop in its essence is still alive. It will live on as long as the spirit of Maurice Malone’s hip hop shop will be carried on. It will survive, as long as real people will talk about real things. It will survive, if only unexperienced but nevertheless skilled emcees will accept to learn from their predecessors.

Real hip hop is the reality of the streets and cannot be summarized with the commercial crap we see on MTV.

Hip Hop will live on if rappers accept to think less about the money and more about their art.

Hip hop has a future, but not without you, emcees, breakdancers, sprayers, DJS, listeners and anybody else involved in the rap game. It is all up to you.

Copyright © 2006 by Isabelle Esling
All Rights Reserved

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