Written by: Zee Fossett
Ask hip hop the question, so what?
If all a person has to stand on is their word, rappers nowadays aren’t talking foundational lyrics. Sure, being reminiscent of drug deals and violent moments of the past does play into the art form known as “rap” music. But the overall basis is that a good majority of listeners have found a niche to which their criminal or otherwise illegal and/or abusive behavior may be excused or explained. They use such music to celebrate their lifestyles and destructive habits.
When do rappers have to say more than “it was a mistake” or “I’m sorry” for perpetuating dangerous lifestyles and the continuation of a drug war that began decades ago? When do we, as listeners, get tired of songs designed strictly for the club, or strictly for the grimy, bedroom back breakers, and thugs in cars with oversized rims and candied paint jobs?
It’s not about what hip hop is missing. It’s about what it can afford to do without. And dancing games and replays of one night stands are too tired of tales to keep obtaining platinum and gold awards—a sacred placement reserved as peak for true artists in celebration of their creativity and achievement.
An artist is capable of expressing his/her soul through whichever medium they extend their passion. They pour out themselves in paint strokes or notes and tunes or swaying, swinging limbs or through letters and fragments. Artists have original talent.
So to new rappers, should you identify as urban entertainers instead? Are you autobiographical performers?
Everyone’s trying to be the hottest artist, maxing sales on iTunes, being interviewed by Oprah, followed my paparazzi and selling out the top spots and stadiums around the globe. What happened to rap music of value and positive influence? What happened to converting minds and proposing change? Where have all the artists gone that are capable of helping America’s appetite for music evolve? Who will prompt our generation to begin to follow mass social movements instead of fashion trends at large?
So what, hip hop? Now what?
It’s time to separate the artists from the entertainers. The humble from the proud. It’s time for producers to be naturally talented musicians and for soul to return to the radio waves. It’s time for documentaries about the truth of the hip hop industry and its predecessors true intentions need to go main stream. Celebrities need to use the same power they employ when they cause mansion and automobile sales to sky-rocket, millions to get tested for HIV/AIDS and give to charity events to persuade the American public to understand hip hop for what it was birthed as instead of, what it has become.
Here’s a clip from Jay-Z’s movie “Fade to Black”. The title says it’s a freestyle but it’s not. He’s simply reciting lyrics from an earlier album. “Be the fuck you” illustrates my point, from a slightly different angle.
We don’t want someone new. Well, we do, but not entirely. We want someone who is fresh but not extreme. Referencing and respecting the past voices and tracks that made their debut possible. We want to see artists fused with the diva in Beyonce, the deep vocal range of India Arie and style and swag like Fergie. Take for example Jazmine Sullivan. She is a freshly meshed medley of the likes of Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and dashes of bright lights from all past great women in the industry.