Don’t Believe The Hype: How To Cultivate Hip Hop’s Artform

Nicki Minaj - NOT The Queen of Hip Hop

LD Henriquez speaks candidly about the state of modern day hip hop and gives her views on what should be done to retain its artistic integrity.

Conversations regarding ‘music’, particularly hip hop, are an ever present temperamental weather forecast. It can go either way dependent on who the conversation consists of, geographical influences included. Whether it be a hip hop vet or a hipster (who, in theory, is a questionable participant anyway), eavesdropping, debates and heated discussions have become a lesser constructive norm.

To your recollection, have there been any recent conversations following this kind of path?

Participant A is somebody relatively new in your life.

You: What kind of music do you listen to?
Participant A: Hip Hop!
You: (as a Hip Hop lover/connoisseur/fan, are exceedingly pleased and partially excited as most people fail to identify what Hip Hop is). Really? That’s what’s up. Who?
Participant A: (Then runs through a list of lacklustre, nursery rhyming, nasal, cultural appropriation raping, corny, sub-par, stereotypical puppets who deserve no part of the Hip Hop diaspora).

As we’re in an over-saturated musical era that has crumbled somewhat due to the weight of excuses, the loss of standards, corporate domination (which we, for some reason have allowed) and the evading of blame or responsibility, cutting through the bull is required. Yes, those who usually make excuses for the gimmicky idiocy dominating mainstream outlets are the FIRST ones to diminish old school values by stating “There was always wack music”. Evidently this is true, the equilibrium of life has always had good and bad. However, the issue IS that the inept, incompetent, subhuman, lower vibration, simplified to the point of imprudence and brain numbing artists of today are PRAISED. Whereas in the beginning when standards were held in order to gain respect, wack music or anything overtly and deliberately disrespecting the culture was jeered at and ignored.

People KNEW there were repercussions for reckless talk, “selling out” or plain stupidity. The difference then was that fans and the general public knew to separate the cotton candy from the caviar for the most part. They knew what entertainment was and what music of stature was, even those that straddled both lines. The mainstream still had an element of skill, talent or something to separate them from the monotonous anthems of slurring, molly-and-Lord-knows-what pervaded, low lives who pillage the charts now. Mainstream music was once a standard too. It wasn’t required to be primarily ‘conscious’ yet there was a diverse level of existence where standards were held. This has incontestably been reduced and sold to the lowest bidder.

The lost percentage who blindly assign themselves to wack artists have no excuse but for some reason, fame, status, the amount of celebrities hoes in tow and endorsements can qualify even the most mind-numbing artist as ‘successful’. At this point in time where technology is rife, surviving record stores are still alive and outlets for music are still in operation, there is NO justification for not knowing good music. With anything, whether it be knowledge, a partner or general information, one must SEEK to find more than they are given. These label-constructed marketing clones do not cut it.

Part of me wishes we could revert to the days when Hip Hop was owned by the streets and the raw repercussions of holding it in lesser regard than deserved. The social element has declined to non-existence. One machine churns out the same message, cadence, visuals, endorsements, subliminals, dreams and outcomes. There is a disproportionate amount of emphasis on ‘long money’ as opposed to longevity. Those against this new wave of crap are then categorised as ‘purists’ (as if this is solely a derogatory term) or ‘outdated’ or stuffed into a box as if standards for an ARTFORM – no longer holding ART as a priority – is the issue. The demonizing of those who preserve the craft and those who possess it is the issue. Making excessive excuses and allowing outsiders to desecrate and urinate on your artform is the issue. The fact that all of the above led to the gentrification of Hip Hop is the damn issue.

So my suggestion is this. Fraternities, sports teams and social organisations can hold and preserve their values, possess a community for brothers and sisters, consult one another and represent a brand, correct? And in order to be assigned to a fraternity or any of the other establishments, there are preliminary measures. Auditions or “hazing”, proof of your proficiency and some element of struggle, if you will. This needs to be re-enlisted into Hip Hop as the downward spiral is on a freight train to hell. If this were in action, there would have been much less of a filter from the nonsense and the weak would have fallen off the wayside. This allowance for their stupidity, the lack of boycotting and the fact that a lot of these inferior, subordinate clowns are allowed to walk around unpunished for their cultural sins is a PROBLEM.

Stop making excuses for wackness.

‘Well they gettin’ money/They stay paid/They got hoes/They got a record deal/ They got airplay on *insert mediocre, substandard notorious media outlet*/ Their new shit has ‘such and such’ a rapper on it’ are never valid excuses. Art doesn’t need excuses. It can step on toes. It can offend. It doesn’t require a general consensus. It can vary in opinion or personal taste. However, it’s authenticity is stoic. Materialism, hype, finances or entourage should not deflect talent. If the music industry is for the sole purpose of making money and art is irrelevant, the majority of these artists should just leave the artform and find more solace elsewhere.

To those artists and fans who push for the unrefined goodness that still exists, please continue. Longevity is the reward. Support. Collaborate. Attend events. Build. Continue. There is always beautiful music, anthems and legacies to be made. It is just a shame that the recognition of such is overshadowed by the world at large.