HHB Salute! As Black History Month flies by (S/o to Marcus Garvey), I began thinking of how much hip hop has evolved and decided to reflect on some of the shifts in hip hop over the last 25 years. Although there may be more, here are 5 ways Hip Hop Has Changed in the last 20+ years.
THE TAX BRACKET
« Cash Rules Everything Around Me. C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dollar, dollar bill y’all. » – Method Man
Since its inception, there has always been people profiting off Hip Hop. Everything from managers to security guards have been able to cash in. From an artist (and a business) point of view, there is more money in Hip Hop now vs the 90s. This is part in fact that there are now more artists making money off their music without the help of managers and agents. We are in an era where those middle men are not as needed and an artist can now collect 100% of their earnings if they choose to remain independant. Another aspect is the growing popularity of Hip Hop. As time went on and the support for Hip Hop grew so did the demand to see these artists and their booking costs. In the 90s you had rappers, producers, radio personalities etc getting paid less or next to nothing. Many of them pushed forward the culture. Now artists like lil yachty and producers like metro boomin can make 20-50k an appearance because of the lanes created by rappers and beatsmiths before them.
« I think a lot of the high technology is distracting » – Kool Keith
Back in the 90s, It was much harder to record and release your music independently. Before you needed to secure a large studio fitted with 64 channel consoles and patch-bays.
(Quad Studios, NYC)
Now, people are recording full length albums on their cell phones or on a « MacBook in an apple store ».
With Protools, a laptop and a usb mic, a year long recording and mixing process (in the 90s) can now be summed into a week of work. Along with Pro Tools, most of the production we hear now is created using FL studios, Logic and other DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). In depth mixes are now accomplished without the large studio budgets and in fact no longer need studios at all.
THE LABEL RELATIONSHIP
« If one more label try to sign me/its gon be some dreadhead niggas in ya lobby » – Chance The Rapper
A lot of what labels did for artists is not needed anymore. In the 90s you needed the major labels to distribute your music, promote your music and build your fan base. Time and time again we’ve seen artists « forced to sign shitty deals » in order to progress their music career (then and now). Along with this next change that is no longer the case.
« The Internet is important to everybody. It’s a way to get shit to southeast Asia and all type of shit. » – Bizzy Bone
The internet is the largest platform for music now. No longer the city streets or the radio stations dictating what’s hot. No longer the age of bootleggers with the best mixes. Today we look at services like spinrilla and datpiff for our music as well premium services like Apple music, Tidal and Pandora. In earlier days, you had to build your name in the streets, at local events and later on local radio. Now you can be seen by millions just by uploading a clip to your favorite social media outlet and going viral. Anyone can upload anything and be seen/heard immediately. 20 years ago you weren’t going to be heard (let alone respected) unless you made the rounds and proved you were worth listening to. It was through these battles of skill that proved if you we’re good enough to make it. They served as a rite of passage for real emcees. This also played a role in authenticity. No one got credit for something they didn’t do and simply saying you did something didn’t grant you any accolades. Now the « gatekeepers » and « rite of passage » for rap have been replaced with the « upload » button.
« Luda do it cuz its art/I do it for the fans » – Ludacris
A big change from then to now is the demographic. Hip Hop was looked at as an urban music with many of its fans (but not all) being young people of color usually from cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, etc. As time went on and rap became more mainstream, that demographic grew to include everyone from suburban kids to international adults. From an artwork feared to one of the most referenced cultures in music history, Hip Hop has came a long way. What first was a platform to showcase inner city life and aspirations (while also teaching and uplifting listeners), Hip hop was revered for its intellect and execution; Its ability to enlighten and astound. Somewhere along the line however, we the listeners demanded less and less from the emcees and began to favor more flashier and fashion based rappers. Rappers that focus more on the lifestyle than the art. In this way much of the new Hip Hop we hear now feels like it is without expression and notable value.
Many people who call themselves fans of rap today are more like culture consumers and are only interested in the energy that today’s Hip Hop brings. It’s like people who rock Guns N Roses bleached tees but have never heard the song « Sweet Child of Mine » smh (Sorry Axel).
Now more than ever popular rap is solely about a feeling, not about the words being said or the story being told in the music. If you truly enjoy Hip Hop for what it is, go out of your way to listen to all kinds (not just what the radio is playing). Search new artists in your area, show them support and be apart of the next dope thing! We must also encourage more artists to discuss their views and opinions in the music (outside of cars, chains and drugs). We the fans should not only have an interest in hearing more depth, we should demand it.
Tay Dayne – IG @GuruMorahLTY/Twitter @LiveThruYours