We, as the media, should be ashamed of ourselves. Yep, I surely said it.
I remember a time when hip hop was a movement, something that was created from the struggles of ghetto neighborhoods everywhere. It was proactive; showing emcees skills, mastering the art of word play and showing intelligent dialect. It was political like “Fight The Power”. We had songs like “Self Destruction” and “Stop The Violence”. Even the West Coast had their “All In The Same Gang” movement. Hip hop was to music as Good Times was to television, it showed the world how to have fun within the struggle with joints like “A Roller Skating Jam Called Saturday” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” But as the generations change, I believe the message should always stay the same, but it hasn’t.
I recollect a quote that I still stand by about the 5 elements of hip hop and the removal of those elements is simply called mainstream rap. Now, we went from a movement that once spoke about a culture to a gentrified multi-million dollar industry that speaks of the materialistic. In rap, the culture seems to be long forgotten, and real hip hop is now independent, and because it doesn’t cater the payola crowd or doesn’t bring in anything fiscal, commercial radio & corporate media wants nothing to do with them.
Commercial radio (and publications, too) tends to play and write about chart music and the masses tend to get brainwashed into thinking the “good” music is what gets played on the radio since it’s popular. It can be kind of a self-congratulatory feedback loop, especially in the US, where radio airplay is included in chart rankings. Thus, what gets played on the radio translates into being the music played everywhere, commercial clubs and bars, TV music channels, etc. In other words, the places most people get exposed to new music.
I was listening to David Banner’s 2012 track “Swag” very carefully and a lot of truth was being told. The featured artist, Kardinal Official, broke it down when he said “Most of the rappers I know are intelligent but will never bless me with a lesson.” Relating to commercial radio statement, let’s be real, here. Only a 2% of mainstream rappers, such as Kendrick Lamar, wants to be on the proactive. The other 98% rather kick a verse about living certain lifestyles. Drugs, money, cars, you name it, they will try to sell it to you. David even mentioned on the track “if that’s the only thing the youth hear, that’s the only thing they will be” and unfortunately, this style of rap is ALSO influencing the old in this game. Some of the lyricists I have grew up on have this “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality, feeling they have to adapt in order to fit in instead of doing what they were originally known for. Even Static Selektah called out New York emcees for following trap music.
What will it take for the media to recognize the Futuristics, the Joell Ortizs bringing the yowsazh and the Shabaam Sahdeeqs keeping the lost art? I was having a conversation with someone the other day and he said the media keeps shitting on independents and yes, most of the artists have no major deals, but just because they are not spitting rhymes over any of these mainstream beats, that doesn’t keep them from excelling at what they do. This brings up sort of an Occam’s Razor of music to me because most of promos from mainstream are not really all that great. It’s a huge task for a radio station to screen, comment, catalog and play each piece of music that comes in either mail or email or whatever medium possible. The latest Fetty Wap will come in and it gets played without any screening nor questions solely because of the name, but a promo package from an indie artist will become either wastebasket material or it might get a listen to if someone is bored.
Seems that with some artists, they were not appreciated by the media in life, but praised in death. Looking at the passings of Pumpkinhead and Sean Price, it is truly unfortunate that it had to be that way. These two were some of the hip hop stalwarts who were once on the mainstream and paved the way to keep the movement alive. The only people who now respects the true artist (outside of the national fans) are the international media, DJs, and the enthusiasts who stay booking the artist, creating murals of them, even go as extreme as getting tattoos. That there is love. As media, PH and P should have had better respect from us when they were living.
In closing, I find it funny that we don’t support our own. We don’t support the people who support us, but we are so quick to support artists that really do not give two shits about us, our support, nor our websites. We’re so hard up on keeping up with the Jones’ for that almighty dollar and recognition, that we forget why we got into writing to begin with. It’s for the love of real music, the love and support of the culture. Recognition will come eventually. So yeah, we as the media should be ashamed of ourselves. It’s all about integrity, which makes me proud to be called one of the gatekeepers by so many and I don’t want to change thing about it. If that makes me an underdog for it, then so be it. My goal is to keep real hip hop alive and that’s what I intend to do.