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The Death and Rebirth of Hip-Hop


By Slantize

Each time I put on a Biggie or Tupac song on my playlist, I get shudders of nostalgia. I grew up consuming Hypnotize and California Love with my ears. The 90s was an era when rap became hip-hop — when the crazy drum patterns began to have melodies over a more defined drum beat.

Yes, melodies over a steady drum pattern. It created the concept of hip-hop (hip popular music). After the deaths of Biggie and Pac, hip hop music began to evolve drastically. West coast merged with east coast, Eminem with Dre, 50 Cent with Snoop. Things were changing. And then people suddenly grew tired of drama lyrics of the “coast” music.

People wanted to ride. People wanted to get hyped up. People wanted to, basically, party. And thus began the migration to the south. Although Juvenile and Ludacris had their feet early in the door, southern rap suddenly came with a tremendous force, beginning with the onslaught of Lil Jon with his crunk music.

At first it was refreshing and fun. Then came Mike Jones and Paul Wall and Lil Wayne and Lil Scrappy. Then along came something quite different — snap music.

Dem Franchize Boys, D4L, etc. I think I’m going to puke. These beats are the epitome of talentless instrumental production. The songs rely solely on one thing — gimmicks. Vocal gimmicks, in fact. By repeating the same one or two phrases for sixteen bars at a time (i.e. Laffy Taffy) it will no doubt brainwash a person to memorize that crap.

The other day I was reading Scratch magazine and in an interview with Franchize Boys, one of them was giving advice about beat creation with the software Fruity Loops. He was talking as if Lean Wit It Rock Wit It was the ultimate masterpiece. I think I’m going to hurl again.

Then comes Yung Joc with the ‘It’s Going Down’ song. Now I will not deny that Joc has some impressive flowetry and talent, but Nitty on the beat…. my god. Sometimes beats get repititive because the melody loops every 2 bars, or every 1 bar…but that annoying melody loops every half bar! Oh yes, anyone will know that song by its irritating loop.

Some my argue, if it’s on the radio, then it must be hot! Well, folks, the 90s are dead. DJs no longer run the show, record labels with monetary power do. They control what gets played and what doesn’t. The top 40 system was created by a group of execs from different labels sitting around saying ‘How can we monopolize the mainstream market forever?’

And you wonder why the same ten songs are always played on you radio station? You can get a 5-year-old to mash some buttons on his casio keyboard and lay a drum pattern on it — it will be the platinum hit of the summer with the proper promotion. It’s all about creating a brand name with a price tag, much like Gucci versus a generic clothing brand. The quality does not differ much, but the price tag certainly does — oh my, the expensive one must be better! No sir, it’s about being able to afford that price which defines your social standards. Apply the same concept to music. You want to be ‘in’ and listen to what others listen because radio tells everyone to.

So going back to snap music: People will get sick of it soon. It’s killing hip hop, at least beat-wise. I think the music industry needs to look towards signing talented beatsmiths once again, instead of letting that artist’s friend who has default Fruity Loops instruments to get on the beat.

The cycle is coming soon. Hip hop fans will be begging for melodies again. It’s been nearly 14 years since Dre’s The Chronic. I’d say every 15 years or so, music will bring back its old style with a twist. It’s just like movies. 15 years ago, horror movies began shooting freaky-disturbing themes with thriller-mystery plots. Now it’s back to meaningless gorefest, effed-up slasher-style blood and guts.

Do your thing, Scott Storch. Do your thing, Dr. Dre. Keep hip hop alive. When the cycle returns, I will be waiting. Shadowville will continue to do what it does best — and that’s melodies.