Sometime last week I mentioned on Twitter that Hip Hop is dead. I have said this before and will probably say it again. It just so happens that days before I tweeted this, I was over a friend’s house and a bunch of us were talking and listening to Music Choice from Time Warner Cable. The channel was set on Hip Hop and R&B and I was not impressed for the entire night, which lead me to my statement that Hip Hop is dead.
Of course, people felt the need to argue with me and tell me that Hip Hop was indeed alive and I had to find it. Perhaps, but my point is that Hip Hop as I know it is dead and gone. I found it hard to articulate why I felt a certain way. I can only look back at the past and point out that (and this is my opinion) the greatest 2-3 year span of Hip Hop music was between 1991 – 1993. I actually expanded this to include 1991 because I think there were things that happened that year that kicked off the following two years. That era is important when you think about the apex of the genre. This is not to knock the 80’s at all, but take in to account some the albums that came out those years and the amount of music that was so good.
I was thinking about all this before I saw the documentary “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”. After seeing it, I realized I was right in my assessment. Hip Hop is a whole different animal than what I remember it. This documentary was amazing and it took me to a place I haven’t been too in a very long time. This was when I loved rap music so much. A Tribe Called Quest was that the center of it all with their albums that were just ridiculous. But, it was more that just the music, it was feeling, an intangible thing that no words could describe. It is like one of those stories that end up with the phrase “you just had to be there.”
I didn’t know at the time that I was in witnessing one of the greatest eras of Hip Hop at the time. Sure, I grew up with it. My brother had a Boom Box and we would listen to cassettes, but this particular time was me in college buying my own CD’s and cassettes. I would make play-lists for people and record them. At one point I made my own rhymes and even a small song (it was horrible). I loved it and respected the industry for what it was. At one point during the documentary, Quest Love, from The Roots, says “The second Tuesday of October ’93, I consider that the last great day in classic Hip Hop. Two very important albums came out that day: Enter the 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang and Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest” This is the very basis of my argument.
Let’s talk about how many artists and albums came out during this period and think about the quality. Look at the industry now and you should see that anyone can be a rap artist now.
- A Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory
- NWA – N****z For Life
- Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill
- Naughty by Nature – Naughty by Nature
- Public Enemy – Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black
- Black Sheep – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
- Leaders of the New School – A Future Without a Past
- Main Source – Breaking Atoms
- Nice & Smooth – Ain’t a Damn Thing Change
- De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead
- Dr Dre – The Chronic
- Redman – Whut? Thee Album
- The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II Tha Pharcyde
- Pete Rock & CL Smooth – Mecca and the Soul Brother
- EPMD – Business Never Personal
- Ice Cube – The Predator
- Das Efx – Dead Serious
- Diamond D – Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop
- Gangstarr – Daily Operation
- Eric B & Rakim – Don’t Sweat the Technique
- A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
- Wu Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers
- Snoop Doggy Dogg – DoggyStyle
- Souls of Mischief – ’93 til Infinity
- Black Moon – Enta Da Stage
- Queen Latifah – Black Reign
- Run DMC – Down With the King
- Lords of the Underground – Here Come the Lords
- Onyx – Bacdafucup
- The Alkaholics – 21 & Over
I picked 10 albums from each of these years that have solidified the era I am referring to. Before people starting digging through their collection on albums that came out in 1994, I just want to mention a few things. Nas dropped one of greatest albums in 1994, that is a given. However, he was in a single by Main Source in 1991 (Live at the Barbeque) and he had a single in 1992 (Halftime). The Notorious B.I.G, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, had a single in 1993 (Party & Bullshit) on the Who’s The Man soundtrack. Jay Z was in a group called Original Flavor that had a single in 1993 (Can I get Open). Common debuted in 1992 with his first album: Can I Borrow a Dollar?
This is the Hip Hop that I am missing. Can you name 10 albums that came out last year that was really good? I can name 2-3. Sure, we now have the Kanyes and the Drakes but we lack what this genre used to be. Now, it is all about the commercialism and the fame, which is fine because people need to eat. But, the artistry of Hip Hop has been reduced to fake rivalries, auto tunes, twitter beefs, and dance songs with one verse.
Maybe I have been spoiled with being born at at time when Hip Hop was beginning. Perhaps I am spoiled with being alive to understand that I have lived through the golden age. Hip Hop as I once knew it is dead. I wish I could say different but even Nas made a song about. I just have a question that was raised by Public Enemy, Who Stole the Soul?