Ever since the inception of Hip Hop, there have always been critics saying that the latest generation at the time just wasn't as good as the previous generation. When Hip Hop first started, older people said that it was “just noise and talking” and wasn't real music compared to the soul music of Al Green and James brown. In the ;ate 90's and early 2000's, we had people complaining that hip hop had become too mainstream and lacked the traits that once made the genre special. We can also remember when nearly every one was quoting Nas in saying Hip Hop was dead in the mid to late 2000's. Today, there are many complaints of the new class of artists making waves, often with comparisons to the superior “old school” music accompanying them. However, we have to ask ourselves whether the hate is actually justified?
First things first, even the new school has to admit that gaining a buzz is fairly easier now a days. Thanks to social media, YouTube and sites like Soundcloud, many artists don't have to go through the motion of dealing with labels in order to get their music out there to their potential fans. This has lead to many artist grinding it out on there own until they are able to gain notoriety for their singles and mixtapes. Once a song gets popular online and in the streets, you'll have the potential for many mainstream artists to make their own remixes on the instrumentals, which further catapults a hit into mainstream rotation, possibly leading to the artist being signed. There is one major downside to this: is the artist truly ready, or did he/she simply get lucky? Go back and listen to many of your favorite artists first singles and albums, not their first major hits, but that first piece of work that may have flown under the radar or got less radio play than their future music. You'll see that they don't sound as nearly as good, as it took them time to master their craft, find their style and grow into the rappers that you love. Maybe the fact that so many artists are getting major shine from their first single or mixtape really is bad for Hip Hop, since young artists aren't being challenged and pushed to improve on their craft and prove themselves before getting mainstream attention.
On the flip side, many of the critics claiming that “Hip Hop is dead” because of the new generation are really stretching with their claim, especially with the comparisons to “the greats”. The first reason why this claim doesn't hold much weight is the fact that most of the new music coming out was made with the club in mind. This is nothing new, there has always been a separation between hip hop music that's made for the sake of the artists wanting to be a top lyricist and rap music that's made to keep people in the clubs hyped up. In a sense, whenever someone brings up songs like “Hit The Quan”, Silento's “Watch Me” or most songs from Lil Yachty's catalog in comparison to Kendrick Lamar and J Cole is like someone from the past generation trying to say that Hip Hop died by Lil Jon's “Where Them Girls At?” to “New York State Of Mind” by Nas. Better yet, it would be like giving multiple reasons why the Wu Tang Clan would totally crush 2 Live Crew in a freestyle battle. Not using that statement as a direct comparison of new and old artists, or even to excuse the new artists, but the point is that making that observation to critique Hip Hop as a genre today makes you come off as pretentious instead of someone who loves the genre.
Another thing that people love to say is “These rappers wouldn't be here today if Pac was still alive” or “this was back when weak MC's couldn't make records” when referring to a song from the past. The problem with those statements is the same problem faced when talking to someone with nostalgia no matter what genre of music or entertainment medium. You can't compare every fighter who just began his career to Mike Tyson in his prime to make the point that every boxer is soft. You can't compare a Stanley Kubrick film to every PG-13 romantic comedy made this year to make your point that movies aren't good anymore. Most people try to use the greatest rappers of the past such as Tupac, Biggie, Nas and Ice Cube to fuel their argument that Hip Hop is dead today. However, they forget two things, that there are still plenty of great acts that are just as lyrical and still keeping Hip Hop alive, and also that these examples are only the greats and don't completely reflect all of Hip Hop. There have always been rappers who found success despite being nowhere nearly as lyrical as the top favorites. Remember MIMS? Remember how Bone Crusher made his mark on the scene despite some Hip Hop heads looking at him and other “Crunk” artists and not even considering his music real Hip Hop, especially since he lacked freestyle skills and deep lyrical content? Considering that makes it seem really silly that even he has come out to say that Hip Hop's young generation sucks, despite many young artists actually having more flow and lyrical skill than him. We cannot allow nostalgia for our favorite artists to make us believe that there was a golden standard where if you weren't a perfect MC, or at least on the same level as Tupac or Biggie, you couldn't get your song heard.
At the end of the day, we have seen a really big change in Hip Hop as far as content, style and fashion. Rappers are getting more chances than previously just off of mixtapes, and sometimes stand alone singles, than ever before thanks to social media. Are lyricists and story tellers becoming more rare while those making “club” and “trap” records are becoming more prevalent? Yes. Does this mean that there's no talent nor potential in the new generation of artists? Of course not! So maybe we should just give some of the new artists some time to truly find their style and flow so that they can possibly become great. Either that, or at least get off our high horses enough to give credit to the select few new rappers that have emerged in recent years keeping lyricism and story telling alive and well!