Hip Hop Is Returning to it's Roots
Hip-Hop has always been loyal to it's history, and while new genres are always emerging, classis Hip-Hop influences over younger rappers are seen a lot more often. Here's how Hip-Hop's golden age has become relevant again to the genre's future.
By Ilai Dgani
1520 Sedgwick Ave, The Bronx, NY 10453, United States - Birthplace of Hip Hop
(Photographed by Glen Knight)
First thing’s first - just like many other musical genres, Hip-Hop always has been and is still developing. It has, is, and will always go through changes with new technology, sounds, and subgenres emerging. Changes are always controversial at first as it takes time for things to shape and for the ear to get used to new sounds. There are many opinions and disagreements within the international Hip-Hop community regarding the new wave of Hip-Hop. With trap & mumble rap gaining huge support within the younger Hip-Hop fans while true-school rappers are getting back-up from the Hip-Hop heads, the discussion about Hip-Hop is very controversial. It is noticeable that many voices (from both sides of the discussion) are saying that Hip-Hop is no more true, and that it is just a matter of time until there would be no more trails of the roots of Hip-Hop due to the large changes it is going through. However, there is something happening to Hip-Hop. Something beautiful, that seems to be slipping under the listeners’ attention.
Since it first emerged in 1973 in New-York, Hip-Hop has been through many phases. Starting with Kool Herc’s experimental thing, with only a handful of artists tackling the Disco/Funk inspired genre (it was only six years later when it was named Hip-Hop) and early 1980’s electronic & drum machines’ break into the genre. Through late 1980’s - early 1990’s emerging of West Coast Rap (Gangsta Rap), Southern Rap, and New-York’s golden age of classic Boom-Bap. 2000’s Neo-Soul and R&B inspired Hip-Hop broke right into the heart of the mainstream, and all the way to modern Hip-Hop featuring New-School & Trap music. With over 50% of the major charts’ tracklists featuring Hip-Hop music, the culture & genre managed to reach the highest peaks in music. After nearly 50 years of going through changes and development, with so many different influences, sounds, and subgenres, it seems like Hip-Hop is finally starting to create a true shape for itself, without hurting it’s very own underground subgenres and movements which have always defined Hip-Hop as a culture.
It has been sometime now, that 1990’s trends are back in present fashion and lifestyle. With growth 90’s oversized streetwear, cover arts, and musical samples and covers made. Some voices claim that “The Old-School is back”, others claim that it is just a trend and trap music is pushing out Hip-Hop as it was always known. One of the things that true Hip-Hop followers might notice, is the comeback of old school beats and samples. Artists such as Rico Nasty who used several Jay-Z, Xzibit and other 90’s rappers’ influenced / remade beats in her 2018 project “Nasty”, and in her joint project with producer Kenny Beats (2019). Another example is Amine’s “Shimmy” (2020) which refers to Ol’ Dirty Bastards’ (RIP) “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. Z-Wayne’s 2020 “I Choose You” is a perfect example of a new-school artist, with a new-wave influenced flow who remakes a classic (UGK & Outkast - Intl’ Players Anthem) and represents it in a way that is relevant to Old-School Heads as well as the most hardcore Trap-Heads. In addition to that, classic Boom Bap rhythms infused with modern drum kits and sounds are becoming more and more popular and common. Artists like Sampa The Great, Villain Park, Lord Apex are great examples (in addition to many others). The major effect that this has over the music and listeners is that it creates a bridge and connection between Old-Heads and New-Heads.
New-School Rap has been around for a while. With artists like SchoolBoy Q, Isaiah Rashad, A$AP Rocky and many others, the character of Hip-Hop music has changed and created a path for Trap & Mumble Rap to break in. This can be felt especially through the beats & productions the modern rappers use. Artists like J Cole have managed to take the new school to a more conscious & rooted place, many times using Tribe Called Quest & other rap golden age samples and references. This is often addressed as “True-School”, music that fans of almost all subgenres and waves in Hip-Hop can relate to. In addition to that, One of the modern artists who are known for their Old-School style is Joey Bada$$. Joey Bada$$ is often addressed as someone who was born in the wrong time. His old-school flow and productions don’t feel as natural to younger listeners, as there are very few rappers who manage to make the music Joey Bada$$ makes and still stay relevant. His importance and contribution to the future of Hip-Hop, and his influence over what is happening with Hip-Hop is huge due to the fact that he is literally keeping classic Hip-Hop alive, and shows it’s importance and relevance even in times where younger and new listeners are rarely exposed to this kind of music, which reflects the deep history it has and the process, progress, and development it is going through.
Another thing that reflects the changes and development of Hip-Hop in terms of shaping up and getting more depth, is the conscious lyrics that many younger artists are using. In an age where many of the biggest Hip-Hop hits are addressing superficial matters, there are more and more upcoming artists who rap about deeper matters. Artists such as Cordae, BEAM, Buddy, Denzel Curry, DUCKWRTH, and many others write about deeper subjects involving their feelings, thoughts, and opinions on various matters such as day to day struggles, love life, childhood experiences, their growing up process, criticism of social matters, and many times even politics. These subjects have never disappeared from Hip-Hop, some of the biggest names in the industry have been keeping and guarding them this whole time. Expressing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions without borders or limitations - the very things Hip-Hop stands for as a rebellious genre. Kendrick Lamar is a great example for that, and it is no wonder that he is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time (if not THE greatest). Artists like Kendrick, J Cole, Tyler The Creator, Freddie Gibbs, and Joey Bada$$ have kept true Hip-Hop’s values alive, and it is great to see that their presence and influence is truly starting to affect the younger generation of rappers - securing Hip-Hop’s future as a genre and culture.
With Hip-Hop breaking into the mainstream, a lot of its charm seems to have faded away. 1 hit artists emerged, and pop culture had its effect on the genre. On one end it’s a good thing since Hip-Hop is getting a lot more attention nowadays and is considered one of the most popular genres in the world, however it also had negative effects on the culture as the discussions within the Hip-Hop community is more often addressing superficial & commercial matters, which is not what true Hip-Hop is about. Many artists started to try and break into the mainstream attempting to earn money and gain fame, adding to that the overflow of information and music going around the internet, artists started creating shorter projects and singles releasing music very often in order to stay relevant. Compared to projects from earlier days of Hip-Hop which usually consisted of a lot more content, though, feelings, and much stronger messages - making them absolutely timeless. Quantity became a lot more important than quality to many rappers, a thing that shows its effect in terms of the instant fall many of them experience shortly after breaking, and the huge change of the listeners and fans. This many times hurts the artist's message, and makes the whole thing just a temporary trend. However this is also something that seems to be changing and shifting back to its origin. More and more artists take longer time in between projects in order to get the best out of themselves, even with the risk of being no longer relevant. Younger artists are understanding that in order for them to rise and shine above other artists, they have to put out the best music possible.
Hip-Hop music is influenced by so many different genres, features so many different sounds, and is basically an infusion of everything. It is built and based on merging genres and using different musical elements. It seems like Hip-Hop reached a point, in which it is no longer depending on other genres. Hip-Hop is influencing itself, and artists use the fairly short, though very large and deep history of the genre and culture in order to find new inspiration and keep themselves, and their beloved genre constantly relevant. Deeper lyrics, quality productions, putting the feelings & thoughts into the music is what Hip-Hop is about. It’s about telling a story, expressing the different struggles, it’s about spreading love, and about working hard in order to achieve success. Hip-Hop’s true roots and values are slowly sinking back into the music and culture, without authenticity nothing can stay for long. Hip-Hop is becoming authentic again, and that is exactly why it will stay true, and will stay around for a long time.