I am not a hip hop head. I like hip hop, and I have love for hip hop culture. But my appreciation can be equated to a platonic relationship, not the deep torrid love affair that real hip hop heads have for the music. I grew up in the hip hop generation so I feel like even though I’m not a true head, hip hop is as much a part of me as the kool aid with two cups of sugar from my childhood that probably still flows through my body today. I have little or no real memory of the time before hip hop and young black culture went hand in hand.
It’s because of this kinship that I have with hip hop that I am touched by the ongoing debate over whether hip hop is dead. For almost my entire life hip hop has been a defining part of life as a young black person in America so the idea of the genre and by extension the culture dying out leaves me wondering how young blacks will define themselves in the absence of hip hop.
I had a chance to go to a hip hop CPR session on Sunday also known as the Rock the Bells Concert. The
concert featured a roster of hip hop icons that went back like 20 years. I went because De La Soul was performing and I have loved De La Soul since I saw them live in Tallahassee at the Moon while I was in undergrad. I liked them before that, but that live show took our relationship to the next level. I went to that show at the Moon with my roommate who really could be described as a hip hop head. As a matter of fact I have to credit the majority of my early knowledge of “East Coast” hip hop to her. I am from Alabama where that brand of hip hop wasn’t big. I only knew of the groups through the airplay they got on shows like rap city and Yo MTV raps. I knew about southern bass music (which from my non hip hop purist perspective is a part of the hip hop culture). But I digress..so yeah I was at the Rock the Bells show and I had a good time. They played enough of my old favorites to keep my non hip hop headed self entertained. But I can have fun in just about any environment where you can dance so that may not be saying much. At any rate what I took from the show is that hip hop as we know it isn’t dead….on life support maybe but the art form is still very much alive. The only problem is the people who still appreciate hip hop in this form are an aging breed. One of the artists made a comment on stage where he welcomed everyone from 3 to 30 and my homegirl and I looked at each other like why did he cut it off at 30???? How old does he think most of these folk here are? Heck how old was he?
I notice that everyone complaining about the death of hip hop is in their late twenties and older which says something about the argument. Maybe people in this age range think it’s dead or dying because we are just too old to relate to whatever the heck it is that this next generation is doing. Maybe hip hop is just in an transitional state and what we hear coming through the airwaves today are just the wails from the growing pains as hip hop tries to get to it’s next evolution.
The arguments about Soulja Boy killing hip hop and the like are ridiculous to me. Maybe the people complaining are just too old to relate to Soulja Boy*. Sorta like our parents couldn’t relate to us back in the day. Think about how silly the stuff we used to do probably looked to them.
Speaking of stuff that has been accused of killing hip hop. I mentioned that I’m from the south so my definition of hip hop is a little broader than a purists might be. (I’m sure purists would castrate me for saying this….but fortunately for me I don’t have the proper equipment for them to remove). I think the south might have been at least partly responsible for keeping hip hop alive as long as it has been. No one on the east coast wants to give credit to the south, but where would hip hop be without artists like Outcast, Ludacris, heck even Lil Jon who kept it crunk when the east coast wasn’t putting anything out there really. And I’m gone hate myself in the morning for this but Lil Wayne is currently holding his own. (Note I haven’t liked Lil Wayne since the Hot Boys…back when he got no respect…but I felt like the music was more pure then….shoot me). My friends who were at the concert with me were all from the south and we had a discussion about how the show would have been if they included southern rappers or better yet if it was an all southern rap show. (Surprisingly…or maybe not so surprisingly the white guy sitting in front of us was extremely knowledgeable about southern rap and had a lot to contribute to this discussion) The only problem is the audience such a show would attract would probably prevent me from being able to go for fear the show would get shut down mid way through due to people getting a little too crunk. Anyway I’m not sure where I was going with all of this. I suppose this was really just an excuse for me to give some much deserved props to the Dirty South (who were so ungraciously excluded from the Rock the Bells roster) disguised as an analysis of the state of hip hop.
Anyway here are some more pictures from the show.
* For the record I think Soulja Boys little dance was pretty clever, but I don’t think he’s a real hip hop artist