Now that all the year end lists are done for 2012, and 2013 is in full swing, I decided a beginning of the year list is in order. This isn’t a list of albums we’re all looking forward to, or New Year’s resolutions no one plans on keeping, they’re simply my hopes for hip-hop in the coming year. I think over the years hip-hop has made great strides, but at the same time there are areas where we’ve been slipping. My five hopes for 2013 take a look at what can help hip-hop be at its best.
* I hope we stop feeling the need to put prefixes before the word “rapper” when talking about non-male, non-Black, emcees. Hip-Hop is damned near 40, it’s not revolutionary when a woman, White person, Latino, Asian, or anyone else picks up a microphone and spits a verse. There is no need to call someone a “Female Rapper,” or worse, “Femcee.” We have eyes and ears. We can tell she’s a woman. This compartmentalization only works to unfairly alter people’s expectations before a rhyme is even spit. An emcee is an emcee, no matter their race, gender, or sexuality. Emcees should fall into two categories – dope, and wack. One of my favorite emcees is a woman. Her name is Dessa. I don’t call her a dope female emcee. That’s limiting, and gives the impression that women could never be equal to men on the mic. I call her one of my favorite hip-hop artists. We should be past sub-categorization based on race, gender, and sexuality, and hopefully in 2013 we’ll make further strides when it comes to this.
* I hope hip-hop publications begin to remember what hip-hop is really all about. I can’t tell you how tired I am of the parade of terrible rappers I see on the covers of these magazines, always in sunglasses, always wearing some kind of ridiculous opulent chain that doesn’t look impressive at all, but instead looks like they were attacked by a Bedazzler and were tackiness’ willing assault victim. Then when you open up these magazines you see a bunch of articles that were hand picked from press releases and internet memes. Would it kill these publications to hire a team of college interns to go to local shows in their cities and point out which artists are great in their respective areas? I’d much rather read what Joe in Sheboygan has to say about the local rapper he saw tear the roof off of a place in his hometown than yet another interview with an artist with limited skills pretending to be something they’re not.
* I hope we get more artists like Macklemore. Now, I don’t mean I want to hear a bunch of Macklemore clones, what I mean is I want to see more artists creating music that is lyrically compelling, emotionally honest, tackles important issues, and is still fun enough to make it on Top 40 radio. Macklemore has proven hip-hop audiences, who are constantly put into boxes by being sold music that only tackles one concept at a time (thug rap, conscious hip-hop, party music, etc.), are much smarter than they’re given credit for. Ironically, hip-hop radio is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to not giving hip-hop audiences any credit. In 2013, however, with hip-hop radio being locked in a stasis of only playing major label drivel, and having very few DJs who are even allowed to break new music, Top 40 radio is actually MORE important to hip-hop than hip-hop radio, as it creates superstars by introducing their music to larger audiences (like hip-hop radio used to do when they weren’t afraid to play something new). With that in mind, give me more emcees who mix a top 40 mentality with greatness on the mic.
* I hope we rid ourselves, or at least greatly reduce, the amount of “Twitter Beef” that’s permeated the hip-hop world. Back in the good ol’ days, when artists had a problem with each other they either went toe to toe in a battle, or recorded diss songs aimed at each other. Now when a rapper has a problem with another artist they’ll bark at each other in 140 character increments like teenage girls sniping over a prom dress. Twitter is great for a lot of things, but it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for picking up a microphone and doing what an artist supposedly does best – make music. Maybe some of these artists, deep down, realize they’re not really emcees, because if they were truly talented with their words, they wouldn’t be so quick to limit them to such small doses. Regardless, let 2013 be the year rappers step away from their laptops, and into their studios, to discuss their dislike for each other. We need a little more “Second Round K.O.,” and a lot less OMGz LOLz.
* I hope we actually get to hear Detox, even if it’s just one song, and we don’t get to hear it until December 31st. I know most people have given up all hope on Dr. Dre ever releasing Detox, an album that, depending on who you want to believe, has either had hundreds of tracks recorded for, or was never actually a real project to begin with. The most new music Dre has given us in recent years was tied into a Dr. Pepper commercial. He’s been far more concerned with his Beats By Dre series of headphones, and while those headphones probably make him more money than Detox could, I think it’s time he start thinking about his place in music history. He’s had two great albums under his name, one of which, The Chronic, is a classic. I’m starting to wonder, however, if music is what he really wants to do. If he’s reading this (and I’m sure he’s not, as he probably doesn’t have Google News alerts set up for his own name), he needs to think about one name – Nathaniel Baldwin. Do you know who Nathaniel Baldwin is? He’s the inventor of headphones. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know that name, but we do know the names of the greatest music producers of all-time. So does Dre want to be a great music producer, remembered for all time, or does he want to be Nathaniel Baldwin, someone people have to look up to know?