Author: Andrew ‘Configa Beats’ Laidlaw
I’ve been trying to ignore it, in fact I’ve been living in ignorant bliss away from the fact. However, after the recent photo of a freshly manicured Snoop Dogg (regardless of any “Pimp” connotations, as argued by some) appeared – I felt the urge to at least write SOMETHING. I have had various discussions with many people over the last few years who share the same sense of bewilderment and disconnection to hip-hop as we now know it, as me. I hate to say it, but, hip-hop (certainly that which is presented to us by the mass-media), has indeed became “soft”. Yes, I said it.
I never thought I’d see the day: this was once an art-form that was once SO in your face that NWA were arrested by the FBI after performing “F**k the police”. 2Pac was mentioned as an example of all that was “wrong” and “dangerous” by the likes of the then Vice-President Dan Quayle and cultural piggy backers such as C. Delores Tucker. CD’s were stomped on by the middle class because of hip-hop’s perceived “negative” message. Ice T was dropped from Time Warner over the “Cop Killer” song controversy. Public Enemy screamed, in defiance, about your right to “Fight the Power”. Hip-hop was fresh, fierce, and had an edge, lived by some and vicariously enjoyed by many more. There was variety, you could cherry pick from a mass of styles. In 2015, hip-hop, in public consciousness (again, disregarding the so called “underground” – which essentially means that which is ignored by the radio) has been systematically and emphatically neutered and cloned.
I have been married (yes, and I don’t take that word lightly) to this culture since 1988. I was around when the “Golden Era” existed, I remember ALL of the 90s, I wasn’t born in them. I don’t rely on second hand information, as I was fortunate enough to experience it the first time around (much respect to all of the young fans representing real hip-hop values though). I used to be guaranteed to go into a music store and literally like anything I picked up. It had soul, there was a message (negative or otherwise), it resonated. Now all I hear are sparse, sloooow beats (with weak 808 drums and synth stabs) and whoever it is, either from the Southern States, or replicating that flow and accent, drooling all over a mic, with talk of “popping Molly” etc. Punch drunk rappers, as opposed to punch-line rappers. New York, the former Mecca of all things hip-hop, now no longer has an identity. This idea would have been ludicrous to think in the 90’s, but it’s true, and has been for some time now.
I can no longer overlook what I see as disturbing trends emanating out of this culture that was and is my “first love”. Hoody’s, baggy jeans and Timbs, have been replaced by tight “feminized” jeans, nail manicures and snow boots (well, re: the last point in the case of a Lil’ Wayne). Actually Lil’ Wayne was photographed wearing women’s leopard print spandex or something of that nature recently too, so I see. It is the absolute, and ruthless emasculation of hip-hop by the mainstream. Leading hip-hop figures are “soft”, emotional (Drake for example), insecure, gaudy, feminized and at times absurd caricatures of men (and women – please stand up Nicki Minaj). Now, I’ve heard from several sources that it’s the music moguls/”powers that be” doing this, and that IS true to a large extent, (oh and all the chat about the “Illuminati” – we seriously won’t be going there!) but let’s be real, artists with the longevity of Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne, people in the game over and approaching 20 YEARS, are among the WORST culprits. Self made millionaires who USED to have an edge, but now that edge is all soft and fluffy and comes tied up in a pink ribbon.
Now, before there is any dispute, I welcome a culture that is more accessible to ALL. I DEFENDED Macklemore, when everybody was rooting for Kendrick Lamar. He is pushing a popular civil rights/pro gay marriage agenda, and in my opinion, there is nothing at all wrong with this. He’s white and middle class. Again, who cares? Everybody in my mind (and should be in YOUR mind too) is equal. I don’t want this to be seen as a divisive post. However, I can only speak for myself when I think of the “good old days”. When hip-hop wasn’t so…for want of a better word…”safe”. Actually scrap that, how about straight up BORING. It doesn’t make me think, it might make me laugh or better yet, fall asleep, with any luck. An antidote to insomnia for sure.
Hip-hop has went from being an expression of the (predominantly black) lower class against those who were subordinating them, into a display of status and sex (regularly from the late 90s onwards, epitomized by “bling” and “video models”). However there is another change afoot, an “evolution” into something feminine and friendly, which is why Kendrick’s “Control” verse caused such drama! He stopped trying to be friends and play nice with everybody! Can you imagine, this is what USED to happen regularly!! Masculinity is being eroded because women control the market place, they buy the lions share of the music (look around for the stats) and thus, what appeals to a generic “woman” (peace to all the ladies not in this category) is what hip-hop is morphing into.
In addition, what is being mostly presented is truly music for the lowest common denominator. I actually find someone like a Trinidad James personally offensive. “All Gold Everything” now has 17 million views. Yes, 17 million. That’s the population of a moderate sized country. At first I thought it was a parody (there has been parodies of this anyway), essentially, it is an actual insult to my intelligence and to the intelligence of anybody else who has watched it. However, the intelligence levels of most of those 17 million may be in question too. It is modern day black faced minstrelsy.
“Black” stereotypes are perpetuated throughout the song, with the hook being – “Gold all in my chain, gold all in my ring, gold all in my watch, don’t believe me just watch” etc etc. It is like someone took Jimi Hendrix, fresh off his biggest hit of drugs, dipped him in a vat of gold, and drained all but a few of his remaining brain cells. The fact the formerly great house of Def Jam put this out really does say it all for the ’15. Our “hero”, resplendent in a tight fitting (open) leopard print shirt, more gold than Mr. T, tight red pants, and holding a puppy whilst rapping, slurs away to his captive (17 million and growing) audience. Oh and let’s not forget the gold bicycle that he rides….He looks about as hard as a marsh-mellow melting on a fire, and equally as exciting. Judging from muttered monosyllabic responses in interviews, that appears to be exactly what his brain is actually made out of too.
I’m off to play some Smif-N-Wessun…”Timb boots stompin” type ish. Peace.