People are either loving or hating modern hip-hop today, and that is largely due to how we consume and listen to music.
From Nas to Tekashi 6ix9ine, who really knows what the people want?
The shift from poets on the street-corner to mumble rappers strutting the runway, shows how quickly hip-hop has shifted from the underground to the mainstream… and more importantly how urban culture is becoming packaged, taxed, and artificially flavoured to make microwave music.
The line between hip-hop for the party versus hip-hop for the mind and soul, has always been there since the days of DJ Hollywood and the disco roots of MC-ing, and Afrika Bambaataa with the conscious and culturally woke bars and beats of the Zulu Nation.
More recently, these same conscious vs commercial flags are held high by the likes of rap kings like Kendrick Lamar and Drake, whose success show that there’s pros and cons to either approach.
Genius producers like Pharrell and Kanye West push the boundaries of what hip-hop can be. They do this by challenging the conventional beat patterns, percussion, and samples used in creating sounds; and with all producers focused on “the new sound”, hip-hop is a musical chameleon.
Hip-Hop is definitely music but it’s also raw, unapologetic, and unfiltered culture.
It is and always will be the voice of the streets as much as it is now the voice from the penthouses, and so it’s important to think about how people interact with hip-hop now.
With major record labels, popular brands, and big businesses investing tons and tons of money into these artists of varying names, chain-lengths, and shades of hair colour, it’s up to you as a head-bumper to think about what you’re feeding your ears before you listen!
With 2018 becoming a very hot year for albums and projects by your favourite artists, we at The Omelette felt it best to consider 4 Tips to Becoming a Better Hip-Hop Listener.
1) Open Your Mind
Hip-hop originally came out of youth being fearless and not giving a Fu&$ about tradition and rules in music. By integrating and taking from soul, funk, disco, blues, and jazz, hip-hop was and always will be challenging, misunderstood, shocking, weird, and sometimes scary.
That’s what keeps it fresh, and that’s what got you listening even way back when. So even now (while I hate to say this), keep an open mind and try new music.
If we can accept that hip-hop came this far by people taking a chance and continuing to listen to something they didn’t understand, then our inability to do the same, can really slow down progress and unity in the genre.
2) Do Your Homework
Research is key. Study the samples used in your favourite tracks or the designers behind the swag they are wearing. Become more connected in all aspects of the culture from fashion, to music, to art, to film, and now to real corporate business moves.
Getting the backstory behind sneak-diss bars, or figuring out who really wrote your favourite song, or understanding how rap beefs influenced the creation of hip-hop superheroes and villains, shows fans how important it is to know the story behind the bars as much as possible.
3) Be Critically Aware and Conscious of the Message
Understand what the message really is behind the music.
This is different from Tip 2 because rather than understand the mindset of the artist or the context, here we want to figure out what they are really trying to say. The thrill of decoding all of Pusha-T’s drug slang, or separating the triple-entendres in Jay-Z’s various freestyled raps emphasizes how active you need to be as a listener of hip-hop.
Much of the music today relies on you choosing not to listen to words and focus more on the “feel” and vibes”. Being passive and apathetic about trying to understand today’s hip-hop is scary because the constant repetition, overplayed subject matter, and never-ending corporate endorsement shout-outs literally brainwash and condition teens all around us.
Instead – becoming critical and skeptical of what you hear is crucial to understanding the motive and intent behind your favourite songs.
Consumerism, materialism, and exhibitionism are just three of the nasty drugs, that hip-hop is pushing outside of the confines of the trap-house. Youth and young adults are being influenced on the products they buy and the life decisions they make, largely based on pop-culture. Now that hip-hop culture IS pop-culture, you do the math.
4) Turn Jewels into Jewellery
Whatever you learn from your favourite artist is not supposed to sit in your headphones.
Learn from the trials and demons these artists have battled and the successes they’ve reaped. Hip-Hop is not just music for the bus ride home – it also sparks late night talks with the homies about how to become the next big billionaire!
Hip-Hop is a prevailing form of education that can really affect people who have a hard time learning from parents or in school. Artists can embed complex ideas and messages within the verses they write, images they use, and aesthetic they create. Our ability to memorize a Wu-Tang verse quicker than a physics formula, speaks volumes about the untapped potential of Hip-Hop as education.
Whether it’s Jay-Z explaining how an art investment can flip profits within a year, or Future expressing how females and drugs become a sort of dangerous self-medication in the industry – the gems are only valuable if you choose to actually use them.
So what are you listening to this summer? Why do you love hip-hop? Tell us about your relationship with music, and until our next piece, enjoy the art this scary world creates.
Hip-hop reminds us that as easily as we can destroy, we can imagine and create!