Hip-Hop: Defined

The other day I started writing about how hip-hop (its fans especially) have changed over time. After the first paragraph I realized that my argument about fans and the genre changing was pretty much wrong. Not much has changed since the genre’s inception regardless of what Ebro of Hot 97 or that Punk fan that doesn’t respect anything outside of Nas and Wu Tang will tell you. So today, when we’re having these forums surrounding new Rap and what it is -and isn’t, the exclusion of the game’s new artists is flat out wrong. Further, including the new rappers into the category of hip-hop today requires reaching or stretching of what hip-hop ever was for the new jacks to fit the mold. This includes Iggy Azalea, Lil Yachty or any other artists you may have written off for not being “hip-hop” enough for your static-ass, moldy standards.


An example to bounce anyone unwilling to stretch outside of their “authentic hip-hop” realm of seems like a good place to start the digging. Iggy Azalea, the twerking Australian, can likely never come fall back into hip-hop’s good graces. Whatever she did has her banished from the conversation. Tbh, Nick probably gave up on the relationship once he realized he couldn’t go anywhere with her hate stacking up on top of his negative perception in LA and nationwide. But Iggy ain’t do nothing different than what many other rappers have. Give up what she had to move somewhere promising music-wise and start a career. On her way to the billboard charts, she scrubbed floors (she says) and hustled to put herself in a position that presented opportunity. “No money, no family”, “16 in the middle of Miami”. Iggy seems to have been in these streets doing what she had to in order to get on. And that’s very hip-hop when applied to other rappers who were on the same boat. When Metro Boomin did that and moved to Atlanta, no one blinked an eye; they made memes instead!. So even though she had the hip-hop backing, the style and the story, it was never enough. Why couldn’t hip-hop be extended to include Iggy? Before she had a radio hit, she was just Iggy in these skreets and it was never an issue. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.


We can have this argument about lack of lyrical prowess like that ever meant anything and like Iggy or other new rappers never had it but the definition of hip-hop would be contradicting itself again. Pioneers of this game never had a punchline or wordplay until dudes like Kane came around and since then the game has accepted a slew of rappers who fail to drop bars like a Xanax fiend.




This is why the disparaging of artists like Yachty and Desiigner along with others always  struck me as yet another contradiction. Did the genre not exists before rappers started getting all cerebral and introspective? Shouldn’t artists today be viewed as more original with the fun and energy that matches that of the original Bronx emcees? The genre was never based on a set of cardinal rules that were damning if broken. If anything, hip-hop was originated without rules, rebellious in its nature; scratching disks and looping break beats. (And if it sounds like I just watched The Get Down… I did). What Desiigner and Jay Z, both Brooklyn artists, represent is not different. If their means of expression of differ, that is not to say that both are not hip-hop. This is only to show how diverse the genre is and has become. The evolution of music is not to say it’s died or become something less.


It almost seems as if hip-hop became more individualized when it veered away from this community aspect whence it was founded. Attempts to exclude were put-forth and Rap purists now have built imaginary gates to keep out anyone who isn’t Nas or Tupac.


What we have today is new music from the youth and from populations across the world who’ve made hip-hop their very own. Their version of the music isn’t not be treated any differently. Hip-hop may be at a peak right now with representation from West Coast Gangsta Rap, Southern Trap and Bounce with the Psych-Rap of Chance and more and the lyrical heavy-hitters that “keep the genre in check”. It’s almost as if the notion of high-art in other creative circles has been bought into. Without complex rhyme schemes and rapping in pentameters with innovative signature this music can’t be superior? Ebro called the music elementary like basic can’t be good. I call bullshit. “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is like 4 notes and the shit is timeless. Rae Sremmurd has made a name for themselves as a fun group who embrace diversity and also contributed to one of the biggest names in music of the generation. It’s a shame they can’t get respect from those who claim to embrace the culture so much.


Perhaps what’s most agitating is the snobbery of hip-hop fans and pundits who witnessed the genre be outcasted for so long. Every year the Grammys and other “high-art” institutions shit all over the genre and these same folks take umbrage and gripe about how we can’t get a fair shot. In the tweet following our Grammy-hate tweet, we talk about how up-and-coming artist such as such isn’t worthy of representing the culture and how the genre has taken a step back because of them. And this failure to acknowledge or understand evolution? What is this metathesiophobic phenomenon in this perceived culture of liberal thought? Hip-hop fans were told not to drink the Cristal by the owners and Rockstars whose footsteps hip-hop stars have followed in continue to shun the genre. Now we’re doing the same?


Defining hip-hop is not easy or even actually possible. Simply put, one could say that anything derived from the culture spawned in New York and the Bronx fits the mold. And no matter how far the down the line from the BX the art has gone in the past 4 decades, there is no figure or work that can discount what hip-hop is today or ever was. Not to be boxed-in or pigeon-holed, hip-hop is what it is and no one is to say what it’s not.