As bold as this statement may seem, it is altogether accurate and wholly untrue at the same time.
Let me explain.
The majority of the populace that loves extensions of what Hip Hop culture has become, be it; their favorite Rap Station, favorite fashion trend, most indulgent T.V. drama, favorite clubbing music, or their favorite jam, don’t truly care about the defining features of what shapes and defines Hip Hop.
I’d like to add a quick disclaimer that I am not suggesting they SHOULD, only that they DON’T, and that it’s worthy enough of a discrepancy to draw attention to.
Imagine someone who claims to be “an avid basketball fan” but couldn’t tell you what “traveling” is or how many quarters there are in a game, or even how many points a basket is worth. To anyone who truly understands the game of basketball, it would seem absurd that they share the same “care” for the sport. Such is the case with Hip Hop. Arguably one of the most global phenomenons of the 21st Century with people whose lives are wholly shaped by it, with billions professing their love Rap Music, yet one would be hard pressed to find that most would have an extremely difficult time outlining with any sort of logic why they prefer one artist over another. I feel the need to point out once more that this no judgement on whether or not they should be able to differentiate how one might deem a verse as prolific, and another as weak, or be able to pinpoint a “Hot 16” or even what a “16” is for that matter [16 bars has become the standard length of a rap verse, whereas 1 bar is the equivalent of 4 counts or 1 musical measure]. They would find it disturbingly irrelevant why it would be an outrage for someone to claim they are “free-styling” when they are simply reciting “writtens”.
These are only a few of the defining factors from 1 of the 4 (arguably 5) pillars of the art form that are taken so seriously by those who love Hip Hop, compared to those who are rolling their eyes right now to the tune of:
“I could care less about all that shit! I like his/her voice, and it makes me feel good and I can relate to it!”
And the brilliance of Hip Hop is exactly that, embedded into those two factors alone:
The way it makes us feel, and how we relate to it.
Scarcely has there existed a phrase in the Western English Lexicon that can mean one thing to so many and something totally different to others. Say the word “Hip-Hop” and all at once, it can mean: a culture, a lifestyle, an art-form, a fashion trend, old school, rap music, the streets, real music, clubbing music, a business, a type of person, New York, Los Angeles, Dirty South, Mid-West, four pillars, five pillars, underground, mainstream, noise, gangster rap, ho’s, bitches, blunts, 40’s, tims, rims, bling, grills, strippers, popping bottles, stunting, lifestyle, sneakers, beef, guns, battle rap, political commentary, the truth, distortions, the list goes on…
So who’s right? Is it the origins? Or is it what Hip Hop has evolved into? Is is a fashion style? Or a type of music? And if it’s both, then how can we differentiate which definition we are referencing when having a conversation? And even more importantly which party we are talking with?
But most importantly, Does anyone care?
The truth is… No, most people don’t. For most people, they could give a shit why one rapper claims he’s better than another rapper. The listener doesn’t care, they like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like. For every avid and passionate hip-hop fan, who can spend hours debating the brilliance and weakness of the various players in the game the same way a group of sports fanatics can talk ball, there exists 10 who don’t give a shit. However, the major difference between Hip Hop and other distinct interest groups like: Sports Fanatics, Trekee’s, Magic Lovers, Comic Collectors, Car Aficionados, etc… is that, our gateway has been flooded and everyyyyone has been given access. Insert lyric, “Somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerking…”
If you happen to fall into the majority of those reading this article who “love” hip hop in the same way girls “love” poodles, and dudes “love” UFC, it’s my privilege to inform you, there exists a group that truly cares.
This group will sit and make rational, logical, and poignant assessments expounding on the source of one rapper’s power and another’s weakness. They will break down cadences and gifts of emcees vs. lyricists vs. rappers in the same way one can breakdown point guards, power forwards, shooting guard and their various positions on the court. They can break down the skills on the mic, the same way one dissects an athletes versatility. They will analyze lyrical delivery in the same way one can breakdown the comedic timing of an actor. They will determine the set up and execution of a successful punchline in the same way one scrutinizes in slow motion how a boxer’s jab sets up the knockout. They will assess a rapper’s story-telling the same way we discuss a movie that’s left us speechless.
All these things and more, go into the minds and hearts of “Hip Hop Heads” (as they have so affectionately been deemed), who actually do care. This is a group that cares and does so deeply. For this minority, the subject-matter is as relevant, alive, and fun to discuss as any political, religious or socio-economic theory.
It is because of the giant chasm between; those tourists taking snapshots of a foreign landscape for their scrapbook, and those for whom living these details are as holy as representing your country during the World Cup; why a conversation between two seemingly connected groups is so hard.
When a “hip hop head” is asked a question like, “Why don’t you like Jay Z or why do you say Lil’ Wayne is not a great emcee?”, their answer can be looked upon as bitter, resentful or possibly defensive, especially if they are an artist. In actuality, should they attempt to explain all the reasons that went into their opinion, it would fall on deaf ears because the terminology and the depth of understanding for that subject matter is as wide and as deep as a professor talking about their chosen field. It just so happens that the subject matter is one of the most popular, over-saturated, global, relatable, accessible, and the most commonplace in our modern day world. Because of that (here’s the kicker) it is the majority that have been left to define it.
The essence of most communication or miscommunication for that matter lies in the definition of terms. In this case, the term in question befuddles us all.
Hip Hop is the music of the people and speaks to the people, however, there is an imbalance present when those who care least or do not care at all have come to define what it is and what it isn’t. In fact, even upon reading this article, the divide will become clear.
One group will look at themselves and honestly say, “You’re right, I don’t give a fuck.”
The other will muse with conviction, “Finally someone gets it. I thought I was the only one!”
No my friend, you are not. This by no means is my attempt to bridge the gap. It’s simply a shoutout to those for whom these details resonate. To let them know, you’re not alone.
And a little wake up call for all the others to let them know, this is Hip Hop and we’re calling you out.