[dropcap]N[/dropcap]othing is more irritating than watching as rock stars of yesteryear sell out shows while our Hip Hop trailblazers struggle to land reality shows in hopes of generating checks. What happens to a dream deferred? Or better yet, what happens to a dream forgotten? Let me propose a few questions for your consideration:
If I named Hip Hop greats, would you recognize them? Would your heart fill with nostalgia and delight? Would you scrape up all your pennies and nickels to buy floor level tickets at a concert where they headline the show?
Rakim, KRS-One, Doug E Fresh, A Tribe Called Quest, Naughty By Nature, Pharcyde, Run DMC, Beastie Boyz, Slick Rick, NWA, Nice and Smooth, Yo-Yo, even Master P and the whole No Limit dynasty……
Ask yourself: Are they relevant? Do you care that they are no longer ‘reigning supreme’ and spewing out records of massive consequence or at best, selling out shows? Now, why do you think that is?
There is no doubt in my mind that Tupac Amaru Shakur and Christopher “Notorious BIG” Wallace are the most notable Hip Hop recording artists of my generation. But the daunting question that pervades my mind is: Is their level of significance, recognition, and irrefutable legendary status based solely on their untimely deaths? Would Hip Hop revere these two legends just as much if they were still here? Just think about it.
Hip Hop has a history of being fad driven and therefore consistent interest in a particular performer is challenging. The fads aren’t just evident in album sales. We see it in our lives all around us. Nelly releases a song about “grills” and immediately faux teeth were available at local shops and swapmeets. More recently this was evident when Nicki Minaj proclaimed herself a Barbie. Month after month, young women were obsessed with being Barbie or some interpretation thereof. And after time passes, people begin to realize that what was once cool, is no longer as cool. People lose interest in the fad, and move on to the next one. Is this what has happened to Hip Hop? Time after time, an artist will produce an album that metaphorically changes our lives, but interest beyond that point is fleeting. This inconsistency grossly affects the tenure of some of our significant contributors. What does it say about us, if those who were once vital to our musical sanity, become unimportant and forgotten?
Now dont get me wrong. I know there are some Hip Hop greats that have remained relevant and are not going to be leaving the limelight any time soon.Will Smith, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and even MC Lyte have remained relevant. But these are individuals who reached out and diversified their talents; stepping out of the comfort of their first love, and nurturing gifts in other categories. Acting, voice overs, hosting, writing, all these things have guaranteed tenure for these artists. Current artists are learning to diversify their options by investing and making great partnerships like Jay-Z with The Nets.
But the question is, will diversification be the only way for Hip Hop artists to remain relevant? My argument is no. The key to remaining significant is renovation, talent, and execution. Artists must guarantee not only that they are talented in the first place, but they must continuously show this talent. They must also be willing to change as the times, people, and fads change around them while simultaneously remaining true to themselves. Execution is important because they have to have the talent, they have to remain fresh and new, and they have to present themselves in a way that is impressive and remains that way. This is seen in the tenure of Hip Hop artist Nasir Jones.
But we, the Hip Hop generation, the consumers, the FANS….we have a responsibility too. We need to support our artists NOW! We cannot be so quick to write off our favorite artist because they put out one single that isn’t to our liking. We cannot continue to download free music instead of buying albums. And we need to see our artists selling out shows. Its ok, you can save up for those floor seats. This is how we guarantee our music, our artists, and Hip Hop in general remains relevant and revered.