Over the past couple of years the question of “where is Hip-Hop going?” has popped into my head more than a couple of times. As a fan of music since birth and an advocate of Hip Hop since age six, I have found myself constantly defending it, its artists, and its fans. That task has become increasingly difficult since it has now become such a capitalist entity within the world. Very few stars within Hip-Hop has risen to the top over the past couple of years. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, J. Cole and Tyler, The Creator, just to name a few, all share similar paths on the way to stardom. A heavy mixtape presence mixed with regional recognition, an adaptation of styles of Hip-Hop’s past, all combined with a heavy amount of verbal ferocity. What you have to ask yourself is why haven’t more artists made it to the top?
On November 4,1987 the world of the marketability of Hip-Hop changed forever. This is the release date of the monumental album by Ice-T titled ‘Rhyme Pays.’ Peaking at 93 on the Billboard 200, it was the first Hip-Hop album to obtain the distinction of having a ‘Parental Advisory’ label placed upon its cover. This difference brought national notice to an album that probably would have only grabbed attention from the West Coast. The mere presence of the label only increased the motivation of consumers to acquire this music, namely in suburbia, increasing its popularity.
The change in Hip-Hop simply being an art form stemming from unprivileged black and hispanic neighborhoods to evolving into a profitable entity within the business world changed everything. No longer were those who were the best at their craft placed at the top of the pyramid, but, those who were deemed commercially beneficial were let into the inner circle of the recording industry. Not to say that those who have ascended to the pinnacle of the culture were not deserving, they simply did so on their own volition. Instead of subscribing to the rules and parameters set forth by the giants of the recording industry, they built their empires on the backs of themselves. Creating their own record labels, doing their own marketing and promotions. This street level credibility, combined with skill and business sense, is what differentiated those who lasted from those who didn’t. One does not obtain rank in Hip-Hop royalty by spontaneously appearing (see Soulja Boy, and Freak Nasty).
Understandably, it is hard to make it to the top, as it should be. There should only be a couple that make it to the promise land known as legendary status. How special would Rakim, Run D.M.C., The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Jay Z, and Nas be if they each had ten duplicates? How much would we look forward to their new songs, new albums, and live shows? The answer to those questions is an emphatic not at all.