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Monday, July 23, 2012

Rappers Won't Clock-out: Why Hip-hop is No Longer Timeless 

Rappers Won't Clock-out: Why Hip-hop is No Longer Timeless

by: Mimi Mendouga

courtesy of: the East Side Perspective

The East Side Perspective, a Clarion Content partner, is an up and coming sports and music website published in Chapel Hill.

For more great articles from the East Side Perspective, check here.


If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that hip hop is not dead. And if it ever was, we’re definitely experiencing something like an Easter period. Thanks to the emergence of artists like Wale, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and many more it may be safe to put the entire debate to rest.

For now, hip-hop is well and alive. But I’d like to raise a greater woe. Correct me if I’m wrong, but hear me out first. It’s been a while since hip-hop has been timeless. And if you ask me, the mix tape revolution is to blame for it.

By timeless I mean just that. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it started happening, but songs have begun developing a “sell by” date--–like what

you see on the milk containers. It’s an unfortunate phenomenon that retired and dead rappers from eras like Big Pun’s, and the Beastie Boys’ are fortunately sheltered from.

When I say mixtape revolution – I’m talking about the moment when mixtapes stopped being a means to establish street buzz before the mainstream sting, and started being a way for established artists to stay relevant and milk their success of the moment. (*See Lil' Wayne). It also became an approach for new or aspiring artists to push through the boundaries that exist when you aren't financially backed by a big-time record label.

So what happens after a song’s sell by date? Nothing. Just like a gallon of milk, you can still drink it, you just probably won’t find it in stores, or in this case, the radio; and it’s more than likely that by then, you, as well as the store have replaced it. You can still listen to it – enjoy it even, but you know it won’t be around much longer.

Meanwhile, the music industry and rising artists everywhere have pumped out a flood of new projects, which you, as a music lover, are required to stay on top of.

Ultimately, artists are fighting to stay relevant by producing and putting out more and more music. The consequence? Songs reach their sell-by date fairly quickly, and are drowned out by new material. Not only are we, the consumers, given less time to enjoy and process the music; but, the fear of fading-out puts pressure on artists to keep releasing new music to stay afloat – sometimes sacrificing quality.

My point is, the music industry has become the music factory. Rappers are using an ‘economies of scale’ approach to music production–--and we’re all losing in the process. The mixtape industry is the new Wal-Mart of hip-hop, where artists routinely put other businesses, meaning artists, out of business; offering us an overwhelming quantity in exchange for durability. In other words, yeah sometimes we get good music, but it’s forgotten the second we get something else.

Quick scenario. You’re going down the highway, and the DJ starts playing Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.” Fifty bucks says you’re now stale-facing the radio, and probably upset that you have yet to hear him play the newest Kendrick. Not necessarily because one is better than the other – but because let’s face it, the song is old.

Would you be thinking the same thing if Dr. Dre and Snoop’s, “Let Me Ride” came on? Won’t your children recognize Biggie’s “Big Poppa” before recognizing Rick Ross’ “Blowin’ Money Fast”? Both were hits of equal magnitude in their era, though I bet you’d forgotten the latter until I brought it up. Today’s music is coming at us like baseballs out of a pitching machine in a batting cage. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. We just don’t have the time to appreciate the last hit before we are supposed to be ready for the next.

I digress. Don’t get me wrong. Mixtapes can be a great tool, specifically for upcoming artists. They can be a rapper’s resume and an opportunity to practice and present an organized body of work. But the overwhelming number to which we’re exposed takes away from the time we have to appreciate them – something that usually leads to being able to enjoy the music equally, if not more, later in life.

Just this year 50 Cent has released two mixtapes and is releasing an album. That’s roughly thirty-five songs from one person, in one year. Excluding features. Why? I’m a huge 50 Cent fan, I've listened to both tapes thoroughly… and remember two songs.

I’m not suggesting we kill mixtapes altogether. I’m just wishfully thinking and hoping artists scale back on quantity, focus only on quality, so we – the fans – can have durability. Don’t sell out to meet the sell by date, and stop give us more than we can handle. Otherwise your music is sure to spoil.

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This comment has been removed by the author.
Nice take. I too would prefer a well crafted album to a blitzkrieg of singles and mixtapes from established artists.

Sadly I think it's a reflection of a bigger issue, our growing media ADD, where we want everything now and have grown to except quantity over quality. It's like receiving a nice handwritten letter over a text message... which would you rather have?

You best believe that when me and my kid have "music time" some day, far in the future, we be listening to "Let me Ride" off a vinyl LP of The Chronic.
Hip-hop may not be timeless, but diamond grillz are forever.
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