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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Hip-Hop’s Failed Personality Test
Friday, June 22, 2007

Every year I’m asked to do a year end top ten list for at least one website or publication (last year it was three), so I’ve taken to keeping a running count of which albums I like as the year goes on. Being that it’s the end of June I figure it’s a good time to check in and see how things are going in 2007. Half a year in I have some not so shocking news to report; there are less quality Hip-Hop albums being released than ever. Last year I had nearly 50 albums to choose from at year’s end for my “Best Of” lists, as of right now I have a total of 17 with only two coming from major labels. I’ve been bringing this up with the rappers I’ve been interviewing the past few weeks and both Bonecrusher and Twista had some very interesting things to say on the subject.

First off, we’re not running low on albums, in one week earlier this month I received 31 CDs in the mail, we’re just running low on good albums. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say we’re running low on mediocre albums. Bonecrusher sees this and feels it’s all about labels following the wrong trends. He explains, “the thing about labels that we've forgotten, labels and us that's in the industry, we follow trends sometimes that don't work, but we just keep doing em because they give us a little money. Why don't people follow the trend of Outkast? They sold more records than anybody in Hip-Hop history, but people don't follow that trend. You know why? Because a lot of people can't do that. They can't do the Michael Jackson type of music, they can't do the Gnarls Barkley kind of music and they really shouldn't be doing it. There are other jobs in this music industry.”

Twista notes that one trend that could be followed that isn’t is that of the original style of emceeing which involved the artist’s personality shining first, before the music. “It was them and then it was ‘their music is dope,’” he explains, “now it’s ‘their music is dope’ and ‘oh, who was that?’” This new way of creating music has birthed a lot of songs, and a lot of CDs, but not a lot of stars and zero quality. When the beat comes first it’s going to appeal to a lower common denominator as GZA pointed out on “Triumph” when he said “the dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum.”

Bonecrusher agrees that personalities are not shining through and it’s gotten to the point where he feels “they don't have stars anymore. Half these guys, I can't even remember em, they could walk down the street, you could have just interviewed them, the next week you walk right past them and you don't remember em. This is not good. I still remember Anita Baker. I still remember Michael Jackson. I still remember Patti LaBelle. I still remember Duran Duran. I still remember The Police. I don't remember the guy that came out four weeks ago. That's real bad.”

The 80’s were an interesting time for music as we had our fair share of real superstars, some of whom Bonecrusher mentioned, but also a large amount of one hit wonders, proving that the industry can handle both at once. Today one could argue that there are no real superstars, no artists that we’ll all remember twenty years from now like we do Michael Jackson or Duran Duran. The issues of following the wrong trends and putting the music before the lyrics are two of the problems that have led to the current climate in music, but there’s also the glaringly obvious point that there are simply too many CDs being released.

Hip-Hop, and music in general, used to be a much more exclusive art form. Twista points out “at first there may have been only seven rappers coming out in a particular year, now you have seventeen hundred rappers coming out in a year.” Revisiting the 31 CDs I received a few weeks ago, the total number that I liked can be counted on one hand. The number I’ll remember at the end of the year, well, if I remember one of them I’ll be happy. I took a listen to all of them, but much like Bonecrusher said would happen, I don’t remember the vast majority of them, or who did them. Until artists focus on their identities and creating better music, and the labels figure out they can make more money if they trim their rosters and let artists develop a little more, this is the climate we’ll be stuck in, and what was once the job of the labels, to trudge through the sea of horrible music to find the gems, is now the job of the listener.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:46 AM  
  • At 8:30 PM, Blogger a-one said…

    17? I just looked through my list & can only come up with 7!

  • At 10:49 AM, Blogger Angel said…

    another reason why albums are getting butt is because people don't do hip-hop because they're music people anymore, because they're artistically gifted. they do it because it's the in thing to do. it's how you get all the girls. so these people, which are a lot of them, can't do much more than regurgitate what they've heard already, and most of the hip hop that is easily available to most people, especially people who are not music people, who don't take the time to seek out good tunes because they can live without them, is terribly butt.

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