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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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Ending The “Real Hip-Hop” Debate Once & For All
Monday, June 25, 2012

The debate over whether or not many commercially successful hip-hop artists who crossover and see success in the pop world are “real hip-hop” has been one that’s gone on since Top 40 radio discovered kids of all races and backgrounds enjoy rap music. Most recently this debate was brought to the forefront again when Peter Rosenberg told Hot97’s Summer Jam crowd that he was about “that real hip-hop” and not Nicki Minaj.

Let me preface the rest of this blog post by saying I’m not writing an indictment of Rosenberg, who actually plays some great music, or Nicki, even though I’m not a fan of hers. This is about the “real hip-hop” argument that their incident brought up.

Personally, I’m tired of this completely fabricated debate, and although I’m not going to speak for Afrika Bambaataa and Kool Herc, because they’re alive and can speak for themselves, I will say when hip-hop began it was something that united. It wasn’t exclusionary, rather it came about as a result of a large group of people being an excluded voice. These were people who had opinions, and creativity, and art, inside of them that they wanted to share, but had no place to share it. Now, after nearly forty years, we have people on the inside of hip-hop who are trying to shut others out. The voice of the disenfranchised is now attempting to disenfranchise others.

Ironically, it’s those who yell the loudest about artists not being “real hip-hop,” and who view themselves as some kind of cultural gatekeepers and attempt to shut people out, who are engaging in one of the few acts that would have qualified them as not being hip-hop back at the culture’s inception.

No one says you have to like everything under the hip-hop umbrella, and there’s no rule stating that all of it has to be good, but to not be accepting of an artist that’s a little different is the most un-hip-hop thing imaginable. We were built as a community of people who weren’t being accepted. Whether or not something suits your taste is really neither here nor there.

Can you imagine if we listened to everyone who gave us their list of artists who they felt weren’t “real hip-hop?” Eventually we’d have about a dozen artists left, many of whom would be deceased. Is that really what we want for hip-hop? Do we want to stunt our creativity, and have most of it referred to in the past tense?

If we start excluding every artist who’s a little bit different we’re going to end up with a scene that sounds like... well, that sounds a lot like the radio station Peter Rosenberg works for.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:30 AM  
  • At 4:16 PM, Blogger Michael Wilson said…

    Great article. Just like in other areas of life, people resist change and evolution. You're right -- hip hop culture's foundation was built upon unity and inclusion. The 90s hip hop scene was very diversified and experimental, and that's what made it such fun and memorable. We need more weird and unformulatic (if that's a word) artists willing to push boundaries and foster innovation.

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