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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Falling Out Of Love With Hip-Hop
Wednesday, June 05, 2013

I have loved hip-hop since I bought my first rap tape back in 1988 (He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper, if you really want to know), so that might give you some idea of how much it hurts me to say this, but I think I’ve reached the point where I need to tell hip-hop “let’s just be friends.” George Costanza might attempt the old “it’s not you, it’s me,” but in truth, in that scenario (hip-hop reference!), the problem is both the you that is hip-hop, and me.

Hip-hop is not what it used to be. I know I sound old saying that, but the fact of the matter is the content, and goals, of hip-hop have changed dramatically over the past 25 years. A lot of us like to pretend what we hear today on the radio, or read about in major magazines, and on the preeminent websites, should not be defined as hip-hop. I’m now at the point where I feel like we’re kidding ourselves.

We want hip-hop to be what it was. Some of us cling hard to that image of the past, so hard, in fact, that we end up looking at it through rose colored glasses, as if hip-hop was without flaws back in the day. Everything changes, though, and that includes hip-hop. Expecting the culture to never alter from what it was during my youth is naive. It makes me sound like a Beatles, or Rolling Stones, fan who laments the current state of rock and roll, wondering what went wrong. The rock of the sixties is not the rock of the 80s, 90s, or today, and most of the people from earlier eras are not fans of what rock has become. The only difference is those rock fans don’t deny what rock has become. In hip-hop I think a lot of us are in a state of denial.

We don’t want to admit that thing we’ve loved so much for so long has gone in directions we’re not happy with, and are not proud of. Sure, there are still a number of artists in hip-hop who are doing work I appreciate, but the phrase “hip-hop” no longer means what it did when I first became involved in the culture.

In a recent feature in the LA Weekly, Lee “Q” O’Denat, the founder of WorldStarHipHop, a site many feel gives hip-hop a terrible name, as it slaps the site’s logo, which prominently features the phrase “hip-hop,” on some of the most vile content on the net, said, “(S)trippers, drug talk, violent talk, fights, animosity, love and hate - that's just hip-hop culture.”

When I first read the quote I wanted to vomit. Q is a few years older than I am. I felt he should know better. I felt he was selling the soul of the culture. Part of me will always feel he is with the way he brands “hip-hop,” putting his logo on fight videos, and the like (television shows that use hip-hop as a synonym for ignorance also bear some of the blame). Then a harsh question entered my mind - what if he’s right? What if that awful content is what hip-hop is right now?

I know hip-hop artists who make great music that include none of what Q mentioned (except for the “love”), and I know artists who still believe hip-hop can be an educating force, and take it into the schools, but, unfortunately, those artists are the minority, and the people who hold the same opinion as Q are the majority.

The ironic shame of all this is that Q’s definition of hip-hop is every negative thing the detractors of hip-hop said it was about back when the culture was actually great. It’s as if a large group of people said, “If that’s what they think we are, let’s play down to their lowest common denominator.” Eventually enough people followed through with that, and here we are today, with me no longer wanting the words “hip-hop” to define me because every time they do I have to go into a long winded explanation of what hip-hop once was. I’ve now come to realize that’s been my biggest problem, my definition of hip-hop is in the past tense.

I still love a great number of hip-hop artists, and there are quite a few who, when I listen to their work, have made me think, “That’s why I love hip-hop.” Now, however, I feel it’s less a hip-hop thing, and more an artistry thing. I won’t be saying, “That's why I love hip-hop” anymore. I’ll be saying, “That why I love (insert artist’s name here).” I think it will be better for me, and more importantly for the artists, as I won’t be lumping them in with what the majority considers hip-hop.

I hold out hope that hip-hop will turn a corner at some point, but I’m also going to be realistic about those expectations. I see the popularity of sites like WorldStarHipHop, and I’ve been on the inside of major hip-hop publications, and seen how they run their operations. It’s going to take a lot of work by a lot of good hearted people to turn this thing around.

Personally, I will continue to write about, and support, the artists I feel are great, and I will always appreciate the impact hip-hop has had on my life, but being that I no longer find value in the majority of what’s going on in hip-hop I am relinquishing the title of “hip-hop head,” even if a few of you may feel that by writing this I might be one of the biggest hip-hop heads of all.

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