The first time I heard Drake was slightly prior to the release of So Far Gone. I believe it was a random loose track featured on a random rap blog. Shortly after when the critically acclaimed mixtape/pseudo-album was released I, like many, was mind blown. I remember playing the mixtape for friends of mine and telling them, this kid is the next big thing. Watch him catapult into superstardom. Little did I know how right I was, or how popular he would eventually become.
It was a unique sound that we just weren’t used to, nor ready for. A smooth blend of rap with unique synths and 808’s that were borderline electro, laid down behind a different melodic delivery in his vocals. Combine that with clever bars of braggadocios swag that the industry would embrace with arms open and we all the sudden have the ‘next big thing.’ The rest of us simply sat back and watched as his music grew in a meteoric rise of endless proportions. And as excited as I was to not only see it all happen as an artist and a fan, I wasn’t ready for the aftermath of what it would soon create.
Fast forward from 2008, over six years later and Hip-Hop/Rap music has all but transformed into something I can barely recognize. It seems before Drake hit the airwaves things were fairly stagnant aside from the mixtape craze and Lil Wayne’s monopoly of the culture that would lay foundation for both him and Drizzy to begin world domination. Besides the usual notables of Kanye, Jay-Z, 50 cent, a handful of mid-level stars, and one hit wonders, there just wasn’t much to be excited for in hip-hop. I try to look back and remember whom I was listening to, and it was so spread across the board between random iTunes suggestions and the underground, I forget how much Myspace played a role in that time period as the industry transitioned to digital.
Drake’s impact was so big that everyone who was attempting to make any type of waves in the industry tried everything they could to follow his format, thus giving birth to a completely new sound and approach to the music. As music blogs became the premiere source of all things up and coming the faces that make up the upper echelon of artists changed to bring in the new and gradually phase out the old. And as time has passed its become painstakingly clear, those new faces have no intent on continuing the time honored tradition that the hip-hop culture and rap community was once known for.
What Drake and those whom were influenced by his music have given us is a completely different perspective of the music. A perspective thats less focused on social change with a conscious objective and more centralized around the introspective portrayal of the self in an almost narcissistic representation. Instead of writing songs about the struggle and inequalities in society artists now have become competitors of one another in who can build the most sexual appeal, party the hardest, and live the rockstar life to a degree the lines between fantasy and reality have become completely blurred if not non-existent altogether.
Now I understand there must be a balance in music. As much as I’m not a fan of what is considered mainstream today, I can appreciate that every type of song does have a time and place. But that’s not what we have today. Though there is an abundance of good music out there with a diverse array of appeal and substance is still somewhat prevalent, that’s not what drives website hits, and online article clicks. Yes the underground still exists and artists like Hopsin, Dizzy Wright & Funk Volume, Logic, The Cunninlynguists, Nino Bless, and virtually every member of Rhymesayers still give us music with meaning, their entire collective fan-base can be gathered within the city limits of Dallas, Tx easily with room to spare.
What I’m trying to point out here is that not only has the music changed, but so have the fans. We’re seeing less fans who let the music motivate them to do more with their lives and reach the community and more fans who just want to, for lack of better words, “get fucked up and get laid.” Just look at what’s popular. Though I don’t like to throw salt on anyone’s success, G-Eazy and Skizzy Mars sound like Drake knock-offs in my opinion. Sure their music is fun to jam on a friday night before hitting up downtown and good for after-parties, but after that I don’t have any desire to hear that shit the next morning once the hangover kicks in. Of course there’s no need if the party never ends right? I hope you see where I’m going with this.
Truth is, aside from Lupe’s most recent album, J. Cole’s 2014 Forrest Hills Drive, and Kendrick’s recent singles there’s just little inspiration left in Hip-Hop. The little that is floating around the internet, not enough people are listening to. At least not enough to offer some sense of balance. These days we’d rather focus on the outlandishness of Riff-Raff or whether or not Iggy Azeala deserves her new-found success than actually focus on positive music played at a higher frequency and its effect on us as listeners.
I wrote this piece because as I scroll through my twitter timeline on the daily, what I see doesn’t give me much hope for the future. This self-centered, egotistical generation of attention seekers seems to lack depth and I can’t help but wonder how much of it is influenced not only by what they listen to and/or watch, but how they share their thoughts with one another that lack any self-respect, or empathetic understanding. And while I know parents are ultimately responsible for their children, it helps to have positive outside influences to grow up well rounded with a solid grounding in order to properly adjust to the struggles of the real world. Because less face it, there’s less “real world” subject matter in the music today, then there ever was before. I can’t help but wonder what the music of tomorrow will sound like. It scares me to even think about it.
This is where we are today. We’ve reached a point in time where popular hip-hop/rap music sounds nothing like hip-hop anymore. Its what this generation is growing up with, its what they’ll eventually show their kids in a decade or so; and honestly it has little to longevity whatsoever. That’s what we’ve lost amidst an entire generation raised by sounds of Drizzy Drake.