This piece is something I’ve contemplated writing for quite some time. Fortunately, it took a bit of motivation in order for me to properly articulate my thoughts on this subject. Its Tuesday, October 21, 2014 and I just finished listening to a slew of new Hip-Hop/Rap releases. After wrapping up T.I.’s Paperwork, Logic’s “Under Pressure,” Army Of the Pharaohs “Heavy Lies the Crown” and The Game’s “Year of the Wolf” I’m left with a mix of emotions to write this particular piece.
First and foremost let me remind you I’ve been listening to hip-hop for over 15 years, since I was 13 years old. No need for you to calculate my age because even adding those two numbers still wont give you the exact number. But that’s irrelevant. I only said that because as I write these words I know I have to establish some sense of credibility for how well I can critique a genre in which I not only adore, but also participate in as an artist to a certain degree.
First off Logic’s album was nothing short of incredible. A sentimental feel, coupled with Logic’s smooth sharp flow and everything his fans have come to adore. Army Of the Pharaohs was as expected, raw, heavy, and definitely has me ready to go hit the gym in a couple hours. T.I. and The Game however, as much as I knew I’d be left disappointed as their success and fame comes with a certain lackluster with their new releases, I’m more disheartened by their new albums. And I know Logic is signed by Def Jam, but from what I understand the deal allowed for himself and Visionary Music Group to maintain complete creative control, which is apparent in the projects consistent sound and feel.
Now, I don’t like comparing 90’s timeless hip-hop to the 00’s and the ‘10+ generation as they each have their own unique appeal. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say something has been lost in all that time as we’ve gained other assortments of additives to the music. What I will say is between ’95-’05 you have more notable releases both mainstream and underground than you could probably list, given a couple hours to do the required research. From ’06-’14 (with 2 years to come in order to fulfill the needed decade comparison) not so much. Fact, I bet the number of “memorable” albums listed in that time wouldn’t even be half the amount of the decade prior. And the amount of newly discovered artists since then has probably doubled.
What I want to mention, particularly on this issue, is what I’ve noticed in the quality of the music of all my favorite artists from my days post high school and throughout college. We’re talking artists like The Game, T.I, Young Jeezy (now just Jeezy), etc. There are a slew of artists who saw their rise to fame in the same time period who also fit into this discussion, I’m just using them as specific examples.
Artists such as T.I. and The Game have always been among my favorite artists. But amidst their success, fortune and fame, the overall quality of their musical projects continues to decline while newcomers’ projects present innovative sounds and a uniqueness that continues to break new ground. Its almost as if these artists don’t even put much effort into their works as they get older and become highly respected veterans of the industry. T.I.’s and The Game’s recent projects had more songs with features than not. And honestly, the features felt forced, and unnecessary. And I can’t help but ask myself why and how does this happen?
Again, T.I. and The Game are hardly the only artists I’ve noticed this trend of quality decline taking place. B.O.B’s “Underground Luxury” just didn’t do it for me; and he was once one of my favorite artists as well. Its a common reoccurrence with these “major artists.” Their production is typical and repetitive, the content never changes, and the delivery ends up losing its connectivity with the listener. Its happened with nearly every great rapper of the past 15 years. Once they’ve achieved a certain level of fame, they seem to lose interest in supplying the fans with a quality, ground-breaking product. And it continues to add to the discussion as to why mainstream music sucks so badly? This decline in quality ends up being examples set for newcomers like Iggy Azeala, whom I have no idea what the hell fans see in her music. There’s just feeling in it in my opinion.
If these artists are so great, why can’t they continue to provide their fans with heartfelt and meaningful music that is a signature of their influence? Are they lazy? Is their heart not into it? Are they only doing it for the paycheck and to maintain some amount of influence amidst the continuous influx of new talent? Or have they lost a step in all of their years of limelight and focus on other business endeavors? Because in comparisons to artists like Tech-9, Mac Miller, Chance the Rapper, Macklemore, G-Eazy and several other successful independent artists, these “superstars” just can’t compete anymore. To be quite honest, I wish some of them would just retire, if they can’t put out a project that took time and focus in order to inspire those of us who have remained committed fans throughout the years.
Understandably there’s the argument, new artists have something to prove, the underground is always hungry, yada yada yada, whatever. Don’t give me that shit. Artistry is an art-form and if you’re heart is not in it, put the pen down and the mic away. There’s no excuse why an artist with half the resources and budget can put out a much better sounding project than an artist who has succeeded against all odds and expectations to be thrusted into the top of the hierarchy of music food chain. Do they need new staffing around them? New inspiration? New Guidance? If that’s the case, I’ll gladly volunteer my creative services to help executive produce something that will blow them and their fans away. I’ve got ideas for days.
To be honest this piece isn’t just a focus on an obvious decline in the quality of music from major label rappers. Even though the title and subject matter point to that specific case. Its really to also point out how the record industry is dying a slow painful death and major labels’ mishandling of the transition of the past 15 years is more than responsible. Hip-Hop/Rap is just my specific area of expertise. But if you really took a vast glimpse, all major label artists’ music is nothing short of a catastrophe in comparison to indies and unknowns. Yet they still dominate the sales in year which NO SINGLE ARTIST has gone platinum. What does that tell ya?
It tells you there is little to no money to made in record sales anymore. Truth be told, if artists and fans don’t pull together to save the industry as a whole, there won’t be anything left in 5 years. And you don’t need me to tell you that. You can do research for yourself to look at the financial sustainability of current sales. The proof is in the ink. Fans don’t want to spend money on music anymore. And its no wonder why, because there’s no sense in wasting money on a product that has no value.