The logical answer to this question is “no,” but when you’ve got Soulja Boy “InstaBeefing” with Chris Brown, and involving Floyd Mayweather in an impending fight with millions of dollars on the line…and when you have Meek Mill focusing on everything else other than his rap star girlfriend at the time, and his own career… one might find themselves forced to ask themselves, Is hip hop really dead?
Old hip hop heads are quick to bring up names like Tupac and Biggie in these conversations, quick to bring up the rappers who were thugs first. They bring up these names as if gang affiliation and violence are a prerequisite to being included in the list of hip hop greats. But in my humble opinion, gangbanging and violence – while a definite staple in the hip hop game, is not a requirement to be one of the rap greats. What are required to be one of the rap greats are: lyrics, flow, stage presence, and character.
There are still artists who qualify as great, still artists today whose music inspire, motivate, and fuel turn-ups the world over. While some artists may be slipping and some of the newer artists seemingly never had talent to begin with, let’s not dismiss the artists who are still great: J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, ASAP Rocky, Big Sean, Kevin Gates, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne, and Drake – just to name a few.
Some of you may have screwed your faces up at the mention of Drake due to the ghostwriting accusations. Make no mistake: Drake writes his own rhymes. Not only does he write his own rhymes, but he has also written for the likes of Kanye West, Dr. Dre, and Alicia Keys. There is countless video footage of him writing his tracks. He has always stated that he is more of a writer than a freestyle rapper. Anyone with eyeballs capable of reading Instagram captions and longwinded clapback responses can tell that the man is a writer. Only haters and the misinformed were ever willing to believe rumors that the biggest name in rap right now doesn’t write his own rhymes. And with all of the records he has broken, and charts he has topped, he does deserve to be listed among the great hip hop artists.
This is a topic that can be argued to the death; there are many people on social media who are more than willing to take an hour out of their day just to argue as to whether or not Drake deserves to be listed with hip hop royalty. However, with the knowledge that he writes the vast majority of his own lyrics along with the knowledge of the countless records he has broken and continues to break, there is very little argument to dispute the fact that Drake in fact Does Right And Kills Everything.
Although there are great artists out there, and new artists such as Lucas Coly emerging, the hip hop industry could use some fresh flow and more new artists. It would be nice to get some new life infused into the game and it would be nice to have some of the extra reality show-style theatrics removed from it.
In truth, I don’t care who a rapper is fuhQing. I don’t care who a rapper is beefing with. A lot of it feels staged and inauthentic anyway. What I do care about? The music. The performances. The visuals that go along with the music. The vision. The art. The artist. If I wanted to watch a reality show, I know what channel to tune into Love and Hip Hop. If I wanted to watch a boxing match, I know which sports channels to access. I don’t need all of that extra mess infused with the hip hop industry. But sadly, with a public obsessed with watching random rich people live their lives as dramatically as possible, it’s hard to determine whether or not we will get back to focusing on the music in the near future.
Is hip hop dead? Most certainly not. If you doubt that, pull up any recent album from Big Sean, Childish Gambino, Coloring Book from Chance the Rapper, 2014 Forest Hills Drive from J. Cole, The Pinkprint from Nicki Minaj, any poetry that comes from Wale, and any recent hip hop hit from ASAP Rocky or Travis Scott. There has been a definite shift in the feel of hip hop. It has become a lot more individualistic, celebrating differences instead of there needing to be a similar street life backstory. Although changed, by no means is hip hop dead.