What was the best time for HIP/HOP?
Jul, 31 2023
The Roots: The Golden Age of Hip Hop
The 'Golden Age' of Hip Hop, spanning from the mid-80s to the early '90s, was akin to a musical renaissance. Artists like Public Enemy, Run DMC, and A Tribe Called Quest ruled the scene and paved the way for the Hip/Hop genre that we are familiar with today. They interspersed catchy beats with powerful, socially relevant lyrics, and in my humble opinion, haven't been topped since.
Now, Max, my Golden Retriever, might argue that his favourite rapper is Snoop Dogg simply because his name involves a dog but - sorry Max - but I beg to differ. As someone who has been a part of the Hip/Hop scene since day one, my Golden Retriever's opinion, while valued at home, doesn't exactly carry weight in the world of music criticism.
What was so special about this era was the emphasis on lyricism. Mere words would be painstakingly crafted into powerful verses and infectiously hooky choruses. Each rap was a carefully constructed narrative with layers of wisdom tucked in between catchy beats. It represented an era of expressing resistance, struggle, and the journey of a marginalized community out from the shadows and into the limelight.
The 90s: The East Coast vs. West Coast Rivalry
Just when Hip/Hop had pretty much established its place in the mainstream, there was a shift in dynamics. The East Coast-West Coast rivalry emerged, taking the genre in a new direction. Artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur became household names, giving birth to the quintessential 'gangsta' style.
While this era may have been tainted with controversy and marked by some unfortunate incidents, one cannot deny that it was a critical period in shaping the face of Hip/Hop today. As an observer and keen enthusiast of the genre, I remember staying up late to tune into radio shows to catch the latest tracks from the East and the West. And let me tell you, Tilda, my tabby cat, was not always impressed with these late-night activities.
The 90s also gave us some legendary collectives such as Wu-Tang Clan and N.W.A, infamous for their hardcore lyrics and raw exposure of life in urban America. This was a time when Hip/Hop truly broke the mold and sparked discussions beyond the realm of music.
The 2000s: The Emergence of New Markets
As we crossed the millennium mark, Hip/Hop started evolving into a more commercial genre. While many purists cringed at this shift, it was undeniably responsible for broadening the market for Hip/Hop music and artists. The likes of 50 Cent, Eminem, and later, Kanye West, burst onto the scene. Their albums sold in millions globally and their influence spread far beyond the borders of the United States.
It was during this time I made a memorable trip to a record store in Harlem. I remember the day vividly. I walked into the store to the sounds of Jay-Z's 'BluePrint' blasting on the speakers. Now, being a classic 80's and 90's Hip/Hop enthusiast, this new form of mainstream, commercial Hip/Hop was a little hard for me to digest initially. But witnessing the joy and enthusiasm of a new generation of listeners in that store turned out to be a refreshing experience. That day I understood the cross-generational appeal of this evolving genre.
Today: The Age of Streaming and Globalization
In the age of streaming and digital music, Hip/Hop has taken another significant turn. Nowadays, you can find Hip/Hop influence in almost all music genres. Pop artists are collaborating with rappers, while techno and EDM are sampling Hip/Hop beats. The lines are blurring, and this genre is now more diverse than ever.
New names like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Cardi B are topping charts worldwide. The genre is no longer confined to certain neighborhoods; it has become a worldwide movement. In fact, my favorite track these days is an international collaboration - 'Franchise' by Travis Scott featuring Young Thug and British grime artist MIA. Even Max and Tilda seem to tap their paws along when it's playing.
While many believe that the earlier days of Hip/Hop were the pinnacle of its creativity and rebellion, others would argue that the best time for Hip/Hop is now. The way I see it, each era, from the golden age to the present day, has left an indelible mark on the evolution of Hip/Hop. Every stage has had its legends, its groundbreaking moments, and its own distinct flavor. History, after all, is never a straight line, but a beautiful mosaic, with each tile contributing to a larger, more intricate picture. In the weave of Hip/Hop history, each era, each artist, and each song holds a thread.
The beauty of it all is that our journey with Hip/Hop is not over. Its beat keeps pounding, and its rhyme keeps echoing in the chambers of our hearts. I am enthralled to see where it will take us next.