My take on this...
BIG into hip-hop, since the early days of electro-funk, Afrika Bambaataa, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, etc. and through hip-hop's "golden age"
with groups like Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, BDP, Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, The Pharcyde, Public Enemy, etc. So that's my
Themes of violence, drug use, money, women, etc. have always been present in rap music, but it was more on par with rock music in general. There's no
denying the shift in rap music that occurred around '93, so the author of this letter does
have the time period correct. Hip-hop music used to
be an intelligent, provocative art form. It was a positive cultural force to recon with. Hip hop artists were
conspiracy theorists. They drew
heavily from the black-power and afro-centric movements of the 60's and 70's, the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers, Malcolm X, etc. Although you could
often find points of contention with the ideas expressed in the lyrics, there was genuine creativity, thought, skill and an overall dynamic feel to
the music. Rap began to have mass appeal, and these artists were on major labels like Elektra, Warner, BMG, Capitol, etc. This is key, because the
major labels are where the major money is.
In my estimate, that all changed around '93, and the huge album behind it was Dr. Dre's The Chronic
(released Dec. '92). Yes, previously there
was Geto Boys, Eazy-E, Ice-T and other gangsta acts already in the market, but The Chronic
really changed the game, so to speak. That was
followed up the following year by Snoop Dogg's solo debut,Doggystyle
, which was huge. What makes more sense is that record companies began to
follow the money and soon MTV and the record stores were overrun with gangsta rap.
What also happened around this same time? Alternative rock exploded. Intelligent, creative hip-hop got lost in the record company's scramble to cash
in. Record labels started dropping these acts in favor of harder acts who's lyrics glorified crime, money, abuse of women, drugs, etc. No longer
were rap lyrics composed of sharp social commentary, but became mere braggadocio or gibberish. Gone were DJ's scratching on turntables and rappers
crafting intricate rhymes. And this trend has continued up until today. Rap is more popular than ever- right up there with pop acts like Katy Perry
and Rihanna. True "hip-hop" acts continued of course, but went back underground on indie labels (Jurassic 5, etc.).
In my opinion, this letter is nothing more than a simple-minded hoax. Someone pulled a gun in a conference room? Consider the source, a reader of
the Hip Hop Is Read
blog. Obviously, this is someone who is a fan of hip-hop and would love to simplify the
complex social reasons for the downfall of the art form and shift the blame to the nation's prison industry instead of music consumers themselves.
It's much harder to accept and deal with the reality that the community that once embraced intelligent hip-hop changed their tastes (through free will
or industry and media pressures). But really, has Bone Thugs-n-Harmony led more people to a life of crime? Is that even measurable? I don't doubt
that record companies sought gangsta acts, but not because they were strong-armed by some shady group of people in order to fill up the nation's
What happened to hip-hop is not unique in the music industry. Trends have always emerged from the underground to the level of popular recognition,
been exploited, cloned and marketed by the music industry only to return to the underground scene once popular tastes have changed. What's
interesting now is that gangsta rap has mostly returned to the underground and indie labels as well. In it's place we have big, flashy, glittery
"rap" (Black Eyed Peas, LMFAO, Lil Wayne, etc.) that has virtually no resemblance to the hip-hop of the early 90's. The music industry responds to
trends and they also foster trends and the sinister reality is right under our noses... money wins out over music.
edit on 4/27/2012 by
NaKeDuSk because: (no reason given)