“Staying Relevant” as an artist today could make you obselete tomorrow

You hear it and see it everyday. Artists with back-in-the-day glory behind them trying to keep up with today’s trends by changing the flow up, switching producers and rocking the new school look. This has worked well in the recent past for some old school pioneers when the era turned from 80’s to 90’s. Rakim made a strong comeback, LL Cool J has hits in three decades, Pete Rock proved he was capable, KRS-One made the era jump and helped define the new standard, Biz Markie was still making appearances etc.. These are just a few of many examples. They dropped the electro-sound and “rappers delight” delivery in favor of samples and drum loops with more lyrical variety and character. Baggie pants and hoodies replace the matching track suits. Even from the 90’s to 2000’s the crossovers were successful, going from dark and gritty to flossy and jiggy. Artists like Nas, Nore, and ODB come to mind among many others. Even some of the older-school cats mentioned earlier made the jump. But today is a much different day in the HipHop world. With a few rare exceptions, most notably Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne (who have actually been key figures in re-designing the sound and aesthetic) the artists from the previous era’s efforts at staying current or “relevant” have been very disappointing and sometimes even devastating to their legacies. Could you picture KRS adapting his flow and topic to hit a Panda remix? Even if he did, and made some good points on it, would it actually reach? I know the legends can rap on any beat telling the stories and raising awareness and it would be on point in a technical sense but it more than likely won’t hit. This generation of rap is much different in the sense that it is NOT a progression of the earlier ones. You can clearly see the reigns being handing down from the past three generations in the sense that each one slightly modified yet kept the fundamentals and foundation intact. Paying homage to earlier artists through collaborations and shout outs and making reference to the Kulture’s history in songs was a big feature. Now the trend is disposable by definition and cannibalistic in the face of it’s predecessors. Now we make fun of the “Old men” who need to “Choke”. Ghostwriting is now acceptable because image and swag are the main focus. The fashion and dance styles are hyper sexualized and are almost unrecognizable from HipHop’s previous generation. Lil’ mumble rappers on beats sayin’ hey on every bass and snare, starting every line with “I used to…” or “I remember when..” using what could be called lyrical templates (template-already structured and formatted just fill in with your own words) which are universal to these artists on top of the game, are in direct opposition to the creativity and originality that defined the previous generations. With so much pride being taken in who can make the best copy it seems obvious that the longevity of these songs will not match those of the past. So when artists from back then who can still rock in their own right start trying to get down with the top 40 sound, they are engaging in a process that was developed in spite of them rather than because of them. It will appear as a total compromise of beliefs and value. It will then quickly fade. As it has been designed to. ¬†Along with the desired “relevancy” which it was never intended to have beyond it’s generation. Better just stick to whats known or keep quiet ’cause it’s not worth the legacy for this.

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