I started this post in response to a recent post on a friend’s blog about some required listening since 2000. Here is his original post
I noticed you he had no hip hop in there. This is a shame. Despite a marked falling off there were a some huge albums in hip hop since 2000. While Outkasts best work came before 2000, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below came out in 2003. I would say Andre’s piece is a work worth mention. Also, Jay-Z’s Black Album came out that same year. It was supposed to be his farewell to the game. This turned out to be a Favre-ian move, but led to the seminal hip-hop mashup album; Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. Most recently I’ve seen Sufjan’s Illinois mashed up Finally, the prolific Lil’ Wayne must be mentioned (like the Ryan Adams of rap). His ‘s Tha Carter III signaled the end of hip hop, according to a recent piece on trends in the genre.
Here are some more relevant comments on the direction of hip hop from Matt. They should be on his blog but they are here instead.
I have several 2-cent coins to toss into the discussion of “the death of rap music.” My main thesis is: we want new rappers to emerge, but industry change prevents them from emerging.
Barrier to Entry 1:
NO PROFITS. Only the rappers who gained a toehold right before the death of the CD are able to afford to rap for a living (Jay-Z, Wayne, Kanye, T.I., 50 Cent). The internet killed all motivation because there’s no money in it any more and therefore no incentive for young rappers to pursue it. To put out an album now, you’ve got to be willing to distribute free mixtapes while you keep your day job, or have plenty of money in the bank from your previous albums. Back in the day, the labels were signing guys up left and right.
Barrier to Entry 2:
MARKET SHARE. Only the old heads listed above are currently relevant because they’re the only rappers that transcend the young and old (us) generations, thereby benefiting from a fanbase that is hip (young folks that guide trends) AND long-standing (loyal old folks). The new rappers leave the old folks scratching their head. All the classic rappers from like ’87 to ’02 are simply unknown to the young folks. So this leaves the market in 2009 really top-heavy.
Barrier to Entry 3:
CRITICAL RECEPTION FROM THE CRANKY HIP-HOP FANS. This top-heavy nature of the market further suppresses new talent because there are so few benchmarks for “good” rap. Everything new is compared, critically, to only these few legends and inevitably gets dissed because it can’t measure up. But not everything has to be THAT good to be on the ipod. Back in the day, there were a bajillion great 2nd-tier rappers and rap groups (speaking of, whatever happened to the rap duo??). Now there are none. You are either one of the few at the top, or you’re nothing because the internet critics say you’re nothing.
Barrier to Entry 4:
SUBSTITUTE GOODS. In the meantime, we listen to cheap-to-produce knock-off stuff made from guys who went to Skidmore (Ratatat), which luckily sounds great, but only stokes our fears that rap music is dying. And of course prevents us further from spending our time and money on new rappers.