By. Austin Hegmon
“They take the greats from the past and compare us, I wonder if they’d ever survive in this era”
Today’s morning was the same as most of my mornings since enrolling in college. Typically, the night prior will take its toll on my energy reserves for the following day and last night was not an exception. I’ve developed a bad habit of waking up and lying in bed far past an acceptable time.
Thankfully, rap music has become a great aid for me on my daily climb out of the doldrums. The style and production that the genre has become so well known for gives me the extra boost I personally need to function at a high level.
After waking up and snuggling with my blanket in a variety of different positions, I rolled out of bed and stumbled to my phone across the room.
Recently, I had been on a bit of a nostalgia kick so I started off my morning playlist with my all time favorite Tupac song: “Thugs Get Lonely Too.” My roommate, who had taken a notice to my song selection, walked into my room and started vibing to the music with me. After the song ended, he vocalized a sentiment that fans of rap have recited so frequently that the statement has become a cliché.
He said, “Rap music from this era is so much better than rap today. Rap from that era had a message. Current rappers only talk about money, drugs, and women. I miss the ‘Golden Era’ of rap.”
I miss that era of rap too. I miss the four elements of hip-hop. I miss the gully lyrical content and minimalistic, drum heavy, boom-bap production that catapulted rap to a height nobody assumed it could reach during its earlier stages. I do not miss the “Golden Era” of rap music, though. I don’t miss it because it hasn’t ended yet.
I don’t miss the “Golden Era” of rap because the “Golden Era” is happening right now.
Contrary to popular belief, rap music is at a creative pinnacle.
Rap has evolved into one of the most versatile genres of music in the entire music industry. This versatility has allowed artists the widest scope of musical and topical options that the genre itself has ever seen.
The smorgasbord of choices that have consequently been made available because of the rapid progression of the genre.have made the rap scene more accessible to a casual fan than ever before.
It does not matter what mindset, mood, or personality you have, because rap music in 2016 has something to offer to everyone.
If you’re in the mood for a conscious and heady theme, artists like Lupe Fiasco and Kendrick Lamar have published multiple easily accessible, mainstream projects that force you to think.
Future and Danny Brown have both made countless songs that are suitable for any party playlist.
The likes of Pusha T, Freddie Gibbs, and Y.G. offer an authentic gangster feel that the rap scene hasn’t experienced in years.
Even people that long for a 90s’ boom-bap revival can quench their nostalgic thirst by listening to rappers like Your Old Droog, Joey Bada$$, and Roc Marciano.
Even more importantly, all the rappers I just listed are not limited to one subset of hip-hop music. Rappers have added dimensions to their arsenals. As great as Kendrick Lamar is at provoking a deep thought, he is equally capable of creating a braggadocious banger of a song welcomed on any party playlist.
Conversely; as hard hitting as Future and Danny Brown’s party anthems can be, they are also able to step back and delve into a topic with a little more depth, like their respective drug addictions.
This multifaceted approach has allowed rappers to reinvent themselves from project release to project release and connect with a wider network of fans. To the benefit of hip-hop fans, the genre is as flexible as ever.
Contrary to another popular belief, rap music is at a lyrical pinnacle.
The quality of rhyming schemes, flow, and production have all progressed beyond the point they were at in the mid 90s’. Rap verses have evolved from basic AA-BB rhyme patterns that were popular in the 70s’ and 80s’.
Artists into today’s rap scene have adopted a more technical, polysyllabic approach to lyricism. Internal rhyme schemes are as popular as they have ever been. Rhyming multiple words within one bar of a verse and stretching a rhyme scheme past its initial parameters have allowed new creative angles and lanes to develop in lyric writing.
Polysyllabic lyricism is, admittedly, a style that initially started in the late 80s’ and early 90’s by rap veterans Nas and Rakim. However, the current wave of rap artists have perfected the style by refraining from using random, out-of-place phrases for the sake of finishing or continuing a rhyme scheme.
In addition to being able to package the lyrics in a way that sounds better to a general audience, the lyrics produced by this new wave of rappers are simply better. Listening to the lyrics of a couple songs from each generation of rap in chronological order is the sonic equivalent to the “Scale of Evolution” drawing.
The lyrics that were written in yesteryear are stiff and somewhat topically limited. The top-tier lyrics written today are littered with literary devices and clever, multiple entendre punchlines.
Contrary to a third popular belief, the flow of rappers is at its current pinnacle.
A rapper’s “flow” is their combination of their rhythmic and and intonational techniques. Flow is the backbone of rap. If a rap artist lacks an acceptable flow, the lyrics that they have written will struggle to provide an impact.
The pressure placed on a rapper to have a flow unique to him is the biggest stylistic pressure in rap music. If an artist is attempting to copy a flow another artist already uses, their credibility takes a colossal hit.
Flow, like lyrics have progressed over time. In the 70s’ and 80s’, rappers had a relatively uniform sound. Preaching about their own lyrical and technical skill or telling a simple story over a beat dominated by drums with a rarely-changing cadence.
As rap progressed into the 90s’, rap split off into various sub-genres. Flow started to diversify. Artists began to specialize their style to appeal to the fans of whatever sub-genre they so happened place themselves into.
Smoother, grittier, quicker-paced, and slower-paced flows developed as a result of topical (i.e. gangsta rap, alternative rap) and regional divisions (i.e. East Coast rap, West Coast rap, and Southern rap) among the rap scene.
Rappers involved in the most modern era of rap have made the next logical step on the stairway of stylistic development. Rappers are now alternating between multiple flows on albums and songs.
A sudden change in flow is a fantastic way to set a mood for a song or an upcoming point in a song. The change highlights that particular part of the piece as a part that needs to be paid attention to; and when done correctly, can be a highlight of the project. Bouncing between and balancing flows on a song or a set of songs displays a level of technical prowess and panache that adds depth to their overall product.
Casual fans of hip-hop will undoubtedly fight my argument. This article will be subject to numerous arbitrary lyrical comparisons between a rapper known for their lyrics from one generation and a rapper more known for other skills that they have from another. That’s okay.
If you are a person who just can’t stand the latest era, I get that. If you are a person who believes that changes have been made for the worst, I understand. If you are a person who believes that they were born in the wrong generation, I feel you.
I’ll leave you to your vast collection of Tupac songs where he rhymes “Hennessy” and “enemies” over instrumentals that sound like they were produced on a portable Casio keyboard and recorded through a fax machine. I’m going to go play in the sandbox.