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The tipping Point – The Moment Hip Hop Took A Fall

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“Hip hop is dead”, “the game has changed”, “things ain’t the same”, “bring back the 90’s”, “fuck Lil Wayne”, “2Pac is the best”

Visit any hip hop site and you will find literally hundreds of comments like these. So what happened? Everybody has their opinion and perspective on things.

Here is my personal take on events that led up to hip hops demise and my optimism for a golden era revival.

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Humble Beginnings

In order to figure out what went wrong with hip hop you have to start with what was right with it. Long before the cristal popping and the cribs on Mtv, Hip hop started out life at the most disenfranchised end of society within the urban ghettos and slums. It captivated this demographic because it painted a very real picture of everyday life for the people who lived there. Early hip hop celebrated virtuous lyrics that echoed knowledge and truth. If emcees didn’t come with something profound then they couldn’t hang. A lot of the music from the early 80’s right up until the start of the 90’s also had a politically motivated undertone. Song lyrics from groups like Public Enemy would tackle controversial topics about inequality within the black communities of corporate America. Hip hop had become far more than just music. It was a powerful platform to express opinion. Getting your message heard was the focus and any fame and fortune that came with it was just a side effect and not the sole motivation.  This purity and realness is evident in almost all golden era hip hop music.

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Gangster Rap

As much as it pains me to say it, gangster rap was probably the first nail in the coffin for hip hop. This is a controversial one because there are so many classic rap albums that fall in to the category of glorifying violence. When I was in my teens I used to listen to a lot of N.W.A, Geto Boys, Spice1, Above the Law and Mc Eiht. I could quite easily switch from listening to Music to Driveby to popping Fear of a Black Planet in the tape deck. It was all just hip hop to me at the time. I never really looked at the wider negative effects it could have on young society and ultimately the future hip hop scene. I even remember Reverend Calvin Butts campaigning to ban gangster rap and the “steamrolling” incident in which the Reverend crushed a stack of gangsta rap albums to draw awareness. At the time I was on the other side of the fence rallying for Snoop and Ice Cube who were obviously opposed to his actions. I regurgitated their defensive claims that they were not glorifying violence but “simply telling it how it is”. I think there is a certain amount of truth to that, especially in early gangster rap music but as I got older I found myself naturally moving further and further away from gangsta rap. Ironically it turned out that Snoop did too.  “Eazy-E cruising down the street in his six-four, jocking the freaks, clocking the dough” is a world away when you’re pushing 40 with a wife 3 kids and a mortgage. Having said that, early gangsta rap music was still soulful and gritty and much of it had thought provoking content. Just compare a track like “I seen a man die” by Scarface to any modern day gangsta rapper.

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Record Companies

After the national attention that Ice-T and N.W.A attracted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gangsta rap became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip hop. Controversy sells and wherever there is money record executives take notice. The record execs don’t really care about authentic music because most of them don’t listen to the music they promote anyway. They only care about crunching the numbers. They look at the data and the stats and plot a course. If “get rich or die trying” sells 10 million then they stick with the formula until it ceases to have the same effect then move on to the next gimmick. It’s a vicious cycle because now the consumers are perpetuating the problem unknowingly.

major-record-labels

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“The conscious level in the hood is kinda low right now. The majority rules and if the majority is talking blue and somebody comes out talking grey; it’s hard for that person to get people to see his grey colour because there’s so much blue out there”  

 

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Formula Music

There is a reason that most of the mainstream popular music sounds the same. It’s all produced using a formula. When you hear the excuse that they are only providing what the masses want to hear, don’t fall for it. If you play the same message to the people over and over again without the option of an alternative it will eventually become the adopted and accepted message.  Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth, as the old saying goes. Creativity will always be compromised when formulas to generate sales is the goal. Something that hip hop never had to contend with during the early years before it became a commodity.  A sad but true fact of the system.

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Formula Music

There is a reason that most of the mainstream popular music sounds the same. It’s all produced using a formula. When you hear the excuse that they are only providing what the masses want to hear, don’t fall for it. If you play the same message to the people over and over again without the option of an alternative it will eventually become the adopted and accepted message.  Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth, as the old saying goes. Creativity will always be compromised when formulas to generate sales is the goal. Something that hip hop never had to contend with during the early years before it became a commodity.  A sad but true fact of the system.

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“When Wu Tang started putting out clothing it was shoddy gear, I never rocked that shit”  

 

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Technological Advances In Music Distribution

The way in which people access music and media has vastly changed. Gone are the days of the record player, cassette and CD. This is probably one of the biggest factors of all effecting the independent artists as they can’t even sell Cd’s from the boot of their car anymore to earn a couple of bucks . Most are left to give away their music for free in the hopes that one day after a lot of social media sharing one of their tracks might be heard by the right influential person.  Owning a physical copy of a rap album with all the images and the artworks contained on the vinyl sleeve or cassette insert was all part of the fun. The iconic covers of classic rap albums where sometimes as important as the content within. Just the mention of a classic instantly brings an image to mind. Just think about Nas Illmatic and you immediately know what I mean.  Now fast forward to today’s digital era and do the same with the current new kids on the block. How many can you visualize?…. See my point? Not only has the music been watered down, but also the medium in which it is presented has too.

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The Tipping Point

Most of the previous decade has been a blur but one thing most people agree on is at some point Hip Hop took a momentous fall from grace. We all know who some of the culprits are who helped cause this mess but the question is, have we crossed the point of no return?

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The Golden Era Revival

Just like the fashions of yesterday, what goes around comes around. The last few years have seen some quality hip hop emerge on independent labels. Even the mainstream has shown flickers of talent breaking through that could be a sign of a paradigm shift. We recently witnessed Kendrick Lamar call out rappers compelling them to step up their game. If this shift does take place then we could potentially witness a revival of some kind. But will we learn from the mistakes of the past?

Even if hip hop can’t be rescued from the point of no return, at least we have a back catalogue of timeless classics to revert back to any time we choose. For that we can be thankful.

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Wu Tang Clan Albums Giveaway

**Competition Closed**

This August we will be running a feature dedicated to the Wu Tang Clan.

In celebration of Wu Month  The Hip Hop Foundation will be giving away all 5 of the Wu’s studio albums on CD!

How To Enter

For a chance to win all you have to do is follow these 3 simple steps:

1. ‘LIKE’ the ‘facebook page’ http://www.facebook.com/thehiphopfoundationuk

2. ‘FOLLOW’ us on Twitter – @The_HipHop_Fd

3.  ‘SHARE’ the facebook picture amongst your social networks. (click here)

There is a requirement of 40 entrants minimum for the prize draw to take place. For full Terms & Conditions (Click here)

The winner will be selected from the list of names who ‘LIKE’ the page and ‘SHARE’ the picture, on or after the 2nd September.

 

 PRIZE DETAILS

1x WU Tang Clan – Enter The Wu Tang 36 Chambers 1993 (CD Album)

1x Wu Tang Clan – Wu Tang Forever 1997 (Double CD Album)

1x Wu Tang Clan – The W 2000 (CD Album)

1x Wu Tang Clan – Iron Flag 2001 (CD Album)

1x Wu Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams 2007 (CD Album Plus DVD)

 

 

Hip Hop Producer “Confidence” Opens Online Virtual Beat School

Boston based hip hop producer Confidence recently set up a virtual online beat making school to help aspiring producers regardless of their location.

Description

“The purpose of the School of Confidence is to provide students who are aspiring producers and upcoming beatmakers a chance to diversify their talents and arm themselves with techniques to help them stand out amongst a sea of talent in the hip hop world. Contests and incentives will also be provided to offer motivation and instant feedback on students work. I have forged relationships with various labels and artists/producers to help you grow your talent. All students will be treated equally and fairly. This is a learning environment for all who wish to take their career in music to new heights.”

The actual launch date of the school is this upcoming May 2013. More information to follow soon along with an official video.

www.SchoolOfConfidence.com

Biography

confidence-beatsConfidence. The name can refer to several ideas and concepts. Apply it to the world of beat-making and you have a term that exudes high standards and carefully composed compositions. What a fitting name for a hip hop producer who has just that! Confidence was born in Philly back in ’77 so he’s no stranger to classic sounding hip hop and authentic street anthems. Living only a couple of hours away …South from the mecca of hip hop, Confidence began a found fascination of hip hop at age 9 when a good friend of his let him listen to a tape of RUN-DMC and L.L. Cool J. From that point on you could consider it a wrap. As the years went by, other groups came into the picture of course. “I remember when I first listened to EPMD and Big Daddy Kane. My life changed from there.”When Confidence was around 16 back in 1993, his brother decided to cop some Technic 1200’s the first summer he started working. If you couple that with hundreds of hip hop records, the beginning stages of Confidence’s career was about to take off. After dabbling with scratching for a while, sampling came into the picture. Bob James was a big influence and after copping one of his albums, “Heads,” the sample game was next in line. From there, it was all about a 4 second Gemini sampler and some records/drum breaks to get an understanding of how hip hop music was produced. This would provide Confidence with the framework on where he is today.

In 1998 Confidence moved to Boston to try music school and to be with his girl. Music school didn’t amount to anything but in 2001 Confidence was able to purchase an MPC 2000xl which he still uses today to craft out original tracks. At that point, all the knowledge he had built up over the years was about to be applied. Making good, quality music didn’t happen over night. In fact, Confidence feels his music didn’t really start shining until 2004-2005. “It keeps getting better with every beat you make. You just need to stay at it and believe in yourself. If you have talent, they will come.”

During the year of 2002, Confidence got his first placement with Boston’s original founding member of The Almighty RSO, E-Devious on his first solo album. Three beats were selected for this epic record which stood to be all stand-out tracks. After this period other placements came about. Confidence has recorded and made beats for Beneficence, Rampage, M-DOT, Twice Thou (E-Devious), Big Shug, Last Emperor, Jaysaun, Slaine, Wise Intelligent, Elemental Zazen, Tulsi, Naeem Oba, The Camp and other artists local and a far.

At the end of 2010, Confidence released a 16 track remix album of 90’s classics. This album was received with open arms and has gotten a lot of attention from people far and wide. With over 6,000 downloads and features on KevinNottingham.com and 2dopeboyz.com, Confidence’s work is finally getting the praise it deserves. One of the biggest breaks for Confidence came in 2011 when he linked up with the CEO of Ill Adrenaline Records who has a recording artist by the name of Beneficence. He put out one of the top underground records for 2011. With heavyweight appearances and features, Confidence has aligned himself as a producer on the label for future projects with Beneficence and others. Be on the look out as major moves are being made for this aspiring producer.

2011 is the year of Rashad & Confidence. Rashad linked up with Confidence online after listening to one of his remix tracks off of Recon. From there the two discussed doing more than just recording a track. A classic was in the works and after numerous months of putting in work and crafting masterpieces, “The Element of Surprise” was made. This epic record hits worldwide November 29th, 2011…Distributed through Fatbeats and put out by Ill Adrenaline Records. Please be sure to look out for that and support that authentic hip hop. This album will have both physical copies as well as digital downloads available…

Stay tuned because the future proves to be even better for Confidence as he continues to climb his way up the rap charts while continuing to work with legends in the game and developing new artists as well.

 

Percee P and Lord Finesse Talk About The History Of Hip Hop

Percee P has been in the game for a while, as far back as 1979 and for me is mad underrated among the wider audience. In a relaxed informal discussion held at 90.7 Breakbeats & Rhymes, Percee P and legendary producer Lord Finesse give some interesting insights on the development of hip hop music over the years. Finesse also goes on to re-sight some of Perce’s rhymes, paying homage to one of hip hops most prolific lyricists.

“Perce’ was so nice I had to put him on two songs on the second album”……Lord Finesse

Finesse takes the view that most of today’s emcees who enter the cipher lack technical lyrical ability and is amazed that the majority of fans don’t notice. Percee P makes the observation that fans aren’t as critical as they used to be back in the day.  This is a very valid point and one that I  share with him. I think fans should expect more and hold some of these cookie cutter emcees accountable.

Hip hop was such an underground sub culture back in the day,  you had to be crazy nice on the mic or you would get exposed. This acted as a form of regulation that sifted out the wack from the real talent. The hip hop landscape today is vastly different because it has become such a wide spread corporate commodity. The whole game has changed at every level.

Mobb Deep’s Havoc said in a recent interview that when he first started out in the industry it was all about the album, but today it’s all about making a hit single. Working on an album was like leaving a legacy, your own personal stamp in hip hop history. Times have really changed. How many people even bother to buy an album these days other than the hardcore collectors? Most people just troll through youtube or soundcloud and maybe download the occasional track. It’s sad to say but with the rapid rise of technology and the way we now access music, the days of the eagerly anticipated album could be confined to history.

 

Breakbeats & Rhymes Radio is hosted by Los Angeles Hiphop duo, Rebels To The Grain. The show is broadcast live each Sunday morning from 2-4 A.M. on 90.7 F.M. (KPFK).