The “Real Hip Hop” Debate

I finally got around to watching the now-infamous Canibus vs Dizaster rap battle on YouTube (I know I’m mad late but I can only do battle rap every blue moon or it gets redundant to me plus the longtime Canibus fan within me really had no desire to see one of my favorites go down in flames) but what I found most interesting was the numerous debates on what constitutes real hip hop within the comments section. It’s a long-time debate that’s been argued for decades now-this rapper or that rapper is hip hop while this rapper isn’t. Now, let’s be clear on one thing out the gate: there are rappers that are not hip hop. What they do may be an offspring or in some cases a parody of hip hop but those rappers are not the focus of this editorial. Rather, I’m addressing the “hip hop snobs” that seem to be of the opinion that if a record isn’t necessarily positive, educational or “backpack-ish” then it isn’t hip hop. I myself  have had numerous debates with fans in chatrooms, Facebook groups and in person on this issue. These people support the statement that  a record by N.W.A. (Niggaz4Life era), Death Row,Mobb Deep or M.O.P. isn’t hip hop in comparison to a KRS-One,Public Enemy or Talib Kweli record. Basically that a “gangsta” rap or street rap record doesn’t constitute real hip hop.

“Even though I cannot and will not listen to a vast majority of these new rappers coming out now, my issue is more with their lack of talent than their actual content.”

This is where my views differ from those people vastly,and bear in mind that I have always been a listener of intellectual MC’s. I come from the era of Chuck D, KRS, X-Clan and others and these type of artists helped shape my development as a thinker and my love for education. That being said,I’ve always had an equal love for records that had sometimes literally zero intellectual value. As a person who lived the street life firsthand,I could relate to that mentality of feeling that your back’s against the wall and sometimes you have to do what you gotta do to survive regardless to what society deems as acceptable. This is why Biggie’s Ready To Die resonated so strongly with me at the time of it’s release and still does today. A lot of the things he was talking about was my life at that  particular time. While that album was commercially successful due in large part to the crossover appeal a lot of those records had in sound, the street cats fucked with it because we knew there was nothing fraudulent in what he was saying.

hip hop-elitist

“The very essence of hip hop has always been multi-faceted, from the subject  matter to the various genres of music it has incorporated into it’s D.N.A.”

My point is this-perspective is everything. It’s so easy for a person that’s been afforded opportunities to live a safe, comfortable life to turn their nose up at music that documents a lifestyle that they will never begin to understand. Some hip hop is violent as life is violent. That does not mean in the slightest that records that are violent, misogynous or negative in other aspects are not  hip hop. It’s just a certain aspect among the many that constitute music, which is merely a reflection of life and the emotions that stem from it. And even though I cannot and will not listen to a vast majority of these new rappers coming out now, my issue is more with their lack of talent than their actual content.

So to all of these hip hop fans that try to put hip hop in a box and claim that if a record isn’t positive or intellectual then it’s somehow not “real hip hop”, your efforts will forever remain fruitless due to one main reason-hip hop was never intended to be one  specific thing. The very essence of hip hop has always been multi-faceted, from the subject  matter to the various genres of music it has incorporated into it’s D.N.A. What a certain sector of listeners deem to be of the culture just because it’s what  they like goes against the very principles of the culture. I guess I’m fortunate to have always been diverse in my taste of rappers.  As a fan,I listen to the KRS’s, Rakim’s, Mos Def’s and others of the game but other times I wanna listen to the music of Death Row, Mobb Deep and D-Block. It’s really no different than watching the gangster movies that I tend to love. In short,as much as I love the  positive stuff,if that’s all there was to hip hop then it would not be realistic. This genre most likely would’ve gone the way of  disco, bluegrass,punk rock and other genres that eventually died out because of refusal to expand and be diverse. That’s why hip hop is the greatest genre of music for our generation-it dares to be different and refuses to be put in a box.

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3 thoughts on “The “Real Hip Hop” Debate”

  1. Even in hip hop I like variation in my music. Sometimes I might want to hear Bumpy Knucks merc the shit out of a Preemo beat. Other times I just want to lmao at Willie D cussing mo’fuckers to death. It all depends on the mood. It doesn’t always have to be mind blowing lyrical displays over hard boom bap. There’s a time and a place for everything. A time for Wu-Tang. A time for Mc Eiht. A time for Biggie and a time for Pac. There’s even times when I want to put the fuckin hip hop albums away and throw on some Marley or a bit of Morrissey.

  2. No question. Anything without variety grows old after a while. Hip hop should spread knowledge but also entertain.

  3. I’ve been studying this for quite sometime and what I find interesting is people using the words “Real Hip Hop” I even use this term from time to time. I mean hip hop is a culture consisting of all elements.These include djing, breakdancing, mcing or rapping, graffiti, slang, fashion and so on. Do we really expect people to cram all elements of hip hop into every track they make in order for it to be classed as real hip hop? When you break that down it sounds retarded. What happened to the days when all you needed was a nice beat, some dope lyrics and a few cuts? That will always be hip hop to me. Although I take hip hop seriously and I don’t approve of people abusing it, I do believe it’s main purpose is to entertain. It was always a voice for us, a message, a way of letting people express themselves freely. Now that as far as I’m concerned could be political, conscious, positive, real life, fantasy, gangster, whatever, as long as it’s DOPE. That to me is the beauty of hip hop music, it’s many styles. That is what stops it from becoming stagnant and is probably the reason it is still going. The minute we label it, the harder it will become to push the boundaries and the harder it will become to keep it fresh and original.

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