Rap will never die. Only rappers do.
If rap ever died, it would come back the next morning.
"Dub it off your man, don't spend that 10 bucks / I did it for the advance, the back end sucks," Viktor Vaughn sagely said in 2004.
Rap music evolved from parties, dancing, graffiti; it evolved culturally and organically. People did it for the love of expression, to explore uncharted artistic depths, to paint a beautiful portrait with words.
By the time Nas declared that hip-hop was dead in 2006, in the wake of ringtone rap and the overwhelming influence of Soulja Boy, the grumblings about its deicide had been going on for years.
Backpacking and savior rap go back to the days of KRS-One, who Biggie dismissed in a mid-90s interview with this:
"KRS-One?? Naahhh…I don’t like KRS no more ’cause he just think he’s too dope. He let his ego take over his sh*t and that’s what brings him down. When he was like that (shouts 'Blow it to yourself'), when he was like that, then he was a 10 but now, ‘I am hip-hop’!!! Eat a dick, n*gga. Eat a mothaf*ckin dick!"
The main cause of death, in the eyes of the mourners, is the commercialization of rap. Once corporations saw an opportunity, they pounced on it and the reality of their economics is that financial success comes before quality.
What was done for the love was now done en masse for the dollars. Why do you think super producers, like Dr. Luke or Pharrell, produce so many Billboard "hits"?
Is it because they're making the best music, or because they were so heavily invested in by major labels? Billboard itself admits that its "Hot 100" isn't exactly scientifically derived:
"Generally speaking, our Hot 100 formula targets a ratio of sales (35-45%), airplay (30-40%) and streaming (20-30%)."
So what you hear on corporate radio -- what's literally crammed down the nation's throat -- is seen as more predictive of what the most popular songs are in comparison to streaming plays? False.
The menace of major label exploitation of rap music is real. More than an unfair playing field, it released psychosocial implications that had terrible effects on the genre.
Whatever it is that you do, don't do it for the results. Don't do it for money, for glory or for fame. Do it for the process; do it because you love it; do it to get better.
That's what rap was at its creation, and what major labels ruined. They popularized rap as a means to an end, as opposed to an art form that should be pursued for its intrinsic value.
But this is an old trope, and a boring one at that. Just because this element of the game was created, and widely disseminated, doesn't mean there aren't other aspects.
The days of lyrical miracle dictionary rap have come and gone. A lineage of Slick Rick, Nas and MF Doom were the greatest of its champions, and their primes are well past at this point.
This standard of rap is like seeing the genre as a two-dimensional graph. If the X-axis is time and the Y-axis is this antiquated standard of lyricism, the peak point of the chart would have been reached and breached years ago.
But in ever art form, measuring greatness should resemble a three-dimensional graph, with infinite possibilities and directions to explore and perfect. Rap is no different.
In the past 10 years, we've seen the standards of rap change drastically. The premiums put on knowledge, difficulty of execution and dexterity of flows have evaporated.
Some people cry over "ignorant" rap. As if nihilistic, material-obsessed content isn't the perfect reflection of modern society.
If you're upset about the culture of shallowness, don't apply that to rap alone. But even at its most ignorant, rap is able to reflect, parody and expose the frivolous nature of consumer culture in a way that's fascinating and indispensable.
Look at Chief Keef, who's been able to make a career out of maliciousness and embodying murderous detachment.
While you can't rate his lyrics on the old scales of quality, "n*gga f*ck your mama, she should have wore a condom," is the perfect example of how great his lyrics can be without resting on the trappings of the past.
With the advent of the Internet, withering old-school rap fans and the corporate machine, all of it is subject to the approval and acceptance of the masses.
No longer can the limitations of individual imaginations dictate where the genre should go in any substantial way. If it's good and it has an audience, it'll get out there; otherwise it will fail, no matter who's backing it.
In conclusion, to all you old, bitter heads complaining about how rap is dead, I'm sorry to tell you that you have expired, not the genre.
You're the same as the people who protested that rappity noise when it first debuted, the same classic rock fans who were disgusted by punk, the same country music fanatics who dismissed The Beatles.
You're fighting against evolution, against creation, against inevitability. You're on the wrong side of history.
Top Image Credit: WENN