Kanye West recently took time out of his erratic tour schedule to briefly discuss the significance of design and creativity to the students of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In his short improved speech, Kanye stressed the need for more creative minds in a world controlled by too many minds which are “dumb” and “political”. Although the speech lasted for only a little over two minutes and was incoherent throughout (true Kanye West fashion), Kanye reminded everyone that although structure is needed for success, the ceiling for success is only so high with a lack of creativity and personal branding. While his speech was referring to architecture and his fashion line, Donda, one could tie his argument to the issues involved with the majority of mainstream hip-hop.
Kanye has always undoubtedly pushed the envelope when it comes to experimenting with hip-hop projects. In doing so, he has gained and lost many supporters. Upon it’s release, 808’s and Heartbreak received harsh criticism for being too “auto-tuned” and not being a traditional hip-hop album (unlike his previous three studio albums). Ironically, his latest studio album, Yeezus, received great praise from all of the major critical pundits (even Pitchfork rated it a 9.5) despite being just as, if not more outlandish than 808’s and Heartbreak. What happened in those five years between the two projects? Perhaps critics and the media in general just began to accept the fact that his music was bizarre and unconventional. With his more recent projects, Kanye has branded his style as both unpredictable and unorthodox, while also demonstrating the importance of innovation and creativity to stay ahead of trends and the numerous blips in the hip-hop realm. Unfortunately, much of mainstream hip-hop lacks sufficient creativity in both production and subject matter to fully utilize the medium that is hip-hop.
Like other genres of music, when utilized at its maximum potential, hip-hop can successfully deliver a message to an audience through a creative, artistic manner. While much of mainstream hip-hop today does deliver a message, it is usually unoriginal and immature/offensive. Two songs that can be heard frequently on hip-hop radio stations across America right now are “Hannah Montana” by Migos and “My Nigga” (or “My Hitta”) by YG. Both of these tracks are flawed for their respective reasons. “Hannah Montana” features a chorus of redundancy and a lack of originality. The repetitive saying of “Hannah Montana” (referring to cocaine of course) helps the song perhaps be one of the most annoying contributions to hip-hop in 2013. Then again every Migos track maintains a theme of repetitiveness and unoriginality. “My Niggas” by YG is also characterized by repetitiveness and unoriginality, but is also racist/classist. YG is not the only rapper guilty of classifying their peers as a group labeled by a pejorative. The overuse of the term “nigga” remains to be a problem in hip-hop culture. To go along with the fact that most rappers are ignorant of the term’s significance and history, many will overuse the term due to its ease of use in a rhyme scheme. It appears that the term will never disappear in hip-hop culture, but its overuse exposes the limited vocabularies of many rappers.
While the quantity of hip-hop artists is growing exponentially each year, the quality of the artists seems to be deteriorating. Few are blessed with the appropriate mix of attributes to become an eloquent rapper. The difference between now and about ten years ago is that now it is much easier for aspiring rappers to expose themselves via the internet and more specifically, social media. Many artists that make a splash in hip-hop through internet exposure are responsible for much of the annoying blips that are so prevalent in hip-hop today. While the internet has been a very practical tool for the hip-hop industry, it can sometimes make the process of “weeding out” rappers with inferior tools and creativity more difficult. All it takes is one amateur-made music video with an obnoxious beat and dance move to potentially make an aspiring hip-hop artist relevant.
With all of this said about the lack of direction and creativity, at the end of the day hip-hop is spoken word in which anyone can express their feelings about any subject. Unfortunately, the word being conveyed to the listener is too often redundant and naive. Mainstream hip-hop will continue to linger in its current phase of copycat until artists realize that personal branding and creativity are the keys to making the industry more dynamic and enjoyable for the audience. Until then, mainstream hip-hop has more tracks about “ratchets” and “molly” to look forward to.
The opinions and views expressed here are the opinions of the designated author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or views of any of the individual members of Dead End Hip Hop.