Hip Hop from a fans perspective. Hmm. Am I a fan? I don't consider myself as such. Fans get bored, and move on to the next. They aren't so much about the cultivation of a thing as much as they are the consumption of it. So then, what am I to Hip Hop and likewise what is Hip Hop to me? For about two months I've had this sitting on my desk, swimming round my head hoping a light bulb moment would occur that might allow me to write something about my take on Hip Hop and what I want from it. But that's not what happened. And I think I've figured out why. You see, Hip Hop isn't just one thing to me.
I've just come back from a trip to Seattle to visit my cousin. Seattle has a busy underground Hip Hop scene. And it's far from underground. It's in the layout of the backwards road system. It's in the power lines fueling the buses. It's everywhere. And it's eclectic following stands by its network of performers without waver. This is just part of what Hip Hop is to me. It's a culture that constantly repaints the mural of the communities it resides in. Hip Hop is the reflection of realities faced by its constituents. Its responsibility is to be the voice of the many that go unheard. Being heard is something that Hip Hop does well. Transcending race, gender, age, cultures, it travels across the ocean to paint more murals of the lives we do not know. The being heard part, yeah that's not the issue I take with the distributers of this art. It is what's being heard on a mass consumer level that disappoints. And if I had to sum up the impersonation of this culture you hear on the radio and watch on the TV in one word it would be this - Empty.
Today's listener of Hip Hop does not learn about the struggle of a people to be heard. They do not feel the hunger one endured as a child whose mother could not feed him. There is no understanding of the woman who is told and believes she has but one valued asset. There was a time when Hip Hop acted as the vessel by which social commentary was broadcast to the nation - the world even. Today these truths go unheard, drowned out by the praise of a rented life that Hip Hop today now portrays. Perhaps this is a result of wanting to display an image of success vs. the image of strife. It doesn't matter what the initial intent was when Puff Daddy came on the scene - or rather the screen- and completely disfigured the face of a movement that was coming into its prime. Maybe that's too harsh, but if you were in Hip Hop at that time you are well aware of the abrupt shift that occurred in the industry. When the moguls realized they could sell pop packaged in Hip Hop wrapping paper I doubt anyone stopped to think about the affect it would have on the culture from which the genre spawned. And trust I'm not saying there isn't need for the feel good do nothing more than make you wanna dance song, but I don't need to hear it on Monday at 7am; and then every hour after that until the following Monday when the rotation starts over. The variety, that eclectic mix that makes Hip Hop so unique has been traded in for a one size fits all version whose only purpose is to sell ringtones. That balance of work and play is missing from Hip Hop today. The industry has shifted to giving the listener what they think they want vs. what they need. And what the culture of Hip Hop needs, the youth now coming up in it today, is a history lesson. And that is said with the confession that I myself am still studying that history as well.
Hip Hop's purpose like most genres is to investigate, inform, and inspire through poetic verse. That is what I expect from Hip Hop. When I listen to a track I anticipate a story unfolding, I expect to experience a work of art. It isn't just entertainment for me. Its how I connected with a culture I was disjointed from due to the community I was raised in. I couldn't necessarily relate to what was being described because I didn't live that life, but it kept me from being ignorant to the way that others were living. I was drawn out of my bubble and into a greater society. It developed my conscience, and deepened my sense of social responsibility. Today the only thing Hip Hop is talking about on a large scale is to be self-important, self-concerned, and self-serving. And there is no accountability in the self absorbed world that has been created parallel to Hip Hops origins stealing its image and throwing it's substance to the side. Most of what you hear from your major labels today is disposable. The saying "not everything that glitters is gold" is how you have to look at Hip Hop now. You have to really search for the gems; that perfect combination of beat married to verse that causes you to sit back and reflect on the story being told. It is no longer served up on a silver platter. But I guess these days, that's exactly where the adventure of Hip Hop hides.
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.