I saw the video the other day where it hand picked a Hip-Hop/Rap song from every year since '79, it was titled the 'Devolution of Hip-Hop'. This video angered me so much, they cherry picked classic rap songs like Brenda's Got a Baby and Dead Presidents II yet when it got t about 2006 it started picking songs like Low by Flo Rida or XO Tour Lif3 by Lil Uzi Vert. There was not a single Kendrick song in the whole video, nor was any of it a fair representation. Obviously, there are phenomenal albums from the birth and growth of hip-hop such as Illmatic, 36 Chambers, Straight Outta Compton and many more. However, there have been albums released in the past 10 years that will be undeniable classics like To Pimp A Butterfly, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Atrocity Exhibition and that's just scraping the surface. One of the best representations of the yearly evolution of rap is The Rap Yearbook by Shea Surrano and Arturo Torres, What they defined here, was not the best rap song of the year, or the most commercially available. But they look at the most important rap song each year that leads the new trends and evolves the genre. Because what people forget is that this genre is still in its infancy, it wasn't very commercially successful until the late 80's or early 90's and it has only been upwards since then.
Classic rap isn't perfect, if you don't know that then you need to go and listen to more old school hip hop than Wu Tang, NWA, Nas etc... One of the biggest downfalls of old school rap for me personally was the beats they used. with a lot of the stuff being underground, they didn't have the technology to create the beats that they do now. Classic rappers like Grandmaster Flash could only get a hold of beats that were very primitive, very minimal and cheap. However, rappers like Jay Z, Raekwon, Nas mainly release trash today. You could argue that the legacy is set and they don't have to rap their ass off anymore to prove anything or to get a pay check. But sometimes, I feel like the beats can overwhelm them, I felt this on Nas' Life is Good which had some great songs and it was a good album but he was just a little too melded into the beats. Something else you have to look at is that this was a different era. The black people in America were more oppressed than they are now, this was a release for them, it was a way to fight the powers that be and get their voices heard without having to abide by the current genres. However, it still was susceptible to getting whitewashed (Vanilla Ice), there were still terrible rappers and one hit wonders, people like Salt n Pepa and Kris Kross. They've completely disappeared now, god knows what they are even up to, but those songs aren't even relevant now, how many people really listen to Push It still?
New rap isn't without it's downfalls either. Rappers like Young Thug and Kodak Black have taken everything that is commonly associated with the negative side of rap such as killing, dealing drugs, taking drugs and being with many women. These are things that generally make people disregard rap as a genre, because it's not a subject that people can associate with or care about. Therefore with rappers like Lil Yachty becoming so famous and successful people assume that's all that's going on with rap. One of the biggest problems now, is something that started all them years ago with Vanilla Ice, is the whitewashing. People like Pitbull, G Eazy, Macklemore, are seeing large amounts of success and chart dominance through a genre that is predominantly black. I'm not saying that white people shouldn't rap, because that would be ridiculous. People like Eminem show that you don't need to change the genre to fit in, most of the point about rap is storytelling. That's what these rappers can't do, Pitbull is just the worst thing ever, G Eazy has one of the most cringeworthy flows I've ever heard. To be fair, Macklemore has a knack for storytelling but some of his lines and punchlines are so awful, plus he sold out terribly with the latest album. Something else that is negatively affecting the rap scene today is the Soundcloud rappers, who clog up Twitter begging people like Drake to listen to their new track everytime they rap. I just wonder how successful these people are with these tweets to be honest, but it's diluting the rap scene to such an extent that people are seeing these rappers and making assumptions about the scene.
Classic hip-hop on the other hand has numerous positives. The most distinct of these positives is the fact that a sheer amount of classics were released before 2000. Artists/Groups such as Wu Tang, Beastie Boys, Nas, NWA, KRS One and so many more released numerous albums that aren't only classics within the genre but are starting to be regarded as classics by the media and music critics. Most widely associated with these is Nas' Illmatic which I widely regard as one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the top 5 hip-hop albums of all time. Due to rap being so underground and so taboo back in the day, only the truly great rappers made it through to the mainstream, those who weren't good enough were left behind and without a label behind them they couldn't use things such as Youtube or Soundcloud to grow a fan base independently. This is a huge positive because rappers like this couldn't gain a following before. Not to mention, the lyrical capabilities of the rappers back then was incredible, you still get lyrical rappers today but not as consistently as they were produced in the old school. Albums like Illmatic, Return of The Boom Bap, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and so many more. This harks back to my point that rappers back then had so many more topics to rap about, because police brutality was never checked, racism was ten fold what it was now and these oppressed black people had no voice except the music they expressed it within.
However, the new school should never be disregardard as something that only produces songs about bitches, weed and money because there's so much more than that. The problem is that you can't see what's selling or who's getting famous but you have to delve into the underground rap. Rappers like Danny Brown, Brother Ali, anyone on Rhymesayers. However you can still find some amazing rappers in the mainstream, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Run the Jewels, A$AP Rocky, Pusha T all of these rappers are worth their salt. And I could write 3 or 4 blog posts of just rappers names who are part of the new school and worth checking out. But what we, and the rappers, are blessed with now are some of the best producers in the game with people like Madlib and Clams Casino. Madlib and Freddie Gibbs' project Pinata produced some of the greatest beats on a rap album in 20 years. Sometimes this hinders us as the listener as well becaus we think a beat bangs but it doesn't, rapper slike Chief Keef have been reaping the benefits from producers like Lil Reese whom have created this banging beat for them and they flow over it perfectly well but there's no substance. But then Freddie Gibbs jumps on a track with Madlib and you have the same but there's a fantastic, talented rapper this time. Not to mention, sometimes you just want a trap beat with a rapper flowing over it and not really saying anything at all, when you're at the gym or partying you don't want a thoughtful Nas song. And the ultimate positive of being a rap fan today is the sheer amount of variety on offer. You go on Spotify and you can get hold of any rap artist you want. It can be KRS at one point, then Young Thug then Beastie Boys and you can mix and match.
What I'm saying is that there does not need to be a specific fan of old school or new school nor does there need to be a versus match every time we talk about rap. There is positives and negatives to both but it has evolved and that is the most important thing, if it didn't evolve and reach the mainstream it would not be thriving in the same way that it is now. If there was not massive amounts of money in it then people would not strive to be a rapper, and then there's no competition. So if you think Raps dead or "devolving" then you're not searching for the rap that you like, an that's your own fault for being naive.