The evolution of Hip-Hop

Wendy Solorio

For more than 30 years, hip hop has been a powerful force in the music world and has been an outlet for many poets and artists. Today the hip hop genre still exists, but the music has lost most, if not all of it’s meaning.

When hip hop first emerged back in the late 1970’s, rappers expressed emotions through their lyrics. A lot of them used their work to tell stories about their lives and where they came from. In other words, their music meant something to them, as well as those who listened.

Today, with the exception of a few rappers, hip hop has changed dramatically, and not in a good way. We’ve gone from hearing stories about life on the streets, to how much money and cars someone owns. Furthermore, we’ve also had to endure hearing about the countless “hoes” one rapper can be involved with at any given time.

When comparing and contrasting lyrics from the past and the present, it’s clear that today’s hip hop has gone off the original path it was on decades ago.

When you hear lyrics by Grandmaster Flash, the song “The Message” in particular, you gain insight on what life was like where the rapper lived while he was growing up. The song became a big hit back in 1982. In this song, you learn about inner city violence, drug dealing, and poverty.

“Thugs, pimps, pushers and the big money makers/ Driving big cars, spending twenties and tens/ And you want grow up to be just like them, huh, /Smugglers, scrambles, burglars, gamblers.  Pickpockets, peddlers even panhandlers /You say: ‘I’m cool, I’m no fool!’/But then you wind up dropping out of high school.”

It paints a grim picture for the listener, and doesn’t glamorize the life of a criminal in any sort of way.

Now let’s compare these lyrics to a more recent track by another rapper. T.I’s song titles “24’s” can be found under the rap/hip hop genre. But it sounds completely different from anything Grandmaster Flash ever did.

“Money, hoes, cars and clothes/ that’s how all my (explicit) roll…”

Those are just a few words from the chorus. The rest of the song proves that rap lyrics have gone from telling stories about real life, to bragging about material things. A lot of rappers have countless albums dedicated to expressing how they love to kill, and don’t mind if they are murdered themselves.

There are a few rappers out there today who are still in touch with what rap originally set out to do. Artists like Jay-Z , Kanye West, NAS, and Talib Kweli make a living off of telling their stories. However, it seems that they don’t get as much airplay on the radio as the other rappers do. But why is that?

Perhaps a style of music is defined by the number of albums an artist sells. Or maybe great music is just getting lost as time goes by. Whatever the reason may be, when it comes to rap and hip hop today, there is one obvious quality about it: It lacks substance.