Chuck D Is Old But Not Wrong About Authentic Rap
Prophets of Rage rapper Chuck D says publications ignore the “Importance of the Group” in Hip-Hop. The rapper told Billboard that “the journals and blogs and everyone threw hip-hop down the stairs by praising the individual,” specifically citing the celebrity of Kanye West as an example.
Chuck D Is Better Than That
As we age, most people start to believe music was better when they were younger. The idea is of course ridiculous, and I guess I’m a victim of a similar heuristic for thinking that Chuck D was somehow above that. Either way, this is a pretty good marketing tactic by identifying and addressing a target market.
I think, as artists, displaying a more united front against the industry is probably the better play. It’s alright to not like what the next guy is doing but we don’t always have to state our opinions, especially if those opinions create a bigger divide.
Specifically concerning Kanye, who was not the only person he was talking about but just an example, I think he’s a cultural icon in his own right just as Chuck D is a cultural icon. Kanye, being a creative, should be allowed to put his own stamp on a culture he’s so heavily influenced as well.
Groups vs. Solo Artists
Chuck’s comments about the lack of groups are really telling. There is a selflessness and sense of community that any collective of artists working together represents. While we have affiliations of MC groups we don’t have groups like Public Enemy, Wu Tang, Run-DMC, Tribe, De La Soul, The Roots etc. who consistently record, perform and promote themselves as a team. You have to check your ego to make a group work and we’re not seeing a lot of that circa 2016.
Hip Hop vs. Rap
The distinction between rap and hip-hop also needs to be made here as well. Killing The Breeze discussed this in our “Top 30 Hip Hop Albums of 2015”
Hip Hop, as described by Afrika Bambaataa, described the culture that emceeing belonged within. Hip hop is the culture and rapping is one of five elements contained therein — the others being breakdancing, DJing and graffiti, and knowledge.
If there’s any distinction to be made, it’s made along the lines of quality or purity. Encouraged by labels, top-selling artists make records now indistinguishable from R&B or pop, appealing to a community in order to secure a place on the charts. Artists and songs are often categorized now based on who they are without identifying what they are. This allows those who have gotten their start within the hip-hop community to make other types of records, and still be classified as “hip-hop/rap” in order to appear at the top of the heap in terms of sales.
Ultimately, there are MCs creating art and contributing to the culture, and there are rappers who are packaged products of record labels contributing to their own coffers with little regard for contributing to the art form nor its evolution. Formulaic output and the reluctance to take risks in the industry is just the harsh reality that is the result of hip-hop becoming so lucrative.