In a recent interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, former president George W. Bush revealed that the lowest point of his presidency was when rapper Kanye West said that he “doesn’t care about black people” during a television benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors.
His low point wasn’t the hurricane itself, America’s failing economy or even the costly war in Iraq—no, it was a Hip-Hop artist.
No one man should have all that power—right?
West does. These are the benefits you reap when you’re an icon in the most popular music genre in the world—the genre I fell in love with.
As a kid, whenever I wasn’t in school, most of my time was spent alone in my room. Because of my poor performance in school, my mother, the warden, kept me in solitary confinement. She used the word “punishment.”
While all of my friends were outside playing, attending school dances and sneaking into R-rated movies, I was stuck alone in my room left to entertain myself.
During this imprisonment, I became addicted to three things: Hip-Hop, music magazines and porn websites—three things I still hold near and dear to my heart today.
Instead of reading my AP history books after dinner, I would rush to my room and leaf through pages of “The Source” and “XXL” magazine.
Since I couldn’t leave the house and had been stripped of my telephone privileges, the only people who spoke to me besides my mother were Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas.
I became more than a fan. I knew the lyrics to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below better than I knew my Bible verses. Hip-Hop was my religion.
After I graduated from high school the topics of rap songs began to become monotonous—rims, jewelry and promiscuous women.
I started to lose faith in my religion.
In December 2006, Nas released his eighth studio album “Hip-Hop is Dead” in response to the poor quality of music coming from the genre. He couldn’t have picked a more fitting title.
Since then, Hip-Hop has gone through many bubblegum phases where auto-tune, “Crank That” dances and skinny jeans were more important than the substance of the lyrics. Rappers were more concerned with making Youtube videos and selling ringtones than producing good music.
In 2010 however, there is a breath of fresh air as a new class of emcees have emerged to the forefront of the genre. Like a box of crayons, each member of this new cluster brings something different.
Newcomers Drake, J. Cole, Big Sean and Kid Cudi have all taken co-signs from the likes of Lil Wayne. Drake released his highly-anticipated debut album “Thank Me Later” while Cudi released his sophomore album “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager.” J. Cole and Big Sean have yet to produce a retail album yet, but have dominated the mixtape circuit. Big Sean’s wordplay is second to none and it shows on his recent mixtape “Finally Famous 3.” And although Sean is clever with the words, J. Cole’s “Friday Night Lights,” which was released this past Friday, is one of the best packages of music that has been produced this year.
But not all artists need an endorsement to gather a following and produce good music. Wiz Khalifa, who performed in Tallahassee this semester, raps mostly about his love of pot over soulful beats and unique samples. His mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice” is easily mixtape of the year and is arguably the most popular artist, not rapper, of today.
The success of these rookies seems to have put pressure on veterans like Rick Ross and Kanye West—inspiring great releases from both two emcees.
Ross’ “Teflon Don” was surprisingly soulful from beginning to end, showing parole officer Ricky’s growth since his first album. Aware of the new direction in which Hip-Hop is headed, Ross recruited Drake and Wiz Khalifa for his single “Aston Martin Music” and the remix of “Super High.”
But the album of the year has to go to Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Expressive lyrics plus infectious beats have always equaled success for West and his latest release is no different.
These artists, along with a handful of others, makeup a collection emcees that are bringing back the pure essence of the genre. In 2010, it is easy to see that Hip-Hop is alive and well.