Modification in Music: The Evolution of Hip-Hop

After taking several jabs in the hip-hop industry and featuring on some of the latest top songs with artists such as Drake, J. Cole, Miguel, and Robin Thicke, Kendrick Lamar takes round one with the release of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Macklemore, the quirky underdog of hip-hop, fights back with his album The Heist and takes round two. Sitting in the audience of the 2014 Grammys with their backs against the ropes, the two rappers must prepare themselves for the most important round. The prize? The title of “Best Rap Album.”

Both artists gave stellar performances at the awards show and leave viewers and fans uncertain of their favorite artist's fate.

The time is swiftly winding down and the moment has finally arrived. After pouring their hearts on the stage, the boxing ring of hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore anticipate the crowning of Best Rap Album.

“The winner for Best Rap Album is…Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.”

The room filled with a mixture of applauses and gasps as Macklemore walks on stage to accept his championship belt, the grammy, for Best Rap Album .

At-home viewers filled living rooms with applauses and gasps as well.

Many were appalled at the results, amongst those who were appalled many were African Americans.

Twitter flooded with questions. “Why Macklemore?” “What is wrong with America?” “Don’t they know that Kendrick Lamar should have won?”

Director of the Institute for Research in Music and Entertainment Industry Studies at Florida A&M University, Dr. Kawachi A. Clemons, explained that the audience of hip-hop has expanded.

“This is where we see the history of music award shows,” Clemons said. “Blacks never received awards at music shows. Specifically because music was segregated, and black people weren’t winning awards. Over time the music industry integrated. Hip-hop has become enjoyed by multiple audiences and transcends beyond the urban ghetto.”

Hip-hop was a conscious movement. It evolved between the 1950s and 1960s in New York after funding for the arts was cut in public schools.

Many musical influences eluded from music played within the household such as R&B, soul, and gospel before church.

“There was no music so they had to borrow music. All initial music was the background for hip-hop,” said Dr.Clemons.

Early hip-hop music was about partying, but eventually became an outlet for political opinions and social concerns.

Some of the most prominent hip-hop rapping groups to begin the political hip-hop movement were NWA and Public Enemy.

Hip-hop music varied geographically. There were artists in New York, California, Miami, and St. Louis producing music with their own flavor.

“This is no different from Motown, Stax, and Muddy Water. All of them had different sounds. The movie ‘Cadillac Records’ eludes to that,” said Dr. Clemons.

Later on artists began composing music of their life no matter where they were from geographically. “The Message” is an example of a song with lyrics that rang true for everyone in those societies.

As time changed, music evolved and the lyrics which once focused on political and social issues began to focus on lavish living. 

In the beginning of hip-hop, the artists controlled the content of their music. As hip-hop evolved and rap conglomerates formed, artists under contract were forced to produce music that was commercially acceptable. To this day, artists make limited decisions on music.

Hip-hop is no longer geared toward the urban teens, but has expanded and reached people of all demographics through its commercialization. Some of the biggest consumers of hip-hop albums are Caucasian males.

Those who know the music industry were not surprised in regards to Macklemore’s victory. Disappointed? Maybe. African Americans who were upset about Kendrick Lamar’s loss blamed the loss on racism, failing to remember that Three 6 Mafia’s “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” won an Academy Award for Best Original song in 2006. The same people who voted for Macklemore in 2014 are the same people who voted for Three 6 Mafia in 2006.


The world of hip-hop music is forever evolving and its audience continues to expand. Labels want to appeal to the majority and if the majority enjoys what some may view as least authentic and furthest from classic hip-hop music, the majority rules.