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Autumn Aspirations

Growing up in New York City has given me an abundance of


experiences that I wouldnt trade for the world and ones that surely many
would kill to have. Coming from what perhaps is the cultural hub of the
world shaped my outlook and views on life and fortunately has allowed me
to embrace all walks of life with an open mind. However no culture has had
as much of an impact on me than Hip Hop. Everything about it from the
music, to the attire, to the rhythm, to the street art was extremely enticing to
me. I knew from the moment that I bought my first $5 mixtape on Canal
Street that Hip Hop would be always something that would play a huge role
in my life. It was mesmerizing as 13 year old to walk around my
neighborhood, SoHo, and feel the energy surrounding the release of 50
Cents debut album Get Rich or Die Trying. I cant personally relate to
most of the material, but I can confidently say that that album affected 90%
of the 90 babies in some shape or form, whether in the way they dressed,
the way they talked, or their defiant attitude towards rules and society in my
case. Unfortunately 11 odd years later I cannot say that Ive seen the art
form elevate to the heights that I expected it to reach. Although I believe
that this progression can be achieved, there are some internal obstacles
within that must be addressed or at least discussed first.

(Let me set the record straight that this not an attack on what I
consider to be the most authentic and exciting genre of music. This is an
acknowledgement that as Ive grown up Ive seen genres surpass it in
popularity, and a discussion of a couple of issues that I hold responsible for
the stagnation.)

One of the problems most evident problems has to be the existence of
so many subcultures within Hip Hop. Obviously music needs to have
different sounds, which allow it to evolve. Weve seen rock music grow to
accept heavy metal or EDM/electronic/whatever the kids call it these days
embrace dubstep and the list goes on. However, it seems as if Hip Hop has
been very reluctant to accept change. Perhaps I only think this way because
Hip Hop is the genre that I have the most knowledge of and follow most
closely, but Ive never seen the resentment and backlash towards new ideas
and characters manifest itself quite so viciously as within Hip Hop.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can listen to whatever
they want, but it troubles me that I so often see people reject what is foreign
to their Hip Hop preferences on account of their closed minded attitude. I
listen to music for music. I dont allow a persons financial background or
whatever he or she does with their personal time affect how I sonically
perceive them. At the end of the day all that matters to me is the music. Im
sure many Hip Hop purists would hope I get struck by lightning if they
knew that one of the artists I listen to most closely now is Young Thug.
His music and rhyme patterns are essentially a slap in the face to what the
greats such as Nas or Big L etc. laid down as the foundation to the craft.
Young Thug jumps around the beat with no respect for any rhyme patterns
throwing in bridges at random points of the song while yelling almost
inaudible adlibs throughout. He also harmonizes in an odd croaky voice,
which along with his eclectic style of dress has led to many people accusing
him of being gay.

To my knowledge he is not gay, he actually frequently talks about his
relations with women, and has never really done anything to warrant people
questioning his sexuality. Even if he is, I doubt it would be such a widely
discussed topic if he were a pop artist or a DJ. People obviously like his
music as he is always on the radio and being blasted through car stereos as I
walk through Providence. Yet the other day when I told a friend of mine,
who is as big of a fan of the music as me, that Ive been listening to a lot of
Young Thug he said, thats mad gay. Not everyone in Hip Hop thinks like
this, but Ive seen attitudes such as this more commonly present during the
debates Ive had about Hip Hop than about any other genre.

One of the most successful artists in Rap today, at least financially
and radio-wise, has to be Wiz Khalifa. However with a more poppy sound
and weirder clothes he is now largely viewed as a pariah in Hip Hop circles.
I am a supporter of Wiz Khalifa and his music but his sound has definitely
changed throughout the years. His mix tape Kush and Orange Juice is a
classic tape full of smoker anthems and I still listen to it this day four years
after its debut. However he clearly has his mind set on gaining new
audiences and has adopted more of a pop sound, he even rolls blunts with
Miley Cyrus, but who in Rap hasnt these days. While his new songs arent
necessarily my cup of tea, I dont see any problem with him trying to appeal
to a wider crowd. Hell always have the stoners through Kush and OJ, but
the majority of the fans he had from his early more street oriented tapes like
The Prince of the City have most likely cast him off as a sell out. I
frequent Hip Hop blogs and he gets called WAY worse.

Hip Hop seems to be the genre that criticizes artists the hardest who
experiment with new sounds. I am far from suggesting that his older fans
have to grow with him. Nevertheless I do believe that Wiz using lighter
synth based beats and attempting to sing is something that could attract new
fans and give more light to his old music. If that were the case then both his
old fans and new ones would come out victorious. His pop inclined fans now
have a gateway to the street music that they may have never explored
otherwise.

Nicki Minaj is another artist who has suffered from being labeled a
sell out. However her case is much different than Wiz Khalifas as she was
outright berated on Hip Hops biggest stage, Hot 97s Summer Jam, in front
of millions of viewers by Peter Rosenberga radio host. In front of
probably 50,000 people he yelled into his microphone that her Billboard hit
Starships was garbage. Lil Wayne immediately pulled her from the bill
and surely 75% of the crowd was furious. Starships is a catchy but ehhhh
song in all honesty, but obviously a shit load of people enjoy it, and one
persons negative opinion on it prevented thousands of fans from seeing an
artist they paid to see.

One of my favorite Nicki Minaj songs, and I have very few, is called
Did It On Em. On the track Nicki has a chaotic flow and fierce lyrics not
made for airplay. Yes, I am aware that the Rosenbergs of the world along
with me appreciate that kind of output from her more than Starships, but
why does he so blatantly on such a huge public platform have to slight her?
Surely Summer Jam lost some attendees from the incident the last year, and
they were not able to book Drake or Wayne for the event until this year due
to the backlash, as they are all on the same label. Although Im not a huge
fan of Starships, I do recognize that other people are and Im not going to go
out of my way judge them if they do. Unfortunately the majority of Hip Hop
most likely would.

And now to discuss my favorite artist at the moment, and certainly the
most polarizing, Torontos own Drake. Love him or hate him, it would be
foolish to ignore his impact on the culture and the fact that he makes more
sonically sound music then his peers. Alas it seems as if many people hold
his upper-middle class upbringing against him and more importantly against
his music. For arguments sake lets forget about all the tabloids, which
subject him to ridicule, because I enjoy a Drake roast session just as much as
the next, but I never let that affect how I view his music. He makes great
music, yet he is still maligned for his lack of street cred and several other
factors, which have NOTHING to do with his music. He will never fully be
accepted within Hip Hop as the likes of Nas or Jay Z, and it has nothing to
do with the fact that his music hasnt reached as many people, but because
he doesnt tell the stereotypical Hip Hop tale.

One flaw I will call Drake out on however - and this is rare because I
dont dislike a single one of his records - is that at times we do see him
reaching to appeal to the same people that will never accept his because of
his affluent past. Listen closely to his songs and he throws in subtle
references to street ways, which to my knowledge at least, arent really part
of his life. I myself have told lies in my music before, and its something I
have moved on from only recently. Many up and coming artists feel the need
to live some sort of fraudulent lifestyle through their rhymes and honestly I
dont blame them. Hardly any rapper coming up wants to get Draked.
While his subject matter may not be appealing to those with more street-
minded tendencies, it should not be a reason to label his music as not Hip
Hop. If artists are encouraged to act in a certain manner and come from a
certain background, then surely they will stray away from their story.
Everyone knows that an inauthentic tale doesnt equal timeless music, which
is what we are all searching for in the first place.

At the end of the day I will always love Hip Hop for what it has
brought to my life. Writing music is not only my favorite hobby but has also
helped me come through some very dark times. I doubt I would have
escaped the ruts I was in without the music, and if I held some of the views
described above I might have missed out on some great songs. Hip Hop in
relative terms is just beginning. Each week there is a new artist bubbling
presenting a new sound that could potentially captivate the entire culture. It
would be unwise and foolish to reject their possible impact because of some
of the internal quandaries that still unfortunately exist within the genre.
Hopefully in the future we can avoid asking ourselves these questions.

Yours truly,
Rory (Princey)