For people who haven’t noticed, I am a big fan of noticing the trends and the development of said trends in Hip-Hop. One thing I recently noticed may be a trend that is dying, but a trend none the less. Hip-Hop, at least for a time, was more concerned with the amount of music that an artist would put out, than the quality of that music.
I remember when I was one of the biggest Wayne fans. I use to tell everyone, “This Nigga is a beast, ain’t no one better than him”. Well a few months ago I wrote an open letter to Weezy F. and I expressed my disappointment with him as of late. I even went on to tell him that he has fallen off. Now, I’m not so sure that is the case. I think we are in a time of change. Maybe we are transcending, or maybe we are simply going back to the basics. I know it’s confusing, but stay with me.
Remember in the 90’s (The Golden Era) and how artist worked back then? Most artists would drop an album every other year, that had great quality and tour with it. They would take time to get back into a zone before they began recording another album. It seemed like in those days fans were happy, because the quality of music was so good. Part of the reason we thought that Jay-Z was just effortlessly better than everyone else was because he would put out an album every year, and it would be the best album out while other artists needed so much time to craft those works of art that would still only come second to what Hov did.
Well something happened in the early to mid 2000’s. Mixtapes were becoming more popular, because they became more accessible with the internet. Instead of a DJ just getting a compilation of artist to do a freestyle over a popular beat, and selling tapes as somewhat of a side hustle, artist started putting together complete tapes with all of their own material. That is exactly how artist like 50 came into the game, and Wayne helped raise his status into the elite with them. As mixtapes became more popular, more artist began throwing them out there. This hurt the game. Now there was a lot of good music, but really no great music from this generation.
Lil’ Wayne is a perfect example. In the 90s artist began to be mentioned with the elite after they put out a body of work that suggested they too belonged in the group. Not Wayne! He gave us quantity over quality. One of my favorite times with Wayne was from the end of ‘05 to mid ‘07. Look at a list of the music he had put out during this time.
Yet, there were people who were upset that he hadn’t dropped Tha Carter III in this time. Most of that music was pretty good, but none
of it was great. The closest things we can say are classics are Tha Carter II, Dedication 2, or Da Drought 3. Yet, they weren’t classics because of how good the music was, but more so because Wayne was changing the game with these projects.
So when I say I may have been wrong about Wayne, I’m not saying I was completely wrong. Yes, the quality of his music has fallen, but was that really why he will be considered a legend? No! He will be a legend because of his grind. At times he sounded like he could’ve been the best in the game. Honestly though, most of the time he just sounded like he wasn’t even trying, but he did it with charisma.
Fast forward to the current stages of Hip-Hop, and what is the current state? True there are a lot of artists putting out a lot of disposable music in the forms of mixtapes. True! Yet Wayne’s protégés has changed a lot of the use of mixtapes. In 2007, I heard Comeback Season by Drake. I was riding around in my homies car and she was bumping it. I asked her whose album this was, and she replied, “this is a mixtape by this nigga from Degrassi named Drake”. I had two thoughts running through my head. The first was, “What the fuck is Degrassi, is that a Hip-Hop group that I’m not aware of” and the second was, “this ain’t no mixtape, he is rapping of original production and he has concepts”.
That was the beginning. In ‘09 Drake dropped So Far Gone, and he treated it like an album, even more so than Comeback Season. That may have cemented mixtapes into the world of commercialism forever. He was nominated for Grammys with that piece of work.
Now, you have artist like J. Cole. He put out two mixtapes, and they were both amazing. He used those as a stepping stone to get his album released. Big K.R.I.T. had three amazing mixtapes, and Kendrick Lamar followed the same formula. This new generation of artists is taking it back to the roots when it comes to releasing music. Put out quality! These artists all have commercial success, but hold a lot of respect because all of them have made great bodies of work. I think when Nas said that Hip-Hop was dead, he was right. No one was putting their heart into the game anymore. Well welcome back from the dead Hip-Hop. This new generation of artists, they will take better care of you.