Millennials not to blame for fall of hip-hop
Cory Alexander Haywood ow staff writer | 3/1/2018, midnight
Let’s dial back the criticism of today’s “millennial” rappers. They shouldn’t be saddled with the burden of returning hip-hop to its “glory days” – that shipped sailed 25 years ago when Public Enemy and Rakim were supplanted by the Digital Underground, 2 Live Crew and every rapper during the 1990’s who prioritized flash and p*ssy over substance.
Rap is certainly veering in a perplexing direction, but the fabric of this artform began unraveling several years ago.
For instance, despite the criticisms often thrown at “Migos,” Desiinger, and Young Thug, “mumble-rapping” was pioneered by the 1990’s supergroup Bone Thugs and Harmony. And while there appears to be a blossoming drug epidemic permeating the hip-hop landscape, the seeds of this problem may have been planted when “The Luniz” unleashed their 90’s classic “I Got 5 On It”. Cypress Hill deserves honorable mention.
As older generations continue to lament the demise of rap, they should be reminded that materialism and drug abuse have been synonymous with hip-hop since the 1990’s (and part of the 1980’s). Rhyme-sayers from these eras indulged their vices regularly and penned lyrics about the aftereffects.
A song that comes to mind, “Bling Bling,” was released in 1999 by the New Orleans rap group “Hot Boyz.” It served as the launching pad for a scrawny teenager currently known to the music world as “Lil Wayne”. If it’s been too long since you’ve heard the song (or if you’re under the age of 23), allow me to refresh your memory with a few lyrics from Bryan “Birdman” Williams, the founder of Cash Money Records:
“Hit the club, light tha bitch up
The Cash Money motto we got to drank ‘til we throw up
Nigga point the hoe out, guaranteed I can f*ck
Wootay, I’m tattooed and barred up
Medallion iced up, Rolex bezelled up and my pinky ring is platinum plus
Earrings be trillion cut and my grill be slugged up”
These verses are hardly complex or lyrical. Nevertheless, “Bling Bling” ruled the airwaves, even though it lacked the skillful wordplay and conscious undertones that fans of rap were accustomed to hearing throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
A year earlier (1998), songwriter Jermaine Dupri and rapper Jay Z connected on “Money Aint a Thang,” which also topped the hip hop charts. In this song, the duo dedicates every verse to opulence, boasting about their respective financial portfolios and the many things they can buy. Jay Z’s first few lyrics are as follows:
“I flex the Rol’, sign a check for yo’ hoe
Jigga’s style is love, X and O
Save all your accolades, just the dough
My game is wide, all lames aside
Tryin to stay alive, hundred thou’ for the bracelet
Foolish, ain’t I? The chain’ll strain ya eye
Twin platinum gun son, aim for the sky”
In the music video for “Money Aint a Thang”, they each cruise the highways in expensive cars while flashing their jewelry and multi-millions dollar property.
Iconic rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac were also part of the “Bling Bling” culture, taking every opportunity to flash their abundant wealth and Rockstar lifestyles. In his 1994 classic, “Big Poppa,” the New York rapper says: