It may not seem like it, but we are honestly in the midst of a Hip Hop Renaissance, version two point zero. Welcome to another Cypher Sessions entry, where this time we are going to be discussing some music that we feel is really embodying what the next direction that Hip Hop will be going to, or in some ways, returning to. This is not to say that everything is simply a reiteration of music that has come before, but a lot of what is out there builds on Hip Hop’s rich past and decides to give a perspective that is an interpretation unique to the current generation. Things seem to be greatly emphasized, and most of the time it is not actually just in jest; there are a plethora of occurrences in society today that warrant the responses that we are hearing musically, and the following represents that in a very appropriate way.
Run The Jewels is a group that is the epitome of how each and every single listener can get out there and be mindful of the way the world is turning, while still having a good deal of fun and enjoying down time. This is certainly emblematic of today’s millennial generation, in terms of those who work hard and are very passionate about what it is that we are involved in. Utilizing different methods that help to achieve certain goals is also revered, respected, and encouraged. In reference to the song above “Close Your Eyes”, it is a mix of hard hitting sounds with lyrics that reference what is wrong with the state of society as well as the way in which so many people tend to act and how they need to change their mundane behavior. Ever a staple in Hip Hop since its inception, the questioning of authority is encouraged and all but expected by El-P and Killer Mike; this is often times a response to how many individuals are treated by those in positions of authority and power. What is also very important to note is that even if you have never heard a Killer Mike verse or El-P beat or verse before, it is easy to hear how current events play a very important role in their content and intent. There are events that are happening today all over the United States that had not been occurring with such frequency until the past handful of years. This has led to the brash and often comical responses from Mike and El-P (among others), because with how ridiculous certain lines from their songs may sound, sadly they are actually responses to ridiculous events that continue to take place without little to no change for those who endure mistreatment, racial profiling, harassment, and abuse from our justice system and law enforcement officials. Along with these two, several other artists out there discuss conceptual messages that require paying a bit more attention than a majority of messages out there; enter Mr. Fiasco.
The belief that maximalism made its unofficial appearance when Ye & Jay’s “Watch The Throne” was released is a good theory, but the notion that this was its start in Hip Hop is kind of misguided and more so when Hip Hop realized even it had to admit the redundancies were becoming too much. What Lupe Fiasco does is help listeners and aficionados come to terms with that it is still important to call these things out and realize, the belief of “more is more” is dangerous and does not help anyone but those already benefiting from such excess. In the track above called “Mazinger”, there are a number of comparisons, most notably “become a god or a devil”, which is a sample that is repeated several times throughout the track. This is important, because the perception is one extreme or the other is where one must coexist; however, much of the content in each verse is referencing methods in which to simply improve their situation. Lines in each verse are also hinting that one must figure out how to deal with their situations in ways that will help them to navigate out of such issues, including those one interacts and works with. This can be applied to those in the music industry, those involved in your life, and those artists one follows. All of this takes a number of times listening to in order to get a small bit of understanding, Such lines are still very open to interpretation, which is yet more proof of how there are artists that will challenge one to delve into what it is they enjoy, and use a critical lens to do so. In order to keep changing the perception of Hip Hop, this is vital so that the art form and culture will continue to grow and expand.
Other artist have done the same to question a number of topics, including Big KRIT questioning fan’s and music industry’s expectations alike in “Mt. Olympus”, Rapsody announcing how ridiculous it is to not give props to women who are emcees and are as skilled if not more so than some of their male counterparts in her EP “She Got Game”, and several other artists as well, including Talib Kweli, Common, and others. This is something that has arisen due to societal inequities becoming larger and larger in the US, and cause many to be reminded of some Hip Hop from the late 80s and early 90s. Let’s just hope that today’s music can be even more impactful than back then, and is used a tool to improve the state of things in America today.