Can’t hold a torch

Last weekend in the New York Times, Kalefa Sanneh began his review of the Allhiphop Week grand finale concert with this observation:

It’s a new—and rather tiresome—ritual at hip-hop concerts in New York: one rapper after another huffs and puffs about how New York hip-hop isn’t what it used to be. They complain about Southern rappers, backstabbing rivals, fickle record executives and fickler fans.

The whole Hip-Hop Is Dead party line has quickly become one of the biggest clichés in rap. But, like many clichés, it persists because there’s an element of truth to it. By any barometer—be it sales, creativity, music critics, Stan chatter on the Internet, or rapper’s statements in interviews—the art form is in a slump. Just cause one region is thriving does not mean the genre as a whole is. Sorry.

With few exceptions, hip-hop artists and fans alike seem pretty miserable right now. It’s getting tough to deny, even for the most dedicated e-thugs.

Which makes Bomani Jones’ article last weekend in South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel all the more timely. Jones offers a cool-headed, thoughtful analysis of the state of hip-hop. He accepts hip-hop is in decline, but rejects the prevalent argument that the South is responsible. (“If only the griots weren’t remembering things so selectively. We should be mad because, what, Mike Jones didn’t write Bust a Move?”)

Instead, Jones points to Corporate America. The record companies have tapped into America’s fascination with sex and violence and have pushed rap that conforms to that formula—to the tune of billions and to the detriment of the music.

This, too, is cliché. But that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s so easy to get caught up in regional wars (New York vs. The South), generational wars (older heads vs. 80s babies), ideological wars (backpackers vs. so-called gangstas and/or bubblegum artists), and beef wars. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the reasons for hip-hop’s slump are vast and varied: from the labels, to radio, to the media, to the fans themselves, to broader cultural trends that we may not fully comprehend for years to come.

Interestingly, Jones concludes that hip-hop’s demise might have a silver lining. As he puts it: “And if hip-hop is dead, that may not be so bad. Death is the first step toward resurrection.”

And so, I put it to you Loyal Readers: Is hip-hop in the final stages of burn-out? Or is it about to rise from the ashes?

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  • Meka Soul

    nice. co-sign.

  • Sonny Cheeba

    hip hop is just in a dull period..not much different than when puff was dancin around in the late-90′s makin bullshit 80′s remakes..just now record sales is the only measure of success instead of just one of many..hip hop can never be dead its a way of life..we dress hip hop, talk hip hop, live hip hop..the music is just a component whether good or bad..complainin hasn’t accomplished shit yet so if u ain’t got a solution to the problem go get ur cassette player and ur old tribe called quest albums lock urself in a room close ur eyes tap ur heels 3 times and say..”Theres no place like 1993..theres no place like 1993..theres no place like 1993″


    go check my music and my blogs too(shamelss plug) me if u ain’t got me
    D-Nero certified 80′s baby

  • Andrew

    g g g g -unit we run ny, an rap so get used 2 it

  • Belize

    Ms. Henley
    This is the problem, hip-hop is at a crossroads…real hip hop heads (80′s babies and 70′s babies) versus the new blood (90′s babies)
    We know what hip-hop purpose is
    1. Escape goat from life’s problems
    2. Ghetto way of educating us ala a new version of poets to formulate thier speech w/out looking geeky (hence its raw form)

    The problem is that Corporate America saw what it was going to be…(2Pac had minorities looking at the bigger picture), now that he has passed there are few rappers able to capture the youth and the older listeners, hence it split to the way it is now. now corporate America also saw its fault in not cashing in and expoiting it earlier, now that they have it is over-exposed. listeners dont know if its real music, or force-feed music. WITHOUT POSITIVITY IN ANYTHING, CONFUSION ARISES. Hip-hop isnt’ dead but it is goin to go thru change, just as rock n roll did. Listeners just have to hope that artists will have the balls to be like thier past mentors and ray Charles the rap game, ala Fuk you, im gonna do what is needed.

  • Belize

    Another sad note is that rap is now white music, so I say we rape them for polka..imagine 50cent “The Polka Massacre”…lol

  • Rey

    Weird Al does polkas.. I’m sure a Hip-Hop polka is in the works..

    Hip-Hop is in bad shape, tis true, and it’s gonna take solid albums from the big 4 (Nas, Jay-Z, Eminem, & Dr. Dre) to break us out of it. Those four (and maybe a good ol’ Outkast album with dre & boi spittin’) would revive interest in the whole damm thing.

    There’s a lot of awful music going around on all sides, from all coasts, and we can’t blame any one source for it. Artists need to stand up to the T.I.s that want them to pander to the Lowest Common Denominator, and whatever big bosses that still have integrity and love for the game need to hire people that reflect that.

    Okay, that’s about it.


  • SY Young

    There was a typically entertaining set from Juelz Santana, the most popular protégé of the Harlem rapper Cam’ron. And there was a typically unentertaining one from Papoose, the rising Brooklyn rapper who is widely — and bafflingly — considered one of the city’s great hip-hop hopes. (In “Alphabetical Slaughter” he goes through the alphabet, listing all the words he can think of that start with each letter; this may be an effective way to pass the time during a long car trip, but it should never be done in public.) Still, there is no doubt that Papoose had the night’s most impressive guests: Chamillionaire and Busta Rhymes

    did he just ether papoose..

    *waits for long drawn out response from kay slay about how he gets money*

  • DGthegreat

    It’s hard to deny that hip-hop overall is in a decline. But it’s hardly for the reasons people name.

    I would put a LARGE part of the blame on the PRODUCERS. That’s right the producers!

    Remember the era of hip-hop that was mentioned in that article (the late 90s)? You could not name a producer that dominated the sound of hip-hop which allowed for varying sounds and classic albums too numerous to mention.

    Around the turn of the century, formulaic sounds begin to rule the airwaves (Neptunes, Timberland, etc.) Although they created good music, hip-hop was not meant to have one sound dominate. For example, (kill me for using this example later, but it’s true) when Nelly dropped Country Grammar it sold 9 million, not because it was pop music, but because it was fresh and NO one knew who the producers were!

    Nowadays with Pro Tools, producers and the artists are not even in the same room to create magical hip-hop moments. You think Thiller would be the biggest selling album of all time if Michael & Quincy just sent the tracks!

    Look hip-hop WILL survive the drought but only if the artists & execs break NEW producers. To the producers, stop being lazy and create something with the artist please for the love of hip-hop!

  • Belize

    ^Sorry buddy, but you cant really blame the producers, frankly, the only reason that HipHop is still valid, is because of the beats (ask the south) …and no-name producers are now gettin noticed (ask 50)..the only thing i can say about producers is that some of them need to do their job and do beats, nuthing else (JazzyPha, Pharrell), and only some can get away with it (Kanye,Dre)

    Th beats have got better, but the meat of the sandwich is gettin old (lyrics/content)

  • Belize

    By the way 90′s producers did dominate radio and WERNT nonames:

    *Dr. Dre- fuked wit everybody on Death Row
    *Johnny J -fuked with pac
    *Primo -fuked with Nas, Jigga, and evry’body hot in NY
    *Havoc-Mobb deep
    *Pete Rock-Backpackers etc..
    *J-Dilla and JAZZY JEFF(underated by he way)-A Tribe Called QUEST
    *Eric Sermon- EPMD, Keith Murray (who was papoose at the time), Redman
    *Bomb Squad- Ice Cube and Public Enemy



    RICK ROSS……..FLOP…..yes ladies & gentlemen Ross is # 1 on Billboard with a BRICK

    Busta RHYMES….FLOP

    THESE ARE JUST A FEW LOL, leel free to add the ones i forgot LOL

  • Belize

    Ice Cube really didnt flop cuz his album is independent so if he reaches plat or gold, he gets more dough than evrybody on that list…his album is preety str9 by the way…. SMOKE SOME WEEED!!!!

  • john cochran



    Goddamn is Rap dead? I wonder. I mean 2006 has been a very dry year I agree. G-unit seemed to be a new spark a few years ago but it wasnt it was A MONSTER and im not nesecarly blaming this all on them its that everyone copied there style and the BIG 50 went POP. Actually as POP as you could get. WEre looking for a Jay album to save us were looking for a NAs album to save us lets pray to good they get it going. But I think its gonna be alrite Rap will never be gone for good. Maybe one day it will drop on the Record Sales and then it will get everyone on there ass.

  • Danja29

    Hip-hop is far from dead. All these people who the fans claim to be “killing” hip-hop will end up bein’ memories like everybody else. Hip-hop itself will outlast all of the artists within it- just think about all the artists who came before this generation who have almost ALL been gradually phased out. No matter how good/wack they were, none of them lasted as long as hip-hop has, and it still moved on. The same will happen with this generation and so on.

  • Average Black Joe

    I think its just a good ol’ fashioned, simple answer to this. People burn CD’s. Nobody buys CD’s hardly anymore.

  • allnice

    Great post. Hip Hop is definitely dead. A few mcs are still making some decent music (MF Doom, Nas, Raekwon and some of the Wu, Papoose, what happened to J-Live….), but most of the crap that has been coming out for the past several years is pure garbage.

    Corporate “tall Israelis” are definitely responsible for the proliferation of southern rap. Trap/Snap whateva music has prolly been around for a while now, but everyone wants to act like it’s brand new. Since we live in a consumerist society, anything nicely packaged and considered “new” is going to sell with the right marketing behind it. All of sudden, buying a southern rap album becomes a means to express yourself (ie., yeah I’m cool because I know whats popping with southern rap…..)
    And the cycle continues.

    Not only is Hip Hop dead, but America has officially turned into the Land of the Dick Riders no homo. I think that is the main reason why hip hop is done because niggaz just sweat anything that is new like Rick Ross. Instead listening to the shit they really wanna hear, they go with what is popular. Same thing with the War on Terrorism, the Israeli-Lebonon War, etc. Cats just don’t know what the fuck is going on, but they for whateva they see on the biased news.

    Matta a fact, maybe hip hop was born dead, born to die. The makers of hip hop were doomed to never have control over the music in the first place. The fans barely started listening to some good classics until they got bombarded with bullshit. Then hip hop turned into a pyramid marketing hustle. I just wish this shit would hurry up and die……

  • LOS

    Damn. Let yall tell it
    hip Hop dies every few years since we keep on hearing this shit. Couple of hot albums and this conversation will be postponed for another time. Worst part of it is the rappers who love to scream that shit, but at the same time them niggas the reason rap is where its at

  • Danja29

    co-sign Los… hasn’t hip-hop been “close to dying” for at LEAST 13 years (according to critics)? I used to read “that other magazine” (hahahahaha) back in ’93-’94, and some of y’all would be surprised at some of the shit they said about hip-hop back then. Alot of it was not much different from what we see people sayin’ today.

  • DJ Main Event

    i hope it goes into phoenix mode or else theres going to be a LOT of jobless folks.

  • http://xxl 2liveanddieinGA

    all nice has sex with his mother(haha) the only reason people know ny rap because it was forced on us, after nwa dropped straight outta compton it was a wrap for ny now yall “educated” bitches wanna hate on the south do yall ever wonder why southern beats are so tight,the women so thick,the food so good,the vocals so twangy,because we are the closest decendants of slaves,our forefathers and if you are too ignorant to understand k.y.s. the south will neva be defeated see the cycle in rap is about to go back to lyricism and yall bitches aint really seen our best(haha fuck boi haters)call the coroner i’m killin these bitches

  • http://xxl 2liveanddieinGA

    i jus thought about “what the in the hell would a bitch from canada know about the south,tara???”



  • che

    bringing new york back isn’t about the music. it’s about marketing.

    I therefore conclude that the only 2 individuals (whether you like them or not) that can bring new york back are diddy and jay.

    and you wanna know what makes me reach this conclusion? one sentence.

    ‘it’s not just a brand, it’s a lifestyle.’

    this same fuckin sentence has been used by rocawear, sean john and next selection. why? because marketing the lifestyle is more important than the music that the brand stems from.

  • tHe tRaNsIeNt

    lol @ all dese yes men faggits

    i think tara should start hittin up bol comment section

  • che
  • bottomlesspete

    It all depends on your perspective. D4L, Rick Ross, etc. are not saying anything new or anything at all. Jay-Z, Eminem, etc. are not saying anything. The only way this will change is if someone like Jay-Z, who has plenty of money already and a large fanbase, takes a chance and says something of substance on a single for a change. I think this would challenge all other emcees to step up their lyrics. I applaud Jay-Z for trying to do something about the water supply in Africa but why not have your next single on your next album be about the same topic or at least about something besides how much material items you have? Just be sure to put it to a danceable beat so everyone can still shake their asses or snap to it. Mos Def did “New World Water” 5-6 years ago so what’s the so called “greatest rapper” gonna do next on the mic? He’ll probably just come with “Money, Cash, Hoes Pt. 2″ or “Bigger Pimpin” because he’s too scared to take a chance.

    Hip hop/rap is not dead as long as there are emcees like Saul Williams, Self Jupiter, and Jihad the Roughneck spittin the following regarding the current status quo of emcees:

    “niggas used to buy their families out of slavery
    now we buy chains and links, smokes and drinks
    they’re paying me to record this, even more if you hear it
    somebody tell me what you think I should do with the money
    yes, friend tell me what you think I should do with the money
    exactly how much is it gonna cost to free Mumia?
    what’s he gonna do with his freedom? talk on the radio?
    radio programming is just that – a brainwashin’ gleamed of purpose
    to be honest, some freedom of speech makes me nervous”

    “Niggas be thinking they’re non existent resistant
    but in an instant I quickly and completely remove all doubt,
    I’ll punch holes in the very fabric of their theory,
    in a publicity campaign
    expose your end game,
    I’ll have your soul give a release party from your body…”

    “a businessman is an artist
    like once before when he was an amateur going from mature to immature
    to rap infancy almost instantly
    but he makes good money as a whore
    It’s the oldest profession
    but what is your profession with no standard or progression?”

  • C. Rob

    “So many doubt, cause i come from the south.But when i open up my mouth all bullets come out, BANG!”

    Lil Wayne

  • Lindemann

    Nobody actually wants to hear meaningful lyrics all the time, and more people want to hear nonmeaningful lyrics than want to hear anything else. Corporate America likes sex and violence because Americans like sex and violence, and corporate America likes money.

    If America’s tastes change, so will hip-hop. Just keep waiting.

  • New York Nigga

    2PAC iz comin bac in sep 7 when he died when pac comes bac its ova

    ” If He died and came back would he try to save rap…”
    The Outlawz

  • King Of NY

    rap iz dead when u have a song called Chicken Noodle Soup goin plat

  • Uncle Murda

    Artists need to stand up to the T.I.s that want them to pander to the Lowest Common Denominator,

    and i totally agree with you we need new atrist that challege these arits somebody needs to stand up and say that snap muzik iz wack or this iz gay because if nobdy say anyting nuthin will change

  • Danja29

    uhhhh BottomlessPete- come on with the tree-huggin’ shit man… I sure as hell don’t wanna hear Jay-Z drop some single about restoring water supply in Africa. Fukkattahere.

    The thing is that as much as some people try to hold on to the idea of education and social responsibility EVER being the dominating force in hip-hop… shit ain’t gonna happen. The closest it ever got to that was like 16-17 years ago, for about 9-10 months. I don’t know when it became hip-hop’s responsibility to provide life guidance for its listeners, but IMO artists have no other obligation but to provide quality music (no matter what the subject matter is).

  • icon


  • thoreauly77

    i think most people here forgot your question. the answer is, for one million dollars, “rise from the ashes”. i have spoken.

  • e

    The rap legends didn’t leave the proper replacements to take over the game when they stepped down. Jay left us Memphis Bleek and Nas left us the Bravehearts. If the rappers would have developed and molded talented successors, they could hace stepped down and the game would still be fine. Every rapper wants their weedcarrier to have a deal rather than actual talent.

  • e

    Another thing that has stunted raps development is early deaths imagine if B.i.g, Pac, Pun, and Big L each would have came out with just 3 or 4 more albums. That would have been 12 to 16 possible classic albums hip hop lost.

  • Big Jake

    southern music>hyphy

    so why dont yall hate on them

  • YES



  • P-Matik

    Maybe hiphop finally is burning out. I don’t think the other elements besides rapping could come back to high levels but they will always be around. Even deejaying is getting murked out. Maybe some new “elements” will show up, but I’d hope they would still have competitive spirit.

    The TI’s finally got their paws around it and mauled the life out of hiphop. Hiphop was born from the saturation of disco, so what will be born from hiphop??

  • Prince of the South

    No I agree with this but I don’t. It isn’t so much the people behind the desk it’s the rappers too. Only a handful of the rappers under thirty have that thing that makes them superstars. When you look at all the multiplatinum sellers 90% of them are over 30. The younger rappers are cool, but they aren’t superstars and that’s what Hip Hop is missing. It’s like if you take the Kobe’s and Lebron’s out of the NBA it’s not exciting to watch like today’s rap is hard to listen to.

  • KR

    Your blogs have been getting progressively worse…



  • gioforeal

    I think the biggest mistake we make is looking to the industry to validate our culture.Hip hop isn’t dead.Matter fact,as far as I know,the turntablism scene is fucking huge,B-boying is a worldwide phenomenon(just check youtube or google it)Graf writers are doing even more ill shit,and every week I hear an underground banger that makes ME wanna rap again.So when I don’t see any evidence of that on BET or what have you,I could care less.I’m getting my fix somehow.The real reason NY rap or whatever you wanna classify it as ain’t gettin no play is beacause the industry ain’t pushin it.And why should it ,when the sound of the moment is Southern rap?Gotta go where the money is right?Don’t think for a minute that Southern rap is doin it off it’s own merit cause it’s not.If it got NO radioplay and rappers were sellin hand to hand or what have you,my hats off to them.Rap will NEVER die,but the music industry will.If all rappers wised up and realized we don’t need SONY,BMG and what have you,they’d be finished(in the music biz at least).Mark my words,the industry thrives on shifts in musical tastes and makes adjustments accordingly.What,you thought G-funk was gonna last?It would’ve-if the industry didn’t catch wind of it!What became of the bling era?All these genres and categories are designed to fade out,like planned obsolesence(Ipods,ALL cellphones).The music industry just wants your money,fuck your culture.This same instry has made and broken hundreds of artists-why do you think rappers are special?I give the current trend in music a year TOPS.Then it will be a distant memory-on BET.From what I understand all that hyphy stuff been poppin in the Yay area for a minute.Maybe it should stay in the Yay is all I’m sayin.If I develop a hip hop subculture,I’m a keep that shit secret like Fight Club.Oops…

  • Toine

    Y do people criticize T.I. and Jeezy when Jay-Z , Biggie and other east coast rappers came out talkin about the same thing. Niggas just be hatin because they from the south and not the east coast

  • datdude from damitten

    Awwww shucks. Here we go with the blame game again. Personally, there is something bigger at work here. Being alive since hip hop’s conception I have witnessed alot of early wack hip-hop. Sometimes it was the production that was wack, sometimes the lyrics were booty. I guess my point is that all things go in a circle. 360 degrees, Tara. Remember, during the early days when the east and west were getting crazy love. The south waited patiently until their time. I am glad they are getting love finally, but just like everybody else that had time to shine, the south’s time is limited.

  • Combat Jack
  • Sir Jantz

    Hip-Hop (His Isreali People, His Oppressed People) is dead because Rap RAP has takne over. Hip-Hop is a way of life. It’s a culture. Rap has exposed this culture. It’s messed up but its the truth. I’ve been rhyming since I was 6 (for real). Back then I was into Outkast, Snoop, Dr. Dre, BUckshot. When I got older I started venturing into Rakim, Nas, Jay-Z, PAC, Biggie, Lil Kim (and the list goes on). The Hip-Hop world is missing music that is uplifting to its people. I’m TIRED of hearing dope boy magic. I’m not saying I don’t like “THE TRAP”. All I’m sayin is that some artists put to much information out there for the critics (the ass wholes in the media) to soak up. Everybody selling dope now!! It’s fucked up!! You got kids talking bout “put me on” and shit like that. It’s not cool. If most of these cats were really GANGSTERS you wouldn’t hear songs about them shooting up awhole family because real recognise real. I do truly believe Hip-Hop is dead by slowly its coming back like Tupac’s Ressurection. To make a long story short, like Dead Prez and THe Outlaws say,

  • >>>>>>>ROC

    ayo Toine…..the legends may have had siilar content in their lyrics but the delivery was completely different….it was 100X more clever in the wordplay and the metaphors and it wasnt just straight forward dumb ignorant talk..cuase its not rap….its just talk…..fukin dumb ass trap niggaz

  • bigg swingin’ ballz

    the transient’s first mp3 release will breathe new life into the hh culture methinks.

  • Donny Goines

    Its going to rise and burn brither than it ever has. Whenever things like this happen, someone or something emerges to change the current state. Its to inbalanced. It need equalibrum.

  • NickeNitro

    Since late seventies/early eighties, music in general has been in decline. That’s about the time the corporate industry asserted control and started determining what we listen to. The industry began to implement its plan demographisize everything to make their products (that is, tapes and CDs) easier to sell to target audiences.

    Hip-hop, however, initially managed to dodge the industry’s control mechanisms because it was so new and unfamilar, and the industry saw it as a black urban counter-culture that would die off soon.

    But instead, hip-hop turned out to be more appealing than the big-wigs anticipated (partially because everything else coming out sucked), and just hung-around and hung-around until hitting a creative peak in the mid-nineties and exploding into the mainstream’s collective conscious.

    At this point, The Machine was set in motion. It had too, because tons of white people were now vibin to rap music, blurring the distinctions between the marketing classes the corporate media lays out as societal norms. White people, of course, are supposed to like the same old rock music they’ve been trained to like since the industry killed the Age of Aquarius.

    So The Machine set its plan into motion, which, among other things, involved:
    1) Throwing tons of $$ at mediocre uber-ignorant acts and flooding the airwaves with this garbage
    2) Making hip-hop the fashion of the moment so that once the moment passed, it would seem passe to the trendy types
    3) Creating the “hollywood wigger” character, the absurd white or asian guy who wants to “be down”, use slang, join street-gangs, carry guns, etc., so that non-black persons who like hip-hop are forced to reconcile themselves with this image. If someone wasn’t born in the hood or felt some sort of oppression, they weren’t “qualified” to listen, even if they liked the rhythms, sounds, and messages.
    4) Like most primarily black art forms, create a sentiment that it’s generally dumber than white art forms.

    So, around the turn of the century, hip-hop lost its unity and the detrimental division into factions (club, underground, hood, etc.) began. And with everyone isolated and trying to make their group’s “sound,” creativity was stifled, much to the chagrin of the industry. MTV, for instance, has been reinforcing these notions by presenting separate VMAs for “hip-hop” (that is, rap music that is acceptable for white people to listen to because it’s black people “behaving”) and “rap” (black people being disobedient to society). KRS-One’s preachy-ass is an idiot for ever promoting this division, essentially doing the work for The Machine.

    But thankfully, this is far from the end of the story. The “rise from the ashes” you predict is already underway. There’s a lot of pride in this hip-hop thing. The fans and the artists, on all sides of the divide, know it’s the still the best music form being offered. It’s the only one that easily and openly incorporates elements from all forms of music (classical to R&B to electronic), and the only one that can capture the whole range of moods and feelings of life.

    Personally, I love the fact that NY rappers are pissed. Maybe some of their venom is misplaced, but the venom can only be a good thing in terms of creativity. It’s making them all hungry to prove themselves again, as musicians. Like you said, and the Roots are saying with “Don’t Feel Right”, even though it’s tough to pinpoint, something hasn’t been right. Acknowledging the problem and looking to address it can only be a good thing.

  • Rell

    The state of hip hop has been dead for quite awhile.I mean New York has been the icon spot for hip hop since the beginning,but who dowe have left to represent it.Besides 50 theres no one who’s out from the state that is recognized as a good artist.Dont get me wrong there are plenty of good artist i.e. Jadakiss, Styles P. and such on but no one outside of New York really listens to them.Its very sad but Hova predicted this was gonna happen,listen to “What More Can I Say” last verse he says”Im suppose to be number 1 on everybodies list,we’ll see what happens when I no longer exist”.

  • Darkphilosophy

    Hip Hop is not dead. HIP HOP is a life mode, a culture with four artform in it. The most visible one, rap, is diying but might recover.(I Hope so)

    sorry for my englis i’m a black man from France