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Interview With Lyor Cohen

There was an interview with Lyor Cohen in Sunday’s New York Post. An excerpt:

Q: Hip-hop experienced a tough year. Sales in the genre were down 30 percent industry-wide. What’s wrong?

A: Hip-hop has lost that generational thing. This used to be my generation’s little secret. Now you’ve got fathers getting jiggy with it. Who wants that? My son does not think it is sexy when he’s looking for his Jay-Z album and he finds it in my CD player. Where it goes, who knows? When something goes from nothing to the most popular you usually know where it goes from there.

I think it’s a telling sign that the CEO of a major music company like Warner Music Group, particularly one who made his bones with hip-hop music, is subversively spelling doom and gloom for the genre. I also think he’s off base a bit.

Sure, a guy like Jay-Z, no matter how great his music may still be (that’s debatable), has assimilated himself into the mainstream. And the mainstream is corny, no doubt about it. Any time shit gets too popular it becomes a wrap. So rap music is in its hair band phase. But there’s also a lot of great hip-hop out there, forward thinking type of stuff, that is not necessarily some straight down the middle cookie cutter rap made for a ringtone (not saying it wouldn’t sound good as a ringtone, just saying it’s not created specifically for the purpose of being sold as one). New York, for example, which people say is completely dead from a hip-hop standpoint, has a lot of good acts, good producers, and good songwriters who are just floating way below the radar. I mean, there’s a scene of some sort. It’s just that it’s in transition and moving away from the sounds that we’ve been hearing for the past five years or so. You might not even call it hip-hop, but it is hip-hop-influenced, and that’s to be expected. Hip-hop itself was influenced by soul, funk, jazz, disco… etc. That’s what culture is about, progression.

The suits are always the last to know. Look at how long it took them to get in bed with hip-hop in the first place. Something like 15 years. So expect them to keep sleeping for some time.

Or hire someone who knows. Just saying.

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