This year, 2008, is the 20th anniversary of 1988 – a year that widely considered one of the best years evar in hip-hop, right up there with 1994. I figure this is as good a time as any to bitch and moan about the current state of hip-hop.
It first occurred to me that I might do a story about 1988, the year in hip-hop, a few weeks ago, when I saw a bunch of other sites were taking a looking back at classic songs and albums from that year and what have you. But the truth of the matter is that I’m a bit too young to sit here and front like 1988 was really my year, on a personal.
That being said, I still thought it was rather silly, the other day, when Jackpot did that story on which was the better year for rap albums, 1988 or 1998. When I saw the headline, all I could think was, “Seriously? Does anyone actually even think 1998 was a good year for rap albums?”
1998 was actually the year I stopped buying rap albums at nearly the same rate as I had been up until that point. Part of the problem was that the overall scope of my interest in music was starting to expand, and I was just beginning to have the means to really indulge myself. (Imagine if the Internets, as they exist today, had been around back then.) You can see the result of that in some of the writing I do for my own site.
But part of the problem is that hip-hop, at least as far as I’m concerned, definitely took a turn for the worse in ’97-’98. All of that Master P shit, which was fucking ubiquitous back in those days, was just awful. It actually gave me a newfound respect for 2Pac, who was clearly the progenitor of that sort of thing. Then on the East Coast, there was that Swizz Beatz sound, which I wasn’t a very big fan of, either. So obviously it was difficult for me to appreciate when a lot of dudes started doing those kinds of records.
Still, looking over the list of albums from 1998 Jackpot put together to pad out his post (which actually ended up serving as a valuable resource to me anyway – bonus!), I couldn’t help but think: this is actually a pretty solid list of albums, if not relative to some of the other years in the 1990s, at least compared to some of the shit we’ve been subjected to recently.
Which brings me to my point. Has anyone actually stopped to consider how much worse hip-hop is today compared to even 1998 – a year when I think a lot of us, at the time, already felt hip-hop had kinda fallen off? Holy crap! It makes me wonder, if I was a little kid today, would I even get really into hip-hop in the first place, or would I just be into the kind of shit I mostly listen to today? I know a lot of the younger hip-hop heads I talk to still crank a lot of the older shit, but that’s never really been my m.o. It probably does take being white to spend a significant amount of time listening to older music.
Speaking of which, I wonder if there’s anyone who would actually beg to differ. I would put this to my former go-to guy for these matters, the late, great Noz, but he’s no longer with us. (I wonder what he’s planning to do now.) But I wonder if he’d actually try to put together a list of obscure-for-a-reason regional rap that might compare favorably to the 1998 list, or if he’d just concede that rap is not what it once was. We’re not just getting old. (Though we are.) This shit is going downhill.
What do you old fucks think? If you were all kids today, would current hip-hop hold any kind of fascination for you at all, other than for schadenfreude purposes? Also, projecting things out another 10 years, do you think people will actually look back wistfully on 2008 as being not nearly as bad as it seemed at the time? This shit can’t actually get any worse, can it? Speak on it.