Like my homies on staff at XXL, I too wish for change in 2009. Alas, a change is not going to come. Or well, at least not the one diehard hip-hop fans want.
Maybe, just maybe, one of those Freshman 10 is going to blow up, or at the very least become very popular very soon. And I mean popular in the modern sense of the word, as in having mad myspace friends, millions of youtube parody videos, and about 6 months of relevance, tops (ask Soulja Boy how that feels, his career is officially dead and he will be a Vanilla Ice-like punchline in rap shortly, if rappers ever get back to using punchlines, that is). That artist is going to be Kid Cudi.
Now I’m not saying Asher Roth isn’t talented, that Mickey Factz isn’t going to wind up on your television set shortly (mums the word), that B.O.B. isn’t the 2nd coming of Andre 3K, that Wale won’t put DC on the map…. no no no. Everyone on that cover deserved to be there, and I think they will all have careers.
The difference between Cudi and these other guys, at least for the time being, is one thing. He, unlike his compadres, has a bona fide hit record. Bona fide in the sense that a) the song is popular b) it will be on every radio station, literally, day n nite, shortly.
I point this song out for one specific reason- it’s not even a rap song. Sure it’s got a few words that rhyme, but that’s just the poetic nature of music for ya. Ok, the rap version has kind of a hip-hop drum beat to it, but what modern form of pop music other than straight up rock doesn’t?
XXL’s Editor in Chief, Datwon Thomas, and I, were exchanging texts some time last week (I want to say, New Year’s Eve?). We were talking about Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind LP, and how it was one of the best albums of 2008, but that nobody really fucked with it. My assessment was that Luda, unlike his contemporaries (TI and…. TI?) opted to re-enter the rap game straight spitting, while TI, for example, came out harmonizing like he was Teddy Pendergrass on “Whatever U Like.” Sure, TI still raps. But the song that put him over the top for his Paper Trail LP was a song he practically “sang.”
Then the strangest thing happened.
I got an email to my blackberry from god knows who, talking about how Lupe Fiasco had formed a new band called Japanese Cartoon, and was singing with a British accent while calling himself Percival Fats.
I listened to the Japanese Cartoon songs and scratched my head, thinking about where rap is going in 2009.
And it’s clearly moving even further away from traditional rap. Artists are jumping ship from the hip-hop genre left and right, heading towards doing other forms of music, and embracing their creative selves.
I interviewed 50 Cent a few months before G-Unit’s T.O.S. dropped, and asked Curtis if he felt like he and his compatriots felt creatively stuck in a box. He replied:
Yayo gotta do some gangsta shit, Banks gotta be lyrical, and I gotta do something that works in the club. That is probably one of the bigger and broadest descriptions of this actual group. We’ve been typecast in that way.
It was an interesting response from Fif, because he was kind of acknowledging that a lot of what G-Unit does creatively comes from what people expect of them. And I sensed a bit of frustration about that fact when i asked the question.
But at the time, Lil Wayne was tearing up the charts with “Lollilop,” on a song where he too, practically sings the whole track. T-Pain and Akon have made their careers harmonizing songs into sort of an R&B/rap hybrid form of music.
And Kanye closed out the year with 808s and Heartbreak, which rap fans hated, but regular music fans loved. Correlation? Perhaps.
Maybe it’s that fans and critics of rap resist change. I really cannot, for the life of me, find a genre of music and an industry other than rap- most glaringly at the mainstream level- that is so behind the times. Talk about stuck in the mud.
And that’s why in 2009, you’ll see the Kanye effect ripple through the urban side of the music business, with more artists going the Lupe route, espousing rap for singing in foreign accents and just doing whatever the fuck they want.
Because see, right now, opinion leaders and gatekeepers within the music business don’t have nearly don’t have nearly as much value as they once did. This is the Pro Tools era, and the social networking era. Where the technology allows you to make any kind of music you want, day n nite…. and when you’re looking for someone to play a little guitar riff on your track, you simply send out a Myspace bulletin or a Twitter.
The true creative people in hip-hop, they just want to do whatever the fuck they want. And that’s the bottom line. The people who are trying to fit them into some neat little box, prepare to be seriously disappointed. You’re just seeing the start of this shift. The exodus from rap has officially begun.