2009 Will Be The Year More Rappers Walk Away From Rap

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.

  • Phil

    They can all leave. Conye, Lupe, all of ‘em. Bye. Don’t call. We’ve got plenty of new, creative, and dedicated HIP-HOP LYRICISTS who were never stuck in any damn box. Jay Elect. Jean. Blu. Asher. Mr. Hamilton.

    So, to hell with this pointlessly depressing blog. Try being positive for chrissakes.

    • $ykotic

      But ask yourself what platform do these new guys have to be successful?

      Homes is being positive. What we want and what we have are two different things.

      • Phil

        If this dude was really being positive, then he would have a balanced piece at least acknowledging the artists that still cherish lyricism and creativity through Hip-Hop lyricism, NOT wanna-be alt-rock bullshit with a pre-paid marketing plan.

        We HAVE dope new Hip-Hop artists, so I’ve already got what I WANTED. Please.

  • http://www.myspace.com/crockerishiphop Crocker

    There is nothing wrong with creativity. But theres’s no gamble doing something that has been proving to move units already. (I.E. Auto-Tune) But F the mainstream. No interest in a certified gaggle of swagger-jackers and dick-riders. Sides Jay and Nas, fuck em. Loving the aforementioned kids on the come up tho. Cept that John Mayer baby doing his best Marshall Mathers impression.

  • AVENGER XL

    I wouldn’t say this is an exodus from rap or hiphop it is Hip-hop being the camillion like collage art it is in music. Hiphop is probably one of the greatest modern african american points of expression that has been marginalized and villafied by art snobs,social critics and racist pundants alike. Hip-hop isn’t represented only in the boom-bap and punchline crazy 90′s era or the sample heavy stylized 89 golden age. Those are the areas most so-called hip-hop heads get stuck in like sherm heads, oh yeah and don’t forget the whole street movement/so-called gangsta rap thing. But hip-hop is a way of life in which the artist who is often young urban mails draw in various forms of media from throughout society and changes it/remixes it into something that speaks to his audience /generation or himself. This can be reflected in 4 media points through dance,creative expression called graffetti,use of our founded instrument the turn table or vocals be they sung, spoken, rhymed, sound effects etc… Hip-hop is the one genre that stays new because it is ever changing. Some cat’s wanted to freeze it in their favorite periods but that isn’t healthy for the culture or the genre. Corporate america exploited it like they do everything created by blacks because we don’t control the means of distribution you would think one of these so called moguls would create a great distribution network by now but nope not one (Jay,Jermaine,Diddy where you at). So a lot of the bad press and god awful watered down hip-pop comes from the fast food micro-wave rap that came from the raping of our culture for money(I see you harris publishing). But artists being bored and moving on is all a part of the hip-hop lexicon. There will always be lyrical cats who do nothing but spit that raw but everything must evolve or die and black music both hip-hop and soul are going through the changes as expected given the generational shifts and ample technology. I am excited about the changes because I hear a lot of great music that you guys don’t cover and the cats aren’t singing and I hear great singers marrying soul with technology as well. The creative spirit of hip-hop will carry on but folks have got to let it change and once agin support the artists they love, so they can continue to work rather than worry about dooms day scenarios and who is killing rap.

    Remember: rap is rhytmn and poetry, cuss create sound effects.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com Gooch

    I was being positive

  • geico lizard

    def jam dropped ludacris on the same day as kanye because they thought it would be a 50 cent vs kanye sales bump they had last year on 9/11 but it didnt work out that way. luda would have moved more units if he had dropped on another day because people were curious about kanyes all t pain tribute album.

  • P-Matik

    I feel you, Gooch. Personally, I would consider myself diehard and adhere to the old school rules of hiphop (no mixing rap and r&b, etc). Given that, I actually liked 808 & Heartbreaks. I liked it because Kanye was actually trying to be creative. I like Lupe too because the dude can actually RHYME.

    Cats like Lil Wayne and G-Unit, I don’t care for because they spend all of their time making music just to please the masses and make money. There’s nothing wrong with doing that sometime but it results in a garbage product when it’s obvious.

    I’m not a Mickey Factz fan either but at least he took a different lane to make music which I respect. Rappers can do what they want as long as they still make quality hiphop at the end. I’m not mad at away games.

  • AVENGER XL

    As far as the Luda album is concerned there are two things that stopped it from being considered one of the biggest hits this year.

    1. Def Jam couldn’t promote crack to Tryone Biggims.
    2. Luda albums no matter how good they are always lack something that ties them in enough to push them from solid or good into the classic level. He has the lyrics a charismatic voice and can afford hot producers. But I bleieve it is the commerical box that luda is in and the fact all of his albums sound like great mixtapes because he doesn’t have similar producers on any given track so the frequencies and feel of the album shifts to much. The shifts are good to keep from making a boring album (I see you little brother). But I feel luda shit comes accross as a hot thrown together compilation rather than a album with consistancy throughout. Not to mention Luda is a funny dude lyrically and you know the hip-hop snobs never give the good funny punchline guys their day.

  • Omar

    Indifference, the only niggas who still rap anyways are Jay-Z, Nas and a bunch of wack niggas!

  • $ykotic

    The rap game has WAAAAAAAYYYY too many cats in it. Diluted, over-saturated. Everyone cannot rap. Classic case of too many chiefs and no indians.

    Ditto with mixtapes.

    Radio stations pay the same crap everyday. THEY DON’T BREAK REGIONAL ARTISTS ANYMORE. The TV part of rap is done. Where are you gonna get your video/cd played? 106? Hot97? Hah!

    The ‘net plays a good part in this. The million hits on worldstarhiphop only helps worldstar. The e-blasts are annoying on myspace. Downloading is like habit now. Thisis50.com gets traffic and THEY can’t even get good cd sales. With long money invested.

    The rap game is international, you can’t just make corner music anymore. Shorty from Auckland, New Zealand can’t relate to your ‘caine stories but like that 16 you dropped with that broad singing(hell even you “sangin”).

    Know your lane! (e.g. I saw V.I.C. on Rap City in the booth totally jacking Wayne’s style and him saying he’s the future. That’s when I said the rap game is through. Shorty just got his feet wet and think he can swim. With a REGIONAL song at that).

    And the new music has totally alienated the kids who have become adults. I have been saying this for a minute. This generation has a listener range of 13-45. So that rap is just for the kids is ridiculous. OLDER HEADS STILL LISTEN TO RAP!

    New cats: Get your own style. Yung Jeezy is already here. We don’t need anymore “yungs” or “jeezys”. Before 2000 biting was considered to be disrespectful.

    • that guy

      co-sign 1000%

  • Pierzy

    Great post…it’s been moving that way for a little while now. Look at what Pharrell/N.E.R.D. does. Hip-hop beats and feel with singing…and no, that’s not R & B.

    • Phil

      Yeah, and NERD has been flopping for 4 years. Their first album was their best.

  • louie mo

    yeah i bet you wish one of the them niggaz hit it big so ya’ll don’t look like assholes…..
    but never fear that them niggaz blu and wale got the skills for that and b.o.b and curren$y get props but that were it stop ……… i really think that people want to be on that ” i’m on some different shit” so that is why they are willing to say 808 is the shit…. because ” it sounds diferent”……. just cause it’s different does mean that shit is the joint…….. mean come on man ,,,,,,,, this nigga kanye basically disses hiphop with certain comments (ex: i don’t listen to hiphop at my apt cause it too nice, or some shit)….. and he basically said this is not a hiphop album but ya’ll muthafuckas still want to classified this as a hiphop album…. IT’S A FUCKIN R&B ALBUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! get over it ……. and the shit is trash….. now i am not knockin people that like that shit but from now on refer to that album for what it is an r&b album….. i’m goin to keep real with you……… i like hip-hop artists to spit them lyric and my r&b artists to sing……

  • Skruwz

    It’s sad to say and admit but rap is dieying, if you look around you people are changing. Whos walking around with their pants saggin’ anymore? It’s just getting old, im a hip-hop fan but i think we all need a change, so lets give this new genre or whatever you want to call it a chance to see where it goes. im not saying ill stop listeng to rap but i need to hear something new, some feel good music.

    As for gansgta rap, thats shit is really dead. you must admit everything sounds the same. same subject over and over again. Who cares how many mathafuckas you shot, who cares many times you got shot. Times are changing and im not staying behind, so i guess i will go buy the Kanye album now, lol.

  • FlapJack

    Nice drop Gooch!

    Those lupe songs were boyond wierd. Felt like standard brit-rock, but boring. I hope it’s just a project he can have a little fun with untill his next album.

    Cudi got next indeed. Dude is real and honest.

    I don’t think lyricism plays any part in record sales anymore, and that’s what the old heads are pissed about.

    Artists sell records and become stars, not rappers.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    Wow, what a post. Sad to say, but I think your right and it’s something I’ve noticed too. People don’t like rap, they don’t respect it, and they really don’t care. Probably because there are so few people who do it well, and yet so many who try. I hope all those people do become singers or rockers or whatever, that way actual rappers will have room to do what they do best.

    This is just, all so sad.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    Oh yeah, co sign on Cudi. Defy my fave in the bunch.

  • http://xxlmag.com Billy X. Sunday

    I too think KC is gonna have a career in Hip-Hop as we ll as Blu, Wale and Asher Roth(not because he’s white but his marketing machine is that savvy).

    How can act like harmonizing isn’t Hip-Hop. Too many cats talk like when there isn’t a vocalist inflecting or posturing as if he were rapping then the music isn’t Hip-Hop.

    Nahh man, it’s all very much Hip-Hop and we will see Hip-Hop become fractured and dissipate from within. Because people within the genre/culture/movement/whatever demanded that Dre and Primo make every beat and Jay-Z and NaS make every rhyme.

    This is how Jazz was eventually killed. The old guard refused to accept Herbie Hancock. They refused to accept change. I don’t know what the new movement will be called but all you people talking like old heads will be left by the side of the road.

    • Phil

      No one is asking or expecting Hip-Hop to be the same every year, but what kind of progress totally ignores its foundation? I’m hardly asking for any revivals, I really want new blood as bad as anyone, but that Kanye bullshit isn’t getting a pass. Andre and Q-Tip did efforts 10x better and actually contributed a pure angle to the progression. This Kanye shit y’all falling for only has a bigger marketing machine and a little luck on the timing. Y’all are being fooled.

      I don’t want another 4 Jay-Z albums. I’d like Jay-Z to find and accept another successor on the mic…and for that successor to be at least reverant for Hip-Hop and not try to toss the baby with the bathwater like you’re implying.

      • LEO

        COSIGN

        • Omar

          Maybe if Jay would’ve anointed ‘Ye as his “heir” instead of Lil Wayne, he’d be able to kick his feet up and go away like he said so many years ago. And maybe Kanye would make a rap abum too.

    • LEO

      Just because it’s Hip-Hop it doesnt mean it’s RAP…and that’s really what ya talking about…RAP ain’t never gonna change, it never has and it never will…the only shit that’s happening is that niggas stopped rapping…there aint no more niggas rapping, or there are but they aint getting the recognition they deserve (Ludacris, Joe Budden, Joel Ortiz, Immortal Tech…etc) Hip-Hop and Rap aint the same thing…Rap is the ORIGINAL music of Hip-Hop…Hip-Hop is the movement/culture…and Hip-Hop has and always, and will change with the times…there’s no need for anybody to cave in, or be “left by the side of the road” if I like listening to mutherfuking Nas, DMX, Jay-z, Method Man, Redman, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game, Joe Budden…that’s what Im gonna do…Is Lollipop RAP? hell no!!! is it Hip-Hop? Hell yeah!!! is it good? that’s up to me…

      • Phil

        Co-sign. Whew. Some more positive outlooks. Thank god.

  • tony grand$

    Good.

    I’m tired of the same old shit, reiterated material, the same 7-8 cats on the radio, the same 4 superproducers runnin rampant, shits gettin incredibly mundane & boring.

    Bring on change!

  • that guy

    I liked it because Kanye was actually trying to be creative.

    ^^^
    how the fuck was 808′s creative if he shark bit another man???

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