“Niggas want it to be like it used to be back in the day, but it ain’t like that no more. Hip-hop changes and evolves, you know…”
You’ve probably seen or heard this said before by some rapper, trying to find the best way to cover for how far-beyond-sorry some of this shit is. That line is about a notch below “I’m just talkin’ about what I see” on the Hip-Hop List of Cliche Answers. Whenever I hear this, I tend to suspect that the artist saying this is either A) making excuses for their own weak-ass music, or B) completely oblivious to what it means to “evolve”.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a special place in my heart for older music of all genres, especially ’90s hip-hop. But don’t get it wrong: I’m not one of those “crack-came-along-and-dried-it-all-up” type niggas who swear everything was all good until December 31, 1999 became January 1, 2000. I don’t advocate the idea of new artists trying to rehash shit that was dope 17 years ago, nor do I care much for when used-to-be-dope artists drop awful new music, totally oblivious to how far off the wagon they are. I like and welcome new music that might not be “purist”-friendly, but is undeniably entertaining. At the same time, I know the difference between change and evolution. And hip-hop may stay changing, but it’s been a HOT-ass minute since the last time it “evolved”.
We’ve all seen that “Evolution of Man” chart before. Shit wasn’t about how a man grows excessive hair, shrinks, and stops walking upright. I know a lot of these rappers are opposed to anything “homo” (because none of ‘em are gay, right?) but the idea of evolving is in the direction of the homosapien, not the primate.
Evolution is when Run-DMC came along and almost singlehandedly rendered every group before them irrelevant by sounding nothing like them. Evolution is when a gang of new artists came along a few years later and did the same to Run-DMC. Evolution is how the Class of ’93-’94 made rappers from East to West go from tounge-twisting and simplistic threats to storytelling. Evolution is when Jay, ‘Ye, Just, and Bink! repopularized sampling with one album when people were trying to declare it “dead”. Knowing and remembering things like that, and then seeing Pliiiiiiies referred to as “The Future Of Rap” on that Vibe cover, it’s a hard-ass sell for me to buy that “evolved” shit. Nah, man. Change, not evolution.
I would be remiss to not mention these DJs as well. Surely, a case can definitely be made for how the technical aspects have evolved like a muhfukka in recent years. The DJs themselves? Not so much. Mixtape DJs who actually had DJing talents got largely replaced, mostly by random dudes who had nothing but access to new music and the equipment necessary to put them on CD. Mixshow DJs, for the most part, have lost whatever control they had over what they do on the air- they will play “Stanky Leg” and like it or they can be replaced. The club DJ has a bit more control than that, but they can only go so far outside the lines before they find their floor empty. Niggas can get mad at that Diddy blog all they want, but the hip-hop DJ was once the star of the show whose abilities and musical selection could rule everything that matters. Now, they are the total opposite of that. Change, not evolution.
So what has evolved? Technology, specifically involving the internet. I can’t imagine how extra-crazy for hip-hop I would’ve been back in the day if we had all the shit we have been privileged to have in this decade. Imagine being able to jump on the computer and watch the new Snoop video, then read what happened at the Source Awards as it was in progress, all while waiting for Illmatic to finish downloading so you can drop it onto your iPod. None of that shit was poppin’ in those days. Sure, the Internet existed, but you probably would’ve needed a day of uninterrupted dial-up service just to get a hopefully high-quality version of the got-damn intro. But nowadays, there’s a good chance you could have Nas’ next album 10 minutes after it gets mastered (uh, not that I or XXLMag.com endorse that kinda thing). THAT is evolution.
Sorry, rap guys: maybe it’s just poor choice of words, but the “evolved” angle doesn’t wash. We know it’s not your fault though- y’all have as much control over the rap game as mixshow DJs have over their playlist mixes. If it makes y’all feel any better, a lot of us out here ARE waiting to see said evolution take place. It wouldn’t hurt for some of you to try working towards that. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen- people won’t buy your album? Ha. -DANJA29