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Leaders Of The Now School

You know what’s more annoying to me than when women try to have a “sultry” look in their pictures and it instead comes out looking like they have a health issue? The talk about the “hottest in the game,” or that endless conversation about who’s going to be “the next *insert legendary artist name here*.” Pardon my language, but who really gives a flying shit about these in the first place?

I say this because I attended this Hennessey Artistry event last night, “curated” by (of course) The Roots and Q-Tip. That show marked plenty of firsts for me: it was the first time I’d seen “You Got Me’ performed with both Eve and Erykah Badu, the first time I’d seen Ronald Isley since being sprung from the pokey (who, ironically, switched places with T.I), and the first time seeing Bobby Brown sober. Standing amongst the crowd of excited attendees, some had engaged in conversations about which current artist was “the next,” as if Erykah Badu or Bobby Brown were past-their-prime shells of their former selves.

Well, maybe one of them was.

This unnecessary challenge is why I feel some new artists struggle to find some kind of identity in music today. Rather than try to attract the crowd by carving their own creative niche many end up listening to the masses and try to emulate an existing, if not entirely successful, formula, which is why you’ll always see a bio from a new artist alluding to Biggie, 2Pac, Rakim or even Lil Wayne as “inspirations.”

Most of this “next Jordan” talk ends up about as misguided as getting directions from Helen Keller. Think of the countless “next Jay-Z’ artists that never lived up to those lofty proclamations (Angelous, Bathgate and Sacario are the only three I can think of right now; who knows exactly how many artists were compared); did any of them even at least reach the level of success Shawn had in, say, 1994, when he was rolling doobies for Original Flavor and Jaz-O? It’s okay; I’ll wait for your answer.


Thought not.

Instead of being the “next” artist, I wish more would focus on being the “first” artist. Rather than trying to be the next Kanye, J. Cole or Drake, artists should attempt to follow their lead (proverbially, not literally mind you) and forge their own lanes. Hell, even a Waka Flocka Flame-style, minstrel-esque character managed to garner an audience, albeit the lowest common denominator crowd. I’m not saying that all rapsters should immediately hop on the next train to coonery, but I’m sure if there were more artists that tried not being like existing talents than maybe hip hop would be better as a whole.

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