Where is Hip-Hop Going? – The Innovation of Our Culture

I oftentimes wonder what an updated version of “I Used to Love H.E.R.” would sound like. In the years since the song’s release, hip-hop continued to grow to monumental proportions, much greater than anything even Common ever surmised. Hip-hop traded in its fitted hats for a suit and tie and not only went commercial but also became extremely business-minded (producing moguls like Diddy and the often-overlooked Master P).

The excitement we as a collective felt upon first seeing Curtis Blow in that Sprite commercial in 1986 (the first time we saw a rapper reppin’ a major brand like that on national television)—quickly dissipated when we saw the cringe-worthy KFC spot featuring MC Hammer dancing for popcorn chicken.  Now, after two decades of the music going increasingly mainstream and selling out at every turn along the way, hip-hop’s money-grubbing chickens are finally coming home to roost.

Forget the rapper-with-no-lyrical-skills-who-still-manages-to-make hit-after-hit-and-just-won’t-go-away-induced panic of late, I’m talking about how the face of hip-hop is changing. Take a look at the major up-and-coming artists who are actually making waves on the Billboard charts right now (B.o.B., Nicki Minaj, Drake).

B.o.B. is having an amazing year. In addition to going on tour and having two No. 1 singles on the Billboard charts, he was invited down to Washington, D.C. to perform for Obama.  He received seven nominations for the upcoming BET Awards and performed at the MTV VMAs alongside Bruno Mars and Hayley Williams of Paramore. And in case you didn’t notice, he’s even rocking out in Adidas commercials.

Nicki Minaj is breaking Billboard records left and right. She’s got an insanely allegiant following like no other artist out right now and, IMHO, she’s arguably the most exciting thing rap has seen or heard in a while. And you already know Drake’s story—in 2009 he dropped a mixtape that not only sounded like an album but was also immediately deemed a “classic,” a noble feat for a person who was relatively unknown before its release. He’s that kid in the Sprite commercial, on SNL and everywhere in between.

These three all have bars, that’s a given (anti-Minajs hold off for a second), but they’re also singing through half their records and a couple (or perhaps just one) is pandering to an audience that sure ain’t hip-hop if anything.

You can rant, rave, and complain about artists like Minaj and Kid Cudi’s take on hip-hop all you want but no matter how you slice it, it’s hip-hop. I already know where you’re going to take that in the comments section but hear me out anyway.

It’s innovative.

At it’s best we call it OutKast and Kanye West, at it’s worse it’s all of those “emo”-hating epithets I’m still expecting to see in the comments section on this post no matter how carefully I word things. Either way it’s here.

Now I’m not trying to make a grandiose statement here about the death of hip-hop, in it’s traditional form or any other. I’m just posing a question that’s been on my mind. Where is hip-hop going? And are we ready for it? Is Nicki, B.o.B., Drake and the lot truly where hip-hop is going next? Or just a recycling of where it’s already been (Nelly, anyone)? It’s likely that we’re not witnessing rap’s Armageddon but we might be witnessing the creation of a new subgenre that we’ve yet to label. Either way, Hip-Pop (there!) is coming at us. —Brooklyne Gipson

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  • Malik

    Innovation, by definition, means it’s something new. Rappers singing isn’t new, certainly not female rappers specifically. The immediate future I see is, with the artists presented as well as up and comers like J Cole, that mainstream rap will encompass rappers that apply to the broadest amount of people.

    The hood rappers still have a future as long as they stay with their fanbase and supply them with what they want to hear.

    • michaelangel

      ^ cosign… B.o.B, Nicki Minaj, and Drake are nothing like Outkast and Kanye West.. b.o.b’s album was a pop album far from hip hop.. Thank me later was a commercial success but was a miss.. Nicki singles are more pop than hip hop.. They’re pop artists. J. Cole won’t do it for hip hop.. he’s dope but mad overrated. “No sweat like a head band in” like what?…. he’s still dope though

  • Stev

    Whatever Kanye makes is where hip hop will go.

  • LdNSe15

    J. Cole is my hope that hip-hop will take a positive turn..

    As of now..We’ve been fed Hip-POP..not Hip-hop..Drake, Minaj & B.o.B all fall under the Hip-POP category..

  • http://twitter.com/Jamal7Mile Jamal7Mile

    Hopefully what we’re witnessing right now is a hit-and-miss phase in Hip-Hop. Where Hip-Hop’s innovative nature tries to branch out into something new but fizzles and goes back to the drawing board…or it’s Roots, rather.

    Hopefully we I am NOT witnessing what Hip-Hop will be like for the long-term future.

    Not tripping though, and I’m no longer “hating” on the current events of my Culture. I already know that Hip-Hop is ever-changing (and sometimes even evolving). I already know that something fr-fr-fr-freeessssh is right around the corner.

    How was that, Brooklyne?

  • Quint

    These 3 are Hip-hop for now, and a few others. Hip Hop is in a good spot right now. Its hard for this generation, of which I include myself, to appreciate this form of hip-hop since we are right in between the boom bap era and the melodic era. I can’t see how any rapper can be better than Jay-Z. But the next generation will grow up on Drake, J cole, Nicki, etc. I’m sure, my kids will be trying to convince me that Drake is better than Jay-Z. I’ll never agree with that but I will understand.
    Hate it or love it, it’s hip-hop.

  • Moving Sideways

    For every MC Hammer there is an Organized Konfusion.

    For every Silkk da Shocker there is a Mos Def.

    For every Lil’ Jon there is a J Dilla.

    For every Waka Flocka Flame there is a J Cole.

    Such is the circle of life, Simba.

    No use getting bent out of shape about anyone being ‘hip-pop’ I never liked pop music anyway. Shit, at least these new pop artists can spit pretty well, better than the last class of pop rappers. Personally, I’ve got the new Black Milk on replay.

    • Gemz

      haHahaHaha!!! Ok Mufasa.

  • No Name

    In all honesty, hip-hop will go wherever the powers that be in business, TV and radio want it to as long as the artists continually allow themselves to have no or extremely limited control of their careers.

  • DV8

    hiphop will go where ever the T.I.’s want it to go via eMpTV, Black Embarrasement Television,your local “hiphop” station, and this here prominant publication.

  • 6 100

    Hip hop has become “techno-music for black folks”
    i.e. ghey as shit on a dick

  • http://www.myspace.com/slotchmusic ms_spittuh

    Why in the fuck did you say Nicki is Hip Hop? She’s either pop or shit hop take your pick. Only coon niggers that can’t afford lotion for their ankles follow her.

  • Dick B.

    “Rap is something you do; Hip hop is something you live.” – KRS-One

    Listen to Peace of Mine by Gang Starr

    Nicki, Drake, and B.O.B. are not hip hop.

  • Dick B.

    “Rap is something you do; Hip hop is something you live.” – KRS-One

    Listen to Peace of Mine by Gang Starr

    Nicki, Drake, and B.O.B. are not hip hop.

  • marky

    Their music is far from HIP. I like to call that music Pop-Hop, nothing hip about that shit.

  • Anonymous

    B.O.B is cool but drake and all them is full of bs

  • str8 killa no filla

    i agree wiht no name hip hop will go wherever the powers in business want it to go because hip hop got commercial long ago, but i beleive if true hip hop rappers stay true to the fans like us who beleives in good hip hop the’ll be ok but they will probably be underground like most good rappers are like wiz khalifa, curren$y, etc. Also think about this we like good rap because we grew up in the era a little before BoB and Minaj the three year olds that sing nuthin on you and our children all they know will probably be pop rappers like minaj because of the age they will be growing up in.P.S. im 15

  • ra


  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    Musfa said it BEST.

    I think hip hop fans the hardcore hip hop fans who sit and complain about the art but won’t support it are the biggest problem

    1. hip hop itself has gone POP. Hip hop is so commercial that its selling mcdonalds.
    2. the world has changed. hip hop is reporting what is going on.
    3. I agree, this group of hip “pop” rappers are better spittas. even tho i think nikki minja is annonying she can spit. even if somebody could be ghost writing for her, she has mad stage precence deliver and mass apeal.
    you guys are hatin on drake. dude delivered. dude held the radio down and sold good numbers. drake reminds me of lebron james. b.o.b. did his thing as well. keep in mind b.o.b. came out previously and didn’t make any noise.
    4. this music is innovative and far from stale. from a music standpoint there is a lot of growth. from a hip hop perspective this music pales in comparison to our “golden era” however, life goes on.

  • kleckz

    support freddie gibbs hes hip hop

  • http://www.twitter.com/TheDiesel Powerslave

    Can’t believe no one mentioned Weezy bayyybeeeeeeeeee
    ya dig?
    get ‘em!

  • doggert

    Yo check out my mixtape/album @ http://www.soundcloud.com/rordog

    The first and third songs are drum n bass and the rest is hiphop.

    Check it out yo its the truth, original flow, conceptual genius.


  • Simple like ABC, 123

    B.o.B. – Andre 3000
    Nicki Minaj – Missy Elliott
    Asher Roth – Eminem
    Drake – Kanye West & Lil Wayne
    J. Cole – Nas & Jay-Z
    Crooked I & Game – N.W.A.

    Innovation is part of Hip-Hop culture.

    • TMac

      hahaha, i’m glad somebody else recognizes the cyclical nature of the game. Plus, B.o.B. is pretty much a new age Andre 3000. Well, more like Andre 300.

  • Jerod

    Hip-Pop is exactly what it is. I was just thinking this the other day in my employer’s parking lot. It’s not raw hip-hop, it’s not rap, it’s not pop music… but a combination. It’s definitly hip-POP. Good shit.

  • tre

    I think Kanye has arguably been the biggest disruption in Hip-Hop and he still looks to be defining where its headed.

    Another thing to consider is that I can’t think of anyone besides Kanye who is so connected to both old-school and new-school hip-hop.

  • diskid

    Hip-hop is just becoming classy. Possibly more relative. PBasically, it’s all metaphors and wordplay. Which I enjoy. The singing is still ehhh, but the rapping is raw now. But gangster rap is hella played out, and simple one syllable rhymes won’t fly in the game anymore. I love the new direction hip-hop is taking.

    But party rap blows. Ya know, radio rap. Eww.

    But I’m down with B.O.B., Nicki Minaj (only when she is featured, and Drake (even though he isn’t what he used to be)

  • J

    How the fuck are these writers getting work? This fucking magazine/website have become garbage. So Far Gone a “classic”? You dudes even know what the word classic means? B.O.B. is pretty hit or miss, and he’s more pop than anything. Nikki Minaj is absolute trash, bitch has no skills whatsoever and just furthers the stereotype that (most) chicks can’t rap to save their lives. Drake had some alright shit in the past, but he’s gone pop, and doesn’t seem like he’ll ever turn back. Blogs like this piece of shit is why the mainstream is like it is. You got fools praising garbage because it’s charting or selling well. Fuck outta here with that, start covering the good artists that are out there, and stop pandering to the masses and maybe hip-hop will have a brighter future than whats going on now.

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  • http://www.demetriusmay.com Demetrius May

    Its great to see others opinions on the direction of Hip Hop. I personally think Hip Hop’s older generation of listeners and or fans are bored to death of what is currently considered Hip Hop and gets air time on the radio. The younger audience is what’s controlling the direction as we know it. Most Hip Hop artist are all about the money and as long as that’s their muse, then it will never change. There’s plenty of talented artist that wont get radio play because they’re not what the majority of the listeners want to hear, which is why the stay underground. And lets be realistic, artist like Lamar Kendrick and J. Cole produce amazing tracks but those tracks aren’t the type of music you would play in a club. When you think of Hip Hop’s direction, people forget to think about its outlets and who’s playing the music; it plays a huge part in what, where and how gets played.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Killermyke Carlvin Lenord Livingston Frit

    If you feed a man shit long enough, eventually he’ll learn to love it. That’s why Drak, lil wayne, nicki and others are played constantly and why there always on a remix or dropping a new single. Shit! It’s whats for dinner!

  • Man with a plan

    hip-hop will live forever as long as there are people willing to express there selves because in the long if you like or don’t like something just don’t listen i’m proud of what music is becomming sometimes change is good