Culture of Hip Hop

Hip hop is a genre of music that not only encompasses rap but ethnicity, art, politics, fashion, technology and urban life. It has kept its original fan base since its creation, but it has since become a multinational phenomenon with the mainstream users, more specifically the suburban youth.  Some believe that as commercial and “gangsta” rap emerged, so did lyrics that glorify drugs, violence, women, and money. Though this is true it does not define hip hop as there are many other parts to the genre or “culture” if you will. Many artists such as Common or Talib Kweli are considered socially conscious rappers and make their music with socially conscious and politically oriented lyrics.

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Freestyle

Originally, as old school rapper Big Daddy Kane put it, freestyle was “a written rhyme on non-specific subject matter”. Nowadays freestyle is reffered to as “off the dome” or “off the top of the head” which means its rapping with no preparation. This improvisational rhyming skill is one that is acquired over time and can be very difficult. The practice of freestyle can create very impressive rappers and makes their flow and word selection a lot better. Games can be developed from this style of rapping like rap battles where two different people reply to each other with brief raps over a simple beat that “diss” or make fun of one another. A prime example of this is in the movie “8-Mile” starring Eminem and chronicles his come up to stardom with one of the more well known scenes of him rap battling a well known rapper in the area and Eminem beats him which puts Eminem into the mix of popular rappers in Detroit. Whoever runs out of material for raps first loses the battle proving that the more skilled rapper is the one who lasted the longest in “8-Mile”s case, Eminem.

Drug influence

Drugs and alcohol play a major role in music and especially in the hip hop world. “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar speaks about the influence and abuse of alcohol he has seen in his life. When Dr. Dre released two albums “The Chronic” and “The Chronic 2001” he had the West Coast hooked on the marijuana buzz. Many rappers are well know for their weed inspired raps like Wiz Khalifa or Snoop Dogg and that inspiration has created its culture in and of itself. One of the more well know go to drugs in the hip hop world is lean. A mixture of promethazine and codiene (high strength cough syrup) and Sprite soda rappers are often know to “sip” on this concoction out of foam cups and call it names like “sizzurp”. The ode to this drug would be Three Six Mafia’s “Sippin on Some Sizzurp”. Molly is another drug that has taken over the minds of todays hip hop artists. Molly is the purest form of ecstesy MDMA and has come about as the party drug in the hip hop world. With such a large drug influenced culture and mixed with such a popular genre in this country it begs the question of how much rap and hip hop is promoting these lifestyles.

Trap revival

It has nothing to do with the huge Fetty Wap hit “Trap Queen”. Trap music is a style of music that has been around since the early 90’s but has recently made a revival in the hip hop world. Its stlyle has aggressive lyrical content and sound, and the instrumentals are brought by 808 kick drums or heavy extended sub-bass lines, double-time, triple-time and other faster time division hi-hats, layered synthesizers, and “cinematic” strings. As Laymens puts it, trap could be described as a recipe.

1/3 hip hop (tempo and song structure similar) – however vocals are usually pitched lower or higher
1/3 dubstep (similar drum arrangements, different builds and drops)
1/3 dub (Low frequency focus and strong emphasis on repetitiveness throughout a song)

KiD CuDi

Scott Mescudi otherwise know as Kid Cudi is not a super huge influential artist but I choose to write about him because of his different style of music in the world that differs from the typical mainstream hip hop. The Cleveland rapper came to prominence from his mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi” in 2008 as well as his vocals on famous albums by Jay Z and Kanye West, “The Blueprint 3” and “808’s and Heartbreak”. Kid Cudi became very popular after his first album release “Man on The Moon: The End of Day” in 2009 which included the hits “Day ‘n’ Nite” “Make Her Say”, and “The Pursuit of Happiness”. Kid Cudi was clearly different than any other rapper of the time after his debut album release because his lyrics pertained to kids around the world going through struggles, but also about his life and growing up feeling lonely in hopes to show people they are not alone. Aside from his lyrics, what separated Cudi from other rappers was his production/beats. Being a fan of rock groups like Ratatat, Nirvana, and Green Day his beats were very unique and out of this world. The main porducers of this album included Emile Haynie, DotDaGenius, Plain Pat, Kanye West, and Free School among others who can be credited with creating these unique “trippy” beats Cudi is so famously known for. Fast forward 6 years, 4 albums, and drastic musical evolution of his work Kid Cudi is preparing to release his newest album on December 4th, 2015. Don’t expect the rapper Cudi that you may know him for, like many artists he is changing each year and at this point in his career he has taken up the electric guitar and is rocking out in this one. Kid Cudi is one of the most meaningful artists out there and speaks the truth and is real with his music and fans.

Hip Hop Production

Hip Hop production is the making of Hip Hop music. More specifically it refers to the groundwork of a song or the instrumentation of the song rather than the lyrical side of a song. From this, its fair to say that the hip hop producers are the instrumentalists of a rap song. Hip hop producers use instruments like samplers, sequencers, drum machines, synthesizers, turntables,  and live instrumentation to make the background music or instrumentation of a rap song. This background music is often casually referred to as the beat making the producer also commonly referred to as the beatmaker. What I think is interesting is how little recognition producers receive from the public. I would relate them to the offensive linemen of a football team, in football the O-line is the base of the team and usually determines how successful an offense is but wont receive recognition like the running backs or wide receivers. Similarly the producers lay the groundwork for big rap artists but wont receive the recognition like the artist rapping in the song will. That is why I think a truly skilled rap artist is one who produces his music and also raps the lyrics like Kanye West. Today some of the biggest names in the rap production world include Dr Dre, Mike Will Made It, DJ Mustard, Pharrel, and Earl Sweatshirt just to name a few.

MC’s

An MC or at the root of the word is defined as a Master of Ceremonies or someone who is the official host of a staged event or similar performance. MC’s in the hip hop world took the abbreviation to describe a skilled rap artist. The word also written as emcee has been used in the rap names of many artists, like the famous MC Hammer, but does not mean those artists are the only MC’s in the genre of hip hop/rap. This is true because many artists like Nas, Tupac, or even B.I.G represented the qualities of a true MC. These qualities that make a true MC for example include rapping to inform the public, trying to uplift people rather than degrade. They also include the ability of an to  ‘control’ the crowd, and exhibit good showmanship. Perhaps most importantly they use thoughtful lyrics, and need to be able to freestyle or rap whatever comes to mind in order to show real skill. Although the word MC is originally used to name someone hosting an event the hip hop world, as they often do with words, has taken it and given it a new meaning to describe a skilled rapper.

hammer-time

Hammer Time

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is Compton born rapper who is arguably the most talented rap artist of his generation. Having been through numerous trials in life and struggling his way to the top his lyrics are raw and real. many say that he is a lyrical genius and has numerous hits on top of that. With his breakthrough album of 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d City, he instantly became a classic. That breakthrough album produced several hits while telling his story of his adolescence growing up in the middle of Compton touching subjects of robbery, alcoholism, and shootings. With this album Lamar, also known as K-Dot, helped put Compton/LA back on the map musically. Kendrick’s most recent album to pimp a butterfly has influenced many artists as the deep meaning of Kendrick metaphorically blossoming into the butterfly he is now with all of his fame and how his life was before his fame. Kendrick’s themes of each album are truly artistic the way he presents to topic, ties each song together, and preaches his message to listeners. This style of an album is not unheard of, but the way Lamar does it certainly is very distinct to the way anyone else has. Kendrick Lamar is certainly and artist that many years for now will arguably be remembered like artists like Tupac, Biggie, or Dr. Dre.

Kanye West

Trying to understand a person like Kanye West is like trying to understand the stock market, he changes everyday sometimes unexpectedly and says things that can break the internet in seconds blowing up social media. The rapper who was born and raised in Chicago with an impressive rap career that he built by himself often times feels that hes misunderstood. From the perspective of people like you and I he may seem arrogant, full of himself, brutally honest, maybe even a little crazy. But the man in my opinion is just trying to shape culture and change the world. I’m honestly not a Kanye West supporter, I like his music and sometimes I find his attitude really funny, but I wouldn’t vote for him for president. Aside from his character West has influenced hip hop in a lot of ways and he has many hits he continues to make to this day. Coming into the genre he didn’t fit the status quo of the general rapper of the time, he was middle class college dropout who was artsy and different than most. He finally succeeded with his album drop “The College Dropout” and became and instant star. His constant change in individuality and identity often makes it difficult to give him a sense of self. Although Kanye has a very interesting personality, he opened the door for a lot of artists today and paved the way for pop culture and music in many ways. He will definitely be a huge name for many years to come.

NWA

NWA was a rap super group that came out of Compton, California in the lat 80’s and gained a widespread popularity during the 90’s. The group and what they did with their influence is highly applicable to today’s culture with the growing problem of black hate from police, and the movie “Straight Outta Compton”s release in movie theaters across America. The epic rap drama brought in an estimated $60.2 million dollars making it the largest first day sales for a rated R movie. The movie chronologically takes viewers through the groups stardom to finish and goes in depth on the influence they had as a group. The group began with rap artists Arabian Prince, Eazy-E, Dr.Dre, and Ice Cube. Later DJ Yella and MC Ren would join after Arabian Prince left the group before their hit album “Straight Outta Compton”. Ice Cube would later leave the group because of royalty disputes as well. The group changed the genre in a huge way with their debut album release in 1988, “Straight Outta Compton” because of the controversial hits it included like one of their most popular “F*** Tha Police”. This single from their debut album spurred from their hate for police because of racial discrimination and caused several riots at shows across America. Other artists then and even today have taken note of this hate for authority and is voiced in their music in very similar ways. Today with the release of the gritty biopic “Straight Outta Compton”, noteworthy artists, and the groups views on society and discrimination, the group is one of the biggest names in the genre and is still talked about to this day.