As the “Dirty South” has taken over airwaves and club speakers in the city that birthed hip-hop, the media as well as the general public seems to be mind warped, clueless and brainwashed along with having a slight case of amnesia. Radio personalities, journalists and social critics have all contributed to the venomous speculation that New York hip-hop has “fallen-off.” The real problem is that New York’s most talented artists have merely fallen under the radar. We can attribute this cultural atrocity to the many elements that have helped desecrate hip-hop from the inside out. Payola schemes and irresponsible journalists have spun out a wave of ignorant youth who would not recognize talent if it spit in their face. It will take a mass social movement to get the intellectual artistry of New York hip-hop the respect it deserves.
The disturbing fact is that many people, who are very much in-tune with hip-hop, actually believe that New York artists need to make a comeback. Lisa Evers, a well respected reporter for Fox5 and radio host on New York’s flagship hip-hop station, Hot97, once stated that she believes that “2006 is the year hip-hop will come back to New York, it will be more about the writing and slick wordplay and artists like Saigon and Papoose will get their shine.” We as hip-hop heads can only hope Evers’ prediction for 2006 was accurate, but should we accept the sad truth that hip-hop has left New York? Evers’ radio show, Street Soldiers is the most positive and productive talk radio show around so we must give serious thought to this issue.
With lyrical assassins like Jadakiss and Sean Price, the chilling realness of Cormega and the consistent soulful classics provided by Ghostface Killah, how can anyone question the quality of New York hip-hop? The fact is that the masses have abandoned hip-hop for a gimmicky genre called “hip-pop.” Hip-pop is watered-down, over thugged out, monotonous rap music that hardly even rhymes (i.e. 50cent). This branch of hip-hop along with the “Crunk” craze has overshadowed lyrical talent and intellectuality but more so has helped eat away at the integrity of hip-hop. Do not be misled, it’s cool if this pop sound keep girls shaking their asses in the club, as long as they “get low” we can “skeet, skeet, skeet.” But when the biggest song on the radio is “Wait Till You See my Dick,” we must draw a line and make the distinction between hip-hop “acts” and “artists.” What are the objective criteria to respect creativity in a business based on subjectivity?
These days a hip-hop head’s only solace lies within the same artists that helped bring our culture to the mainstream over a decade ago. The artists I mentioned in the above paragraph contributed enormously in the early nineties in morphing this art form into a powerhouse of a culture/business. While I sit hear foaming from the mouth for the next Ghostface album, the next Cam’ron album and praying that Gangstarr cranks out one more classic, untalented, uneducated and ungrateful “acts” continue to pollute airwaves and push aside the “artists” that paved the way for them. As the masses abandon hip-hop an old political saying becomes relevant, “ the masses are asses.” Many people who claim to be hip-hop heads today are the same kind of people that don’t follow politics but insist on criticizing the President’s every move.
Partial blame for the public’s distorted perception of quality music falls on mass media. For instance, hypothetically speaking, if a rapper owns half of a magazine, and that rapper’s wack album gets a great review in that magazine then someone is not virtuously pursuing their journalistic purpose. Also, payola scandals, which have been around long before hip-hop existed, now contribute to the demise of hip-hop radio. Payola is when radio programmers are paid cash or gifts in exchange for airplay. Not long ago Hot 97’s slogan was “Where Hip-Hop Lives,” now hip-hop heads are like Jews in Diaspora, exiled from their homeland but still clinging to cultural customs.
The politics of the game need to be questioned. Integrity needs to be restored on all fronts, from artists to writers to radio hosts and even social critics. This really dawned on me two years ago while at a Cormega show at B.B. King’s nightclub in New York City. Mega asked the crowed a question that has echoed in my head ever since, “How the fuck is Chingy bangin on every radio station and Rakim cant get a fuckin record deal.” This question brought light to a haunting reality but fortunately I got to see Rakim on that very same stage a month ago. I don’t know what “The God” has been doing for the past few years but I can assure the hip-hop world that he is still lyrically on top of his game.
Despite all the speculation, wack radio, wack writers and commercial gimmicks, New York hip-hop is still as good as New York pizza. Though the days of recording Stretch & Bobbito until four in the morning are long gone there is still hope for radio. D.J's like Mr. Cee have persevered through commercial madness and remained true to hip-hop. It is up to the fans to hit up the request lines and make their voices heard, and buy the “real” albums and support independent artists who refuse to give in to the scandalous desecration of our culture.