December 29, 2021 Ty Foster

I love music. My relationship with it may not be as constant as it was when I was a kid but thanks to my iPod – see rant on that here – whenever I hear music from a time that was so formative to my being I still feel the connection to these songs as strongly as I felt then. Any bit of long drive turns into a concert whether it’s putting my iPod on shuffle or popping in a random CD, yes I’m a dinosaur, and remembering how ill X album was and still is. What’s new finds a way to reach me even though I’m not actively in search of new music admittedly. I’ve always been more into beats, and I very much find a way to be tapped into that and the producers that keep appearing on tracks that I like.

I recently had a moment where it really sunk in just how young and still evolving hip-hop, rap and contemporary R&B really is:

Specifically, the tragic homicides of beloved rap artists drives this point home. Slams it even. That artists don’t have the time to age through phases that others have gotten over that hill of. But, I suppose the fact that not many can make it over the hill is the wisdom that people who make it over are rewarded with. Take 50 Cent for example. There’s the How to Rob era and his storyline pre-getting shot. But it’s coming back from the near impossible of getting shot 9 times and surviving that birthed the hunger and never say quit attitude that got 50 Cent on, and thriving when he got there. All of that led him to take artists like Pop Smoke and Da Baby under his wing, when seeing them have the talent to do big things and possibly avoiding the path the Get Rich or DIe Tryin’ emcee went down. Even look at rap beefs, there’s being in the thick of it in the moment of course and all the ways it can spiral and go left. But listening to Jeezy and Gucci, Jay and Nas, and 50 and Game; all parties involved preach the relief of the beef not escalating to violence whether the two have made up completely or chosen to stay apart cordially. It’s unknown at the moment whether the deaths of Young Dolph or Slim 400 were the results of industry tensions or real-life street issues but something feels off about continuing to celebrate music that spills off wax and has dire, un-take-back-able consequences. Losing any life is heartbreaking and uncalled for in the whole Black-on-Black gun violence realm but it hurts so much more when we lose people like Nipsey Hussle, whose stature and influence stretched far beyond Hot 100 chart accolades.

I don’t know. One hand washes the other. We love music that is authentic. We love hearing stories of real-life living that people go through. And on the same note, we are able to sniff out and throw away people that seem to perpetrating a fraud – i.e. CJ and his hit single “Whoopty”. But what do we do about artists who make music that seemingly invites this dangerous, malicious energy to their front doorstep? More so, how do we stop it? Because if you look at a Pop Smoke or a Young Dolph or a Nipsey Hussle, there’s just so much room for them to grow and continue to push forward in their artistry, so much room to blow past their ceiling and for it to all come crashing down like a plane that lost a wing. And for most of those guys, they were already at a place where they were moving differently. No longer tied in as strong with the day-to-day of the street bullshit. And yet, shit catches up. It’s nasty.

The point of the tweet above was to say how young many of the early icons of rap are. Look at the moves outside of music that artists like Jay and Nas have made. 50 too. How they’ve taken their creativity and influence to start building elsewhere. It’s the blueprint for how to grow in music, how to use music as a springboard and not pigeon-hole oneself to being a puppet to the label and those yucky contracts forever. But these artists have to get there. They have to get over the hill to even get to old age, in life and in the music/entertainment space. What you would have gotten from an older Pop Smoke or an older Nip was game beyond the incredible wisdom both already possessed. They would’ve done what 50 was doing for the younger crowd. Giving them the tools in the way only they can express and communicate.

But beyond the gun violence bit, even sonically hip-hop is still developing. I’m about 20 minutes into the Something to Nothing: The Art of Rap documentary and it’s such an amazing look at influence. At taking what these young artists came up with and putting their own twist. Tank was recently on the Joe Budden Podcast talking about the status of Black male R&B:

He spoke about how rappers nowadays are using melodies and the war the men are going through with the Black women who are singers – also spoke about the white singers and the love they get but that’s an article for another time lol. And like everything else in society, history is due to repeat itself. We’ll get the big man in NBA being a dominant force again and we’ll get the Black male R&B singer crooning about heartbreak in due time. But all in all we have the let the process, process. Let things grow and develop. Let these artists live through mistakes and bone-headedness, learning of their ignorance and stupid decisions. This is what equips a person with knowledge and wisdom. And on the same token, let’s be patient with the new sound, with new interpretations. The kids took their parents’ music and made hip-hop and rap. Let’s trust this new generation that they’re remixing what we came up on and also making audio gold.

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