Before I begin, allow me to apologize for the previous article posted on this blog titled “The Greatest MC of All Time”, or some such nonsense like that (authored by my boss Craig), which many of you had to painfully endure. As someone who actually knows the Hip-Hop industry in its current incarnation, I felt it necessary to respond.
If you were to truly look at the biggest and most revered Rap/Hip-Hop artists of the CURRENT generation, the names you would constantly hear are Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, and the widely misunderstood Lil Wayne. As you can see, the elderly gentleman (by “elderly gentleman” of course, I refer to “MC” Craig) – who made the feeble, yet valiant argument for Rakim – is a little out of touch and unable to connect with the “new school”, or new generation of the hip-hop industry of today. In a world where the biggest names of the genre are beginning to push the age of 40, (like Craig), there has been a void, an evident disconnect between these artists and a younger audience.
Before we can actually get into an educated discussion of things, some framework and foundation should clearly be established, so sit back, as “Hip-Hop 101” is now in session.
First and foremost, the definition of “Hip-Hop” is too inclusive of a term, and should not be used to consider all of the artists who are currently compiled into the genre; however, for lack of a better term I will use it henceforth. For the most part, fans of the real genre would consider most of what is on the radio to be some fusion between pop, house, and rap. Real “Hip-Hop” occurs in waves. These waves reflect whatever sound is “hot” at the moment and are often circuitous. Therefore artists, regardless of their geographic location, must try to reproduce that sound in order to evolve with the changing times. For a while the New York gritty sound monopolized the genre until the industry became overly saturated with it, and the time came to move on to something new (#ontothenextone as real hip-hop heads would say). Texas had its short run as did E-40 and the “bay area” sound. However the next big wave that took over – and the one most prevalent today – is referred to as the “Southern Movement”.
The Southern Movement was something fresh and new, something that everyone – from kids to grandparents – could take part in. No longer was hip-hop about the harsh realities of street life, about being a thug, and about being angry (often referred to as “Gangsta Rap”). The focus shifted more towards dancing, partying, and having a good time.
Coupled with the plummet of record sales, and the leaking of songs prior to their intended release en masse, Hip-Hop began to see a lot more “one hit wonder” type artists. These artists would achieve one, two, sometimes even three popular songs, but lacked longevity and would quickly fade away into obscurity. Some became more household names such as DJ Unk while others such as The Pop It Off Boyz and the G5 Boys were known only by there one contobution to the dance floor. Nevertheless it seemed as though everyone was hitting the drawing boards in an effort to come up with the new gimmick and dance to cash in on this craze.
It was in 2006 that Souljaboy first appeared on the scene, a 16 year old that had written and produced the smash hit “Crank Dat”, with its subsequent dance that swept the nation. Everyone from Regis to Oprah to YOU (yes YOU) felt the craze and the desire to scream out “YUUU”. The song exploded and was even called the electric slide of the new generation. It held no boundary. Regardless of race, age, or economic standpoint, anyone and everyone could be seen on YouTube participating in the dance, often in very unconventional settings. Lawyers were “crankin dat” in the office, the mailmen was “yuuu-ing” while delivering mail, and even an entire second grade class(teacher included) were doing “the souljaboy” in what should have been their instructional time. Yet Souljaboy had no intention of merely becoming the average southern one hit wonder, and seizing the popularity of YouTube, Myspace and other social networking sites, he was the first in the Hip-Hop world to utilize them to connect with his audience. Fans and haters alike could watch him doing his everyday tasks while – through the internet – his following began to grow at alarming rates. Suddenly kids had an artist of their own, someone from their generation that was taking over the industry and was putting it in the crippler crossface. Although he was never a lyrical emcee, each single released had the same success. Presently, there is no song that girls in the Hip-Hop club scene get more excited to hear at a party than ‘Donk’.
As is often the case in the “Hip-Hop world”, once you become too large of a star, others try to diminish your shine. Soulja’s success put the older artists in a state of frustration, confusion, and anger. They asked “Who was this kid that didn’t have to say anything lyrically to gain such a large following?” Everyone from Ice T to Nas has felt his impact. Chants that “Hip-Hop is dead” were repeated in song after song, while Nas even used it as an album title. Ice-T began to post videos on YouTube telling the child prodigy to “eat a d*ck” and that he was the reason for the demise of a once reputable genre. While there were many others who played their role in changing the direction of the hip-hop, artists began pointing fingers at Soulja. They were clearly and visibly upset that they no longer had the same influence and that the sound they brought them their fame, notoriety, and success was the process of transformation. Simply put, older artists were now the ones forced to get back to the drawing boards.
After about two years of struggle trying to find his place in an industry dominated by an older generation who, largely, did not want him to survive, Souljaboy’s track record is what made other’s within the hip-hop community take notice. Whether they liked him or hated him, his music reached and moved the masses. Soon some of the biggest stars within the industry began knocking down his door to be on remixes to his smash hits. Everyone from Lil Wayne to Young Jeezy and everyone in between felt the need to hop on the “Turn My Swag On Movement” and bless the record with a verse of their own. It could be heard on every college campus, at every stepshow, at every party, and was quickly becoming the hip-hop anthem for 2008. “Kiss Me Through The Phone” was in heavy rotation on both the hard hip-hop radio stations and the pop/mainstream radio. The Birdwalk had the children and the adults up and dancing again to another Soulja jam. Hate it or love it he was here to stay.
You see, Hip-Hop is not just a genre of music, it is a culture that transcends barriers of color, creed, and socio-economic status. While there will be many people who disagree with this my views in this blog posting, those who are truly immersed and fluent in the culture and language of Hip-Hop know my statements to be true. Readying for his third studio release, Souljaboy has remained consistently on top of the charts, relevant in both club and radio, and remains one of the biggest artists on the web with millions of visits with each video he posts. Whether you hate to love him or love to hate him Souljaboytellem’ is here to stay and has truly earned the title: Leader of the New School.
Nate “H.B.K.” Jones
Cutting Edge Entertainment’s resident Hip-Hop expert
P.S. PRETTY BOY SWAG IS THE HOTTEST UNDERGROUND SONG OUT RIGHT NOW! & ALL THE WAY TURNT UP IS THE HARDEST SONG IN HIP-HOP STREETS