Elitist Retro Purism is Turning Hip-Hop Playlists Stale
Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis city. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 21 and will be followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
Hip-hop purists are basically the gatekeepers of the genre: The people who seek to remind you that hip-hop isn't a fluke and has an actual history that should be respected. I consider myself a purist to a certain degree. I'm all about keeping hip-hop alive and treating the culture with dignity and respect. Most people don't understand that hip-hop has more than a few different elements, and the art of rapping is simply a branch from the family tree. The average person probably couldn't name all of these elements if they had a gun to their head.
I don't see anything wrong with letting the quality-control sect of the hip-hop universe run rampant and do its job. I do, however, have a problem with a few things. First of all, I hate it when people say "hip-hop is hip-hop, and rap is rap," simply to justify wack-ass rapping. I hate the fact that most people prefer garbage music over quality music. But I am not willing to join the bandwagon of people who have classified the more lyrical rap as "hip-hop" and the less lyrical rap as "rap."
In the past, rap music was rap music regardless of the lyrical content. If the music you put out sucks, classifying it as "rap" and not "hip-hop" doesn't make it sound better. The industry went sour because people have found ways to summon excuses for poor pitiful bastards who lack talent.
On a philosophical level, I technically don't believe in "wack music." I think wackness is based upon perspective, life experiences, personal taste and more. That said, I still believe everyone on the planet has the right to simply say, "I don't like this song."
As a young girl, Lauryn Hill was booed from the stage of Showtime at the Apollo. She's a creative genius, but the day she was on the Apollo stage the audience wasn't having it. This could possibly be the very moment that created the genius inside her. In today's hip-hop climate, the notion of accepting the fact that you suck or someone has the right to not like your music is illegal. This is indeed a problem, but the greater problem is the fact that certain hip-hop purists have transformed into gatekeepers, and anything that didn't get released during the era of their time as a fan is not embraced by them.
The Internet is wide open, and people worldwide are releasing new and innovative music in all form and fashion. The Internet forced the music industry to take heed to what the fans actually desire. But when I go out to a "hip hop" event in the city of St. Louis I typically hear the same exact songs over and over, precisely at the same exact time of the night, every weekend. We are living in the information age; everything has opened itself up, yet some people's musical taste buds are stale. The musical perception of certain hip-hop fans has officially aged itself.
A form of retro-ism in the culture made a return a few years ago. We had groups like the Cool Kids setting the tone for certain trends and bringing back the fashions of the '90s. Along with the fashions of yesterday, the musical stylings of the '90s started to make a return as well.
This is the complicated area where things get tricky, because old school hip-hop made a roaring come back. Young rappers modeled themselves after their favorite old school rappers and every party I went to around that time was overflowing with sneakerheads and hipsters that loved groups like De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, while also admiring new schoolers in the same vein, but not really playing as much of the new music publicly at a party. It was exciting to see the interest in this type of hip-hop music return.