Updated: Jan 30, 2020
The past few years in hip hop has had the most obvious generational gap probably since the inception of the art form. The shift in the culture had never been more obvious than when Lil Uzi and Lil Yachty were sporting their colourful dreads and melodic mumble raps during the 2016 XXL freshman cover. The younger generation who grew up in the post Drake, Kid Cudi, 808s and heartbreak Kanye West, Soulja Boy, Chief Keef and Young Thug world had already been accustomed to the crooning and melodic flows in hip hop. The art went from expressing yourself in lyrics to expression in feelings and vibes. You could ride the beat and not really say much as long as people could vibe to the record.
So to that generation Uzi and Yachty felt like the logical progression. Coming into XXL with mumble rap hits like ‘One Night’ and ‘Money Longer’ it seemed like this next wave of rappers were on an uphill trajectory, much to the dismay of many of the “old heads”. The old heads were a section of so called “real hip hop” who hated everything in that SoundCloud mumble rap movement. This group was represented in the media with figure heads like Joe Budden on ‘Everyday Struggle’ and Ebro on ‘Hot 97’. They critiqued and criticized everything about these rappers from their content to their fashion to their music all the way to their business acumen.
This feud was important because it was archetypal. The older heads represented the parents, culture, authority and everything young people want to rebel against. This feud has been going on for millennia of parents not understanding their kids and trying to fit them into their mold and the kids completely rebelling and finding their own path. This is the same thing that was happening with Ice T and Soulja Boy back in the early 2000’s. The archetypal nature of the feud came to the forefront on ‘Everyday Struggle’ when host and retired rapper Joe Budden asked Lil Yachty what he wanted from hip hop and began scolding him. It felt like a conversation you would have with your parents when you’re coming of age and don’t know what you want to do with your life.
Relatable moments like that and the constant criticism from older heads empowered the movement and gave mumble rap its rebellious edge. Hip hop hasn’t been the same since. Now the word rapper is almost synonymous with coloured dreads, drug addiction, colourful grills and melodic mumbling on trap beats. The dichotomy lies in the morals and principles hip hop represented and the youths disregard of that.
Hip hop is now the biggest genre in the world. It all started with a couple of poor kids in Brooklyn playing in the park and now it’s a billion dollar industry and one of America’s largest exports, if not the largest export. Hip Hop originated in the streets of New York and so it came with pillars and principles. The pillars of hip hop are Knowledge, DJing, MCing, Breakdancing and Graffiti. These pillars are the foundation of hip hop. So even if you don’t realize it: Banksy falls under hip hop, Marshmallow falls under hip hop, Basquiat falls under hip hop and a lot of the worlds biggest artists in various mediums fall under the category of hip hop.
The pillars of hip hop are being forgotten just like the principles which it was founded upon. Those same principles that were applied in the streets were applied to artists. If a rapper wasn’t writing his raps it was frowned upon and other artists wouldn’t work with him. If a rapper snitched during his dealings in the streets his career was over. People cared about being real.
For a while in hip hop you actually had to be saying something. There’s always been trash rappers but even they had to be somewhat clever with the use of their words. But like every dope genre it outgrew its original base and became corporate. And when things go corporate they are mass produced, curated and mainstream. Hip Hop going mainstream meant that many of the rules that were applied to rappers don’t exist anymore. It’s been obvious for years now. For example there was no way a rapper in the 90s could wear a dress but Young Thug wore a dress on an album cover. There was no way a rapper could be open about having writers yet Cardi B is one of the biggest rappers in the world and she boasts about it, and Drake is the biggest artist in the world and even he was exposed for having a ghostwriter yet the fans don’t care.
The biggest dichotomy lies in Tekashi 6ix9ine. All of the other examples were strictly music, which is all the mainstream casual fans care about. But Hip Hop is a lifestyle and it originated in the streets. Now here comes rainbow haired, coloured grill wearing 6ix9ine. He came out from the birthplace of hip hop, Brooklyn, New York. And like Hip Hop, Tekashi allegedly came from the streets. He had a gang of bloods backing him as he made what’s considered new age gangster rap. His first hit ‘Gummo’ has a video filmed on his block in New York. It was packed with red bandanas and hood niggas wilding. Tekashi rose in notoriety as he dropped hit after hit while including his social media trolling antics. Tekashi had successfully bridged the gap of being from the streets yet being able to appeal to the mainstream through the new age internet shenanigans marketing. Nobody had seen anything like this before. Usually internet trolls get some clout for a week and it doesn’t translate to record sales. Soulja Boy tried regaining his popularity by using social media antics and trolling but all it did was make the blogs, until he went to the streets of Compton and had his phone snatched.
Social media trolling by rappers was seen as corny and seemed attention seeking. 6ix9ine was able to make it look cool with the streaming numbers backing him, as well as seemingly being able to back up his social media tough talk. The combination skyrocketed him to the mainstream. While he was feuding in the streets he was able to get features from some of the biggest artists in the world like Nicki Minaj and Kanye West in chart topping songs like FeFe and Mama.
6ix9ine always had one foot in the street and one foot in music until his street life caught up to him as it always does. 6ix9ine appeared on the breakfast club saying he fired all of his team, he wasn’t allowed to say Treyway anymore and the FBI was outside his house. 6ix9ine had been kidnapped, robbed, in fights and shot at multiple times, all while being a 10x billboard topping artist. When 6ix9ine went to jail everything changed. The seemingly solid foundation he had with his backup “Treyway” seemed to bend and break. It later came out that 6ix9ine was snitching on members of his former crew including his manager Shotti, who he was seen with very often.
Now the old heads, including frequent collaborator and self proclaimed father 50 Cent, have jumped to canceling 6ix9ine, which makes sense. Hip Hop used to operate under street code and in