Hip Hop's Problem With Authority

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It’s no new revelation that the genre of dissent has a problem with authority. This is clear when we think about all of the social and political rules Hip Hop has broken has broken over time. But even within its ranks, there's a tension that exists between the old and new guard. In a culture founded on respect but propelled by innovation, it will be interesting to see how the unwritten rules of the past govern (or don't govern) the lives of contemporary artists. This tension has already manifested itself in several different ways.

We can think of Yachty’s conversations with both Joe Budden on Complex’s “Everyday Struggle” and his Instagram back-and-forth with Funk Flex a few years ago.

We can think of Hov, who seems to be a self-considered gatekeeper of culture. We’ve seen him embrace the new wave– working with Migos on “Ape Shit,” shouting out Uzi on 4:44 and tackling the topic directly on “Family Feud.”

All this old talk left me confused/ You'd rather be old rich me or new you?/ And old niggas, y'all stop actin' brand new/ Like 2Pac ain't have a nose ring too

And I’ll never stop chuckling over his Twitter shoutout to Playboi Carti, “magnolia incredible.” Quavo, Future and Travis also earned mention in this thread.

It’s hard to imagine that Death of Autotune Hova would be advocating for “new” niggas, but alas. It appears that he’s opened the metaphorical gates to Hip Hop validation. Even still, he’s been doing some mild behavior policing. What’s interesting is that– although he’s respected– his stances haven’t necessarily been effective to the new gen. Just like Hip Hop kept with autotune, they’ve kept with money phones, despite what Hov has to say about it.

It’s seeming that, while the new guys are happy if they get the cosign, they’re not pressed for it. If you like them, great. If you don’t, they don’t give a fuck.

Which brings us to the question of “Respect.” The theme that all traditional Hip Hop heads harp on. “They have no respect” is the main argument I’ve both heard and made against the new guys. Fewer artists seem to be concerned with the idea of the OG. And even fewer seem to be intimately familiar with the history, traditions and craft of rap. And to be clear– you don't have to be a Hip Hop historian to be a great rapper. But having context and understanding for your field can only propel your work further. I think that's why most of us were a little put off by 6ix9ine’s interview with Angie Martinez in which he shamelessly shares that he puts no effort into the music he puts out. Whether or not that’s true (because a part of me think it’s not), at some point not caring and pretending not to care really do have the same impact. So while on the one hand, I can root for someone who’s not taking himself too seriously, I also understand what a massive offense it is to essentially rob the culture of its essence and integrity.

It’s like the kid who never studies but gets an A. Or maybe, more accurately, the kid who clearly doesn’t care about the group project but still reaps the benefits of everyone else’s work.

While on the surface it’s lighthearted, easy and fun, there’s something really dark about using art in that way. It cheapens the craft. It devalues the culture. It signals disrespect in a world where respect means everything. Success or failure. Friend or foe. Life or death.

I think that’s the real issue. More so than the evolution of sound and taste, as that was bound to change. I think people are less angry about where Hip Hop is now and are instead angry that no one seems to care about where Hip Hop has been. Unfortunately I think that's been miscommunicated, which is why we see these "old heads" as "bitter," "jealous," or stuck in the past.

It’s hard for me to imagine the issue resolving itself. Either way, the authority problem is going to unfold, with either traditionalists relenting and adjusting or the new wave shifting further right on the no-fucks spectrum.

Note: "New" refers more to the sound and spirit than the actual career timeline.

Jaylin PaschalComment