Monday, May 3, 2010

Hip-Hop and R&B Is Not Dead!

We hear it all the time; in fact, we probably have said it many times ourselves without even thinking twice. That redundant statement I’m blabbing about is, “Hip-Hop /or R&B is dead.” Some say that all of the proclamations of Hip-Hop being dead started after Nas released his single “Hip-Hop is Dead” and his 8th studio album that shared the same titled in 2006.

As for R&B, well that’s something recent. With the onslaught of half-naked and oversexed lyrics from the men and women that are popular in the genre and who are often named as the representatives of it, have caused some fans to be disappointed in where it is headed.

I’m here to say that though I have joined in on the finger pointing, further review proves that Hip-Hop and R&B is not dead at all; it’s actually very much alive.

My earliest memories of R&B, dates back to when I was a young girl probably around the age of 6 or 7. I grew up in a brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) section of Brooklyn (where we got our VCR stolen every other Friday <---tiny exaggeration) where all kinds of music was played. African music, Reggae, Calypso, Soca, Pop, Country, you name it-it was played. But the one genre that I’ve always gravitated towards was R&B.

I loved R&B for the passion that the artists expressed in their songs. It wasn’t as if they were reading off of pages that held lyrics and showing off their vibratos or other vocal controls. Those singers felt every word they sang and they did the job of making us the listeners feel the same way.

The first Hip-Hop artists I quickly became familiar with were Run DMC and LL Cool J, LL Cool J being my very first. I was in love with LL Cool J not for his talents but mainly for his looks, so I’ll admit that my love for Hip-Hop began very superficially.

But Run DMC’s lyrical deliveries and the energies that they exemplified on the tracks that played off of the vinyl’s that turned on my parents’ turntables, did it for me; making me a Hip-Hop fan for life. I’ll say that Hip-Hop was on my radar around the age of 10. I actually had dreams of becoming an MC and began penning lyrics in my black and white composition notebook because of it.

Hip-Hop and R&B went hand-in-hand for me so it was no surprise that they would eventually combine to make countless hits even till today.

People listen to the Hip-Hop and R&B of today, the ones that receive excessive plays on the radio, and automatically assume that both genres have met the end of the road. What people don’t realize is that it is the popular music that gets the heaviest rotation and shoved down our throats. The pioneering essence of Hip-Hop and R&B that are still performed in clubs, at open mics, and that get promoted by independent labels is actually the Hip-Hop and R&B that everyone is nostalgic and pining for.

It’s understandable. It’s like the riddle suggests, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound?” The same can be applied to Hip-Hop and R&B. If good R&B and Hip-Hop is out there and we know nothing about it, does it exist? For both questions, the answer is yes. The solution is we just have to seek it out, the way it was done before its popularity.

We can’t blame anyone except for ourselves for not searching for and finding the kind of Hip-Hop and R&B we like. There are the some that are willing to settle on the notion that Hip-Hop and R&B are evolving not dying. I say that it isn’t doing either or. The commercial Hip-Hop and R&B of today is molding to whatever the consumers are interested in buying. For most of the artists, the art form of the genres comes second to those dead presidents on that green paper.

There are the people out there who are just interested in putting on music that will accompany whatever feeling they are feeling at the moment. If you are that person, this post might seem silly and you are probably wondering, is it that serious? On the other hand, there are others who are dissectors of the genres who actually look for the reason why a song is wack or brilliant. I happen to fall in the latter – which is why I can often times be seen getting into passionate yet intense debates about these two music genres. So I would probably be the one to answer the question above with a, hell yeah, it’s that serious!

The bottom line is neither Hip-Hop nor R&B is dead. If you are placing blame on what you are listening to or are being bombarded with, then that’s your fault not Hip-Hop or R&B (this is something I had to tell myself when I was ready to talk bad about the genres recently before having my epiphany). When you go near a clearance rack do you find an item of clothing that immediately blows your mind, or do you have to look for it? Well, if you are looking in one place for the Hip-Hop or R&B you desire you won’t find it.

I say be thankful for the artists that are able to balance being commercial and providing quality material. If not, go out there and look for what you want. There are artists out there that are actually recording the type of music you’ve been begging for.

To me, Houdini doesn’t have anything on an artist that is commercial and not just talented but also gifted.

Thoughts? Do you agree that Hip-Hop /or R&B isn’t dead or do you still feel that the genres are headed down a dead end?

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