The way I'm going to start this post is going to be with a flashback sequence. So, cue the foggy visual and the crappy harp music. I'm going to take you back for a minute. Can you hear the song playing, can you hear it. "Now with Sean on this hot track, melt like it's hot wax", "I was in one bedroom, dreaming of a million", "Put your money on the table and get your math on". You're feeling it now, right? The year is 1997, after successful, critically acclaimed albums by Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and Wu-Tang Clan, things are about to change. One thing that "Illmatic", "Ready To Die", and "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)", is that they all had a grimy New York City street edge to them. These albums, as well as "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...", "The Coming", "Beats, Rhymes & Life" and albums from other regions, such as "ATLiens", "The Chronic", "Doggystyle", and "The Diary", led to the era between the late 80's and 1996 being coined as the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. Everything was right with the world, until, a young man from Harlem, New York, by the name of Sean John Combs, came to change our world. Combs saw the hard edge of rap music and, I guess, he decided to soften it. Combs introduced the Hip-Hop world to Cristal (actually, Wu-Tang introduced it), the shiny suits (actually, Dr. Dre), heavy sampling (Premo did it, only better), he reintroduced dancing (a la Hammer), and jump started the Jiggy movement. On July 1, 1997, "No Way Out" was released, and from there on a bottle would never go un-popped. Following the release of "No Way Out", we were introduced to Bling, Bentleys, brilliant-cuts, and bad music.
Fast forward to our present predicament. There has been a debate going on within Hip-Hop circles for the past few years. A somewhat new (not really new, at all) genre of rap music was introduced to the world, Hipster rap. Some would say that Hipster rap is a sub genre of Alternative rap (alternative to what exactly). A lot of people would trace Alternative rap back to Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and others. I agree, these acts are different from the mainstream Hip-Hop acts that are shown on BET or played on your local stations. Now, I wouldn't trace Hipster rap back to these acts, but rather to one act, Kanye West. You all know the lyrics, "What if somebody from the Chi, that was ill, got a deal / on the hottest rap label around? / But he was talking bout coke and birds, it was more like spoken word...". In this new era of Hip-Hop, where everyone was a drug dealer, turned rapper, turned baller (kind of a mix of Golden Age themes and Jiggy Era subject), Kanye was praised for being different. He was the child of a professor, his father was a photojournalist / ex-Black Panther. He attended college. He rapped about personal issues, Jesus Christ, fashion, politics, etc.. While the rest of the Hip-Hop nation was either leaning and rocking with it or flipping birds, West was finding ways to stay away from the norm. Contrary to popular belief (and T-Pain), Mr. West introduced the rap world to the "Auto-Tune" (a crappy computerize version of the Talk-Box made famous by Roger Troutman and Parliament/Funkadelic). His over the top wardrobe and stage shows have made him a style icon. And in 2004, with the release of "The College Dropout", Mr. West changed the game, in the same manner as Puff Daddy did back in 1997. After Kanye's success with being "different", other rappers came out and attempted to shine by being "different". From Kanye came Lupe Fiasco, who raps about robots and manga (and dresses like a drunk Kanye, I like to refer to him as "Kanye Lite"), Kid Sister, who raps about nails and beepers (and only has a deal because she's dating Kanye's DJ), The Cool Kids, who rap about nothing, like a "Seinfeld" episode (and wear the tightest jeans I've ever seen), Jay Electronica, Kid Cudi, Wale, Izza Kizza, and sometimes Kidz in the Hall (who I wouldn't put in the same category as the rest of these sucky people, they are actually good). I guess most people define Hipster rappers as people with a fascination with retro clothing and 80's culture (half these kids didn't even grow up in the 80's), and dress different from the status-quo (even though once everyone is wearing it, it makes it the norm), and most often, wear tight jeans (especially them damn Cool Kids). Some people have said that Hipster rap doesn't exist, but I believe it does, and it sucks. All these young kids, they're reminiscing bout an era that bred AIDS, crack and Ronald Reagan, name one thing good about the 80's (besides this fly Sergio Tacchini suit and dope pair of Troops'). I mean, seriously, if I wanted to listen to nonsensical 80's type music, I'd blow the dust off of "Youngest in Charge" and listen to Special Ed rap about his dog's solid gold bone. Why would I want a pale imitation of the music that I grew up on? Thanks to Kanye West, everyday I am surrounded by tight jeans and DayGlo sneakers. My delicate eyes are bombarded with pictures from Complex magazine in real life. Come on now, his influence is so embedded in Hip-Hop that they have sites dedicated to dressing like Kanye West (oh lord, why?). I don't know about anybody else, but I can't wait until the new thing comes and outshines Hipster rap. I'm starting to hate thinking that I'm in Juice whenever I'm riding the train, looking behind my back at the kid with the Bishop hair cut (get a Caesar, nigga).
Remember the world is Diggie. Even the "Ladybug" told you this was a Diggie-ble Planet. I'm cool like that!
Editors Note : Before any smart ass says it, let me clear it up. Andre 3000 is not responsible for Hipster rap! Even though he was rhyming about alternative subject matter and dressing as crazy as he could, people didn't call him groundbreaking, they called him weird. Not until Kanye West came and did the same thing that Andre had already been doing, did it become innovative and forward thinking. It is funny, however, that years after Andre lived as an outcast (get it), he is now getting the recognition that he deserves.