I haven’t written about music in roughly a decade, and that’s because I fell out of love with rap music. But that may have all changed thanks to Netflix.
There aren’t many things that can top the honeymoon phase of a relationship. Everything you do or experience together is new and exciting, and the two of you can’t get enough of each other. That’s how I felt about rap music once upon a time.
It was a long honeymoon, but even the best of relationships will struggle at some point. When ours struggled, we had to go our separate ways for a while. I had stopped believing in the future of rap music. Time heals all wounds, and now that we’ve had some time apart, I think that I’m ready to give it another shot.
It’s crazy that it took Netflix to restore my faith in an entire genre of music. When you live overseas as I do, you don’t always get exposed to everything that’s happening back home – at least not right away. With that being said, I know that I’m late, but I recently binged Rhythm & Flow, and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Once again, I got to witness the coming of age of the next generation of rap, and this time, I wasn’t left shaking my head in disappointment. For once, I was optimistic about what’s to come. In all honesty, I was damn near giddy watching the performances on the season 1 finale. It’s been years since I’ve had that feeling, and I must say that it’s refreshing.
It prepared my mind for what was to come.
What’s Old is New
During a recent trip to New York, my ears were blessed by the sounds of a new Gangstarr track. If you saw my reaction, you would’ve sworn that I was a kid on Christmas day. I was thrilled yet simultaneously trying to wrap my head around the concept of a new single from Gangstarr.
Guru, one of the founding members, passed away some time ago, so how could there be new music? I figured that it was an old single that I’d missed. Thankfully, I was wrong. It was more so a signal of a forthcoming change.
I guess they weren’t lying when they said that everything moves in cycles. As much as we try to innovate and be different, we can’t help but to ultimately end up right back where we started in some way, shape, or form. Maybe that’s why sequels don’t often surpass the original version.
Perhaps I gave up on rap music prematurely. I thought that we as a culture were going to keep bouncing gleefully down the rabbit hole of idiocracy, so I chose to jump ship. I had no idea that all I had to do was weather the storm of ring-tone rappers and the onslaught of mumble rap.
The cream is starting to rise to the top once again, and I’m all for it.
A common complaint of old-school hip-hop heads such as myself is that there is an overall lack of respect/awareness for the roots of the culture amongst its newest entrants. I didn’t realize how misplaced my frustration was until now.
How could the new generation be knowledgeable of, or respect, their roots if no one taught them? We just expected them to know, but that’s not realistic. Rappers from the ‘90s did an amazing job of taking the game bequeathed to them by their predecessors and laying the groundwork for the commercial explosion of hip-hop that we’re seeing today. Where they faltered was in focusing primarily on teaching their successors how to get money and fame. The vast majority neglected to teach them about the importance of knowing the history of the culture.
The generation of rappers that followed took what they learned from their ‘90s predecessors and used it to proliferate on a level that I didn’t think was possible 20 years ago. They’ve had unprecedented financial success, but they haven’t acknowledged the pioneers who came before them. I’m talking about collaborations between new-school and old-school artists like OutKast did with Slick Rick on “Street Talkin’.” I’ve always loved seeing generations come on a track. Nas probably did it the best with his “Where Are They Now” remixes.
I honestly don’t know whether the blame should fall on the artists or on the labels that took control of the scene, but that isn’t the point of this article. The point is to proclaim my renewed sense of hope for the culture.
We as a culture are slowly starting to sift through the BS and give the truly talented artists their props. I never thought I’d see that day again. Rap veterans seem to have realized the error of their ways, and they’re now putting forth a concerted effort to educate this promising crop of lyricists. Through tv shows, podcasts, books, and music, the knowledge is gradually disseminating to the masses. It has truly given me hope for the future of rap music.
The Revolution Will Be Televised
Netflix has been at the forefront of this hip-hop renaissance. They’ve used their massive streaming platform to publish numerous rap-centric titles such as Rhythm & Flow, Hip-Hop Evolution, Roxanne Roxanne, and The Get Down. That’s barely scratching the surface of their hip-hop related material.
The genius aspect of Netflix’s approach is that, in addition to their original works, they also publish anything they can legally get their hands on. The result of all of that hustle is the most extensive library of hip-hop titles amongst the television streaming service giants. So as crazy as this may sound, I just want to thank the good folks over at Netflix for bringing me back into the fold.
You’ve provided me with an entertaining way to explore the roots of hip-hop culture, and for that, I’m grateful. It’s also pretty cool that you’ve found a palatable way to expose an ‘80s baby, such as myself, to the future of rap music. That’s what’s up. Keep up the good work.
A Jaded ‘80s Baby