Do Lyrics Matter anymore In Hiphop
Written by Jonathan Kimble on December 16, 2017
Do Lyrics Matter anymore In The Hiphop Game
Visit any barbershop on a weekend that you were here the infamous debate, do lyrics matter anymore? Conservatively, one would argue that lyrics do matter more than the best production in the world. There many rappers, poets, and artists, yet few who can connect with the masses by pinning a classic. It wasn’t long ago when Soulja Boy released his first album by utilizing technology, and a free program called fruity loops. He released the song “Soulja Boy Tell ‘em” and made over 7 million dollars that year. With limited lyrics he transcended the traditional belief that artist needed a record contract to be successful. After producing a hit in his bedroom, he sold millions of copies and continued to produce and record his music.
Soulja Boy is just one example of a changing recording industry and is prevalent not only in hip-hop but through all genres of music. However, was this a good thing? What does this do to the entire game regarding the oversaturation of music and the lack of controls of what is released to the public? There’s no longer a gatekeeper to say that this song is not responsible. Currently, an artist can publish anything they want directly to the fans, with or without label approval. In the case of Soulja Boy this was a successful model, but you can find many failed examples on mixtapes.com of abominations that should never be released.
Why is the game so different now
The game is different because artists do not properly develop like they were on major labels. Most hip-hop and R&B artist releases music as independent artists, or they sign with independent record labels. Production plans, production schedules, marketing campaigns, and good old fashion A&R just is not there on small labels. Elite artist such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Chris Brown, benefit from being signed to major and their sales reflect the machine. However, there are a few artists such as Jay Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Wale, and Drake who can have it all. These artists can connect fans directly and have commercial success; extremely hard to accomplish in a dying craft.
Even though some artist remains relevant, they don’t necessarily find the commercial notoriety and success of their counterparts. J Cole who is relatively far from being a household name is a monster in the hip-hop game and one of the most respected emcees out there. J Cole has been endorsed by the likes of Jay Z and nearly anyone relevant but where is the commercial success? Understanding the complexities of hip-hop and the commercial transition over the last 20 years, it’s not hard to understand why frustration quickly sits for some fans. How do we get the game back to where it was?
When hip-hop was sick
Have a conversation with a hip-hop head which is 30 to 45 years old right now, and they will remind you of a time when the game was sick. Whereas, currently hip-hop leaves fans of all ages utterly frustrated with the hip-hop industry. Listen to your radio after reading this article, and you quickly hear “mumble rap,” and most likely you won’t understand a word. There’s a chance that you understand the hook, or even like the beat, however, once you realize that the topic is drugs, money, or mistreatment of women, the lack of substance will be relevant.
Reflect on the time when every song on the radio was an instant classic. Recall songs like Big Daddy Kane, “I get the Job Done,” Heavy D and The Boyz “We got our own thing,” MC light “I need a roughneck,” or the DOC with “The formula”? The instant classic, songs that you can play anytime, and they still bang. When was the last time you can purchase an album to listen to every song such as Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle? Okay depending on your age you may recall Eminem, 50 Cent “Get Rich or Die Trying, or Dr. Dre with “The Chronic 2001”. Yeah, those were unique albums with lyrics, and unfortunately, there have been very classic released in the last decade. With more artist in the game, cheaper studios, and social media, why has there not been more classic albums released?
What happened to artist connecting with their fans
Listening to the current music is hard to believe that artist are concerned with connecting with their fans. What’s even more disheartening is the fact that the record companies of major artists provide a platform to release valueless music to make a dollar. Consider in the hip-hop business, end the desire of corporations to be profitable is entirely imaginable that the concern, or social consciousness about what the release is not of the most significant interest. For example, their numerous songs that are extremely popular which focus on drugs, strip clubs, and adultery. Be careful, criticizing these obscure songs correlate to criticizing the entire hip-hop industry, the art, and freedom of speech.
The continuous release of trash is a very complicated issue that deserves a great deal of debate. Recording lackluster music has become easy to judge externally, however for struggling artists seeking success a challenging dilemma. Do they listen to the record company or do they focus on music that is true to them? An artist who has been successful typically change direction when they gain more creative freedom. Unfortunately, this is difficult to accomplish probably not conducive to sustaining longevity in the hip-hop industry.
Producers run the game, not executives
If you’re a fan of reality television chance are you have noticed who dominates the hip-hop industry. The days of the record executive controlling the artists no longer exist and that responsibility is now directly transcendent to the producer. Record producers have become more popular in the record industry. They can record a hit song on a redeye from Los Angeles to Atlanta, send it to someone online to add their vocals, and then release it on Twitter. In some cases, these type of songs is viral within days leading to massive profitability, YouTube views, and other marketing opportunities. Often, producers make more than the artist they produce.
There are reports of producers in hip-hop industry earning between $50,000 and $500,000 per song. Of course, if you work with the talented Dr. Dre you can understand why paying $500,000 for a song would make sense. However, spending this much of the budget for a for new artists could be a recipe for disaster. The producers of today have also proven to be successful on both sides of the business. Ty Dolla $ign, Timberland, R Kelly, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre have successful recording careers and produce megahits. This is yet another reason why the average record company can no longer control the producer. The ultimate power lies directly with the individual who can produce the music. Furthermore, most artists and producers will not surrender Masters, or royalties to recording companies and have found ways to maintain the bulk of their profit.
Do new artist compromise the craft
During the last five years has anything original and significant been released? Now look back ten years and view the massive list of hits that were released. Regarding talent driving uniqueness there are pillars that do exist however the ability to be different in 2018, is challenging at best for most artists. Those able to find success are often compared to the classics just because of how powerful and real the music was. Will we ever experience another masterpiece such as LL Cool J’s radio, Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle” or “The Chronic 2001”? Of course, there is hope that we experience another great album in this world of lackluster watered down integrated hip-hop.
Who’s able to have it all?
Only a select few with lyrics such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole can cross over and transcend generational gaps while finding success commercially. Kendrick Lamar, it’s probably one of the most critical emcees to blow in the last decade. Kendrick remains relevant, connects to the youth, and bridges the gap with the pioneers of hip-hop. A socially conscious lyrist with the ability to focus on community issues that matter and release music that you can ride to. Understandably his struggle to break into the industry is not as well-known as his production team. Working with someone like Dr. Dre as a new artist separates you from the pack, and leaves many wondering about your project before hearing a single track.
Another artist with lyrics that is incredibly important to this error of hip-hop is Jay Cole. He’s been referred to as the savior of hip-hop and after listening to his song “Crooked Smile” one can only understand why this statement is so accurate. J Cole has incredible lyrics and can spit like no one else in the hip-hop game, and he is the entire package. Crossover appeal to three generations of hip-hop fans, J Cole, transcends the average barbershop debate about relevance in 2018. Is J-Cole enough to save the entire Hip-hop industry from imploding? What does he bring to the game that can make the consumers of trash rap stop buying?
How does future for the industry look
Do you recall a time when BET was one of the most relevant channels in the hip-hop culture? BET afforded the average fan of hip-hop to learn the entire industry from the comfort of home. We understand the politics behind the reformat of BET, and now fans use social media outlets to experience the culture. There’s a great chance that the youth of today will never fully understand the importance of the hip-hop industry connection to society.
In the era of self-production, home studios, self-marketing, 24-hour social media engagement; how can a new artist develop? Considering the limited number of record companies signing artists, with the ability to develop them properly. Of course, the lack of mentorship, artist development, focus, and vision is extremely prevalent in most music release. DEF Jam developed artists into superstars, and now artist needs to be polished from the moment they’re signed. Of course this is going to have significant impacts on the future of the hip-hop recording industry.
Overall the Hip-hop recording industry has changed for the worse. Living in an era of nanotechnology, there is the ability to carry every great song on a cell phone. With over 200 satellite stations and 2000 internet stations, most people don’t listen to radio anymore. Many fans listen to classic songs 20 years after release, which proves the strength and longevity of good hip-hop.
Join the conversation and let us know your feelings about the current state of hip-hop. Leave us a message and let us know what you think.