The Evolution Of Hip-Hop Circling Back To Strange Music [Fan Feature]

May 24 2012

If you’ve been a longtime lover of rap and hip-hop, you know that the style of both genres has evolved quite significantly throughout the years. Interestingly enough, so has the fan base. One argument is that rap and hip-hop has changed to attract a different type of demographic. Another argument is that it’s become more mainstream and more acceptable for other races (white people in particular) to become a part of the movement. It’s not necessarily a secret, but not often is it brought up in everyday conversation.

Avid supporter and lover of rap music, Matt, or “OldAssNinja” according to the forums on brought up this discussion roughly a week ago. Normally it wouldn’t be something that would stick out as a possible fan feature, but Matt, who is 40-years-old and has attended more concerts than most since the age of 14, has witnessed this evolution first hand.

I remember very clearly going to see N.W.A., 2LiveCrew and MC Hammer. It seemed like there were 5,000 people there, and about 10 of them were white kids. When Strange came to Nashville for the first time this past summer, I took another OG with me to the show. I told him 1) We will be the oldest cats here (we weren’t). And 2) We might be the only white dudes here (very wrong again). I have no idea how many people the venue holds but, I’m guessing less than 500. It was packed… with white folks. There were maybe 20 brothers there.

In his forum post, Matt asks if black communities still go to hip-hop shows at all. He notes that while he found it a little odd that the black community has seemed to shy away a bit from the concert-going crowd, it made him happy to see that it is more acceptable for people of all races and ages to attend hip-hop shows. When asked what he thought a pivotal moment in the mainstream acceptability of hip-hop music was, he writes:

I can remember two specific things that changed hip hop forever, in my opinion. I think they both happened around 1986 (give or take a year) but, when RUN D.M.C. did “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith and The Beastie Boys dropped License to Ill, rap and hip hop were brought to the masses. When you saw this white rock band working with the Kings of Rock it made it seem okay for the typical white suburbanite kid to like rap. Then when the Beasties sold millions of License to Ill, it just changed it all, and I don’t think for the better in some ways.

He states that one downside to rap and hip-hop music becoming more mainstream and marketable is that record labels saw the opportunity to package it as they do with most music. Rap music became a formula instead of a creative expression, and freedom for an individual artist to convey his or her message was stifled. What got him thinking about this topic are the Ubiquitous and Godemis mix tapes, stating both of them are “so pure and almost stripped down with their beats and rhymes.” Also bringing light to another one of his favorites on Strange Music, Matt writes:

As far as Strange Music goes, the one cat that gives me the same vibe [as far as stage presence and energy], and this might surprise some fans, is Kutt Calhoun. I may be biased here because I think the dude is super talented. He has the voice, lyrics, chooses great beats, the look, he’s engaging, the total package. He is the most slept on MC that I know of. I am hoping to see a new album from him someday, and I hope it does great.

As a closing question and answer segment, I asked how he thinks hip-hop has evolved in the last few years and how it relates to Strange Music. In what could possibly be the most enlightening response ever, Matt concludes:

We endured [manufactured music] for a few years but, for the real hip-hop fan, things have come full circle. The independents have saved the art form. Strange Music is the tip of the spear in terms of giving real rap fans real rap. I have yet to regret a single dollar that I have spent on Strange Music t-shirts, music or tickets. That type of quality is nearly impossible to find in the music world. It is obvious that Strange Music is run by people that love the music first and foremost. If the music stays as the focus, all the rest falls in line.

It goes up, people!

– Callie Brown, Strange Music Blog Contributor (@idontlikethings)