I love rap music. To me, its my generation’s cultural revolution. Sure, the baby-boomer hippies turned yuppies of the 1960s had their cultural revolution; a period of artistic creativity and social progression that to this day is unmatched. But the “urban hip-hop movement” of the 1990s has come closer than any other pop culture movement since. It’s the classic tale of African-American music and culture infiltrating suburbia. Both movements produced music, art, and fashion that pushed the boundaries, made statements, and above all else, really pissed off your parents.
I have recently developed a theory that closely links the progression of the rap movement to that of rock and roll. Both genres have progressed on a similar timeline in which each new decade brings a new era. With rock starting in the 1950s, and rap in the 1980s, the two musical genres have a 30 year gap, but share a very similar history. Let me explain…
1950s Rock/1980s Rap
Buddy Holly and The Crickets / RUN DMC Trading in the bow-ties for gold ropes (keep the glasses)
During these decades, both genres were in their infancy. A basic beat and a simple melody were all that was needed to make a hit. Lyrical content consisted mainly of describing different dance moves, and expressing how each particular artist could rock/rap better than the rest. That, and of course sex.
Elvis Presley / LL Cool J The first sex symbols
Attire was simple. Suits (formal/sweat) were the staple, and hair was slicked back/flat topped. Both genres began to catch on quick, and by the end of each decade, both were on the verge of a cultural explosion.
1960s Rock/1990s Rap
John, Paul, George, Ringo / Dre, Snoop, Pac, Shug Everything else is an imitation
In the 1960s/1990s, each movement became a full-blown pop culture sensation. It was during this time that each genre truly came into its own; creating new, exciting subcultures to be embraced by youth, yearning to distinguish themselves from pervious generations. Musical and artistic possibilities were explored, boundaries were broken, and legends were made.
Jimi Hendrix / Notorious B.I.G. Undeniable music, untouchable legacies
Each year of the 1960s/1990s brought new artistic style, and with it the attention of the media. Stars were made out of the most unlikely of characters. Individuals once deemed socially subversive became idolized. Their every word, movement, and fashion choice were closely scrutinized, then mimicked. Music created during these two decades would come to be regarded as masterpieces; the pinnacle of artistic achievement for both genres.
The Velvet Underground / The Wu Tang Clan Infamous crews that ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit
As the decades of the 1960s/1990s came to a close, a series of tragic events symbolized the end of each era. Success, money, fame, drugs, and violence lead to the destruction of some of the most influential figures of each genre. By this time, it was clear that there was serious money to be made. This attitude, coupled with the death and destruction, took away from the free-spirited innocence each movement shared during the beginning of the 1960s/1990s, drastically shaping the future.
1970s Rock/2000s Rap
Robert Plant / Jay Z The definition of a rock/rap God
After the cultural renaissance of the previous decades, the 1970s/2000s picked up on the commerical success each genre had achieved. This is not to say there was a lack of musical substance. During the early parts of each decade, artists continued to explore sounds and experiment with composition, striving to create epic masterpieces of the highest production value. Everything was bigger and better than the previous decades. Sold-out stadium tours, private planes, and multi-million dollar mansions become the symbols of musical success.
Elton John / Kanye West Vocalists, composers, silly glasses wearers
With artists striving to become larger than life in the earlier part of the 1970s/2000s, a plateaued was reached and the music began to stagnate. This, coupled with economic decline at the end of each decade, left record companies scrambling to keep business going. Artists were manufactured by producers and record executives with low artistic substance and production value in an effort to maintain profit. This led to the one-hit-wonder dance music eras of disco and club rap.
Johnny Rotten / Lil Wayne Covered in bling (safety pins are the original bling, fool)
As a reaction to the manufactured music, underground artists began creating raw forms of rock and rap, designed to attack the system on the verge of destroying both genres. Punk rock and southern gangster rap emerged as the voice of the people, creating a new subculture in the attempts to keep the integrity of the music alive.
This brings us to the present day. What are my predictions for the future of rap? Well, according to my theory, mainstream rap will continue down its current path of over-synthesized vocals, much like the new-wave movement of the early 1980s. At the same time, I predict a resurgence of the rap group. Look for groups to come out with a sound that is loud, yet manufactured, with messages of excess and debauchery. Raps version of the 1980s hair metal scene is on the horizon. While this may be frightening news, rest assured that rap will make a triumphant, albeit brief, return to its roots. This striped down, raw sound will be similar to the grunge movement of the early 1990s. Personally, I’m can’t wait to see who will emerge as the Kurt Cobain of rap.