Notes on the Contemporary Hip-Hop Landscape: Image Vs. Art

Roger Porter

May 16, 2011


I can’t tell you how bad I wanted to hate on Drake when he first burst onto the music scene. The more I learned about his background the more I wanted to dismiss every notion of him being the next big thing in hip-hop. After all he is a Canadian-Jew that got his start on a Nickelodeon drama. Not that I have anything against Jewish-Canadian teen actors but it is a long way from Ghetto-America where all of my favorite rappers just so happened to be raised. Which brings up the most significant reason why I wanted so desperately for Drake to flop and that is, quite simply, because he grew up privileged.

I said to myself there is no way this dude should ever be taken seriously as a rapper. I figured that his outside of the hood experience would prevent him from writing any noteworthy lyrics, boy was I wrong—Wow! So I definitely can’t take anything away from him now. He’ proven his worth, the kid is certified Ill and he seems to be getting better with each guest appearance. It’s kind of wild when you think about it but the lyrical prowess of somebody like Drake reminds us that below the hyper-masculine/superthugginit surface hip-hop is still an art form, and Drizzy-Drake is a trained artist.

Somewhere on the hip-hop timeline people began to believe that being incarcerated and shot multiple times transformed an average unlucky street thug into an outstanding rapper. Somewhere along the way the consumer became more concerned with street credibility than with one’s dedication to his or her craft. In essence the packaging became more important than the product.

The reality is that Young Jeezy is not a dope rapper because he has been incarcerated but because he spends hour after hour trying to master his craft. Lil Wayne is not at the top of the food chain because he accidentally shot himself or because he is from the Holly-Grove section of New Orleans but because he studied the great rappers of the past and tries to emulate them. Finally Jay-Z being widely regarded as one of the best to ever do it has a lot less to do with the fact that he used to sell crack than it does that he reads books and stays informed.

Now I’m hoping that the emergence of Drake puts the emphasis back on the music as opposed to the hype. I would love to see hip-hop get to the point where the artistry is placed before the image.

One thought on “Notes on the Contemporary Hip-Hop Landscape: Image Vs. Art

  1. Yes… Well stated and all truth. Keep ’em coming.

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