By Jeremy Binning
This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop music. The 50-year celebration is marked to commemorate the date when DJ Kool Herc, or Clive Campbell, played a breakdown portion of his records at a party in the Bronx, New York in 1973.
The genre has evolved tremendously to the point where many fans question whether today’s hip-hop could even be considered the same as when it first started. In general, music has changed over the last 50 years, and hip-hop is no exception.
An argument could be made that the genre hasn’t changed, but rather expanded. In today’s rap songs, there are a lot more melodies and singing than there used to be. From the 80s to the early 2000s, raps were focused on a solid beat with lyrics and rhymes about a topic.
During this time, hip-hop also began facing a lot of criticism, being accused as the reason the crime rates had gone up. One of the first big rap groups, N.W.A, highlighted in its biopic movie released in 2015 that it faced shows being canceled and harassment from police in venues.
Hip-hop was created as just another way of expressing one’s self. Just like with other genres of music, it gives listeners an image of what that artist is trying to paint. Today, rappers often face criticism from their predecessors who don’t like the direction the genre is heading.
“Hip-hop started out as an afterthought in music, and was made into a sort of gimmick due to the gangster rap and more bigger-than-life characters of the 90s,” said Daniel Cantwell, a broadcast journalism major. “It still is, as you can see Tyler the Creator winning best rap for an album that isn’t rap at all.”
One of the reasons hip-hop doesn’t sound the same as it used to is that rappers today have a wider range of artists they take inspiration from. Today’s top streaming artists, like Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott, didn’t create their sound from just rap music.
Rock music has been a big influence on hip-hop and has led to the creation of numerous new genres like “emo-rap” and “SoundCloud-rap”.
Rock bands like Linkin Park and Nirvana have had a huge influence on how rap music sounds today. “Overall [rap] has gone beyond what anyone thought it would and has the youth completely intrigued and is the face of music in most millennials’ soundtracks. Drake, Kanye J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and so many more have made it into a multi-cultural, multi-genre enterprise,” Cantwell said.
Playboi Carti released his debut album “Die Lit!” in 2017 and was one of the first albums that truly displayed this new sound of rap. At the time of its release, the album was loved by the younger generation and to this day is regarded as one of the best albums released by Carti.
While the world of hip-hop looks different in 2023 than it did in 1973, the quest to push the boundaries of the genre is never-ending. New creators and signed label artists have shown us that really anything is possible. As trends melt into each other and samples are pulled from classic sounds, unique bars are curated and spun into dynamic storytelling.
“The sounds that were produced on this album were just something so new that I still can’t find another album that I could compare it to, production-wise,” said hip-hop enthusiast Joshua Carter, a sophomore majoring in psychology.
Hip-hop has come a long way from the boom-bap era but the substance of what it represents hasn’t changed. Music is art, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The expressive techniques artists have used will only continue to develop into more subgenres. Artists like Jay-Z and Drake have been at the top of the game for years and their music can be an example of their longevity.