After 26 years of dominance, Rock music has been dethroned. Despite drafting some of the most eccentric, talented musicians and holding some of the biggest music festivals of all time, Rock has been demoted to silver. Behold the era of Hip-Hop. This may be a scary notion to some of us, but before you hit the panic button, let’s take a look at how it happened.
Fans just don’t get up and leave. You need to be exposed and tempted. The first half, exposure, I credit to cross over and collaboration. There are whole libraries filled with the tales of Hip-Hops birth in New York during the 1970s, and you can fill another with the triumphs and history of the forefathers of Hip-Hop. I would never take away from the early MCs that got the parties bumping, but I am going to start my venture with Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. March 1986 the two teamed up and broke down barriers of culture and color. With Walk This Way being the steak in the heart of exposure, Beastie Boy’s License To Ill was the hammer that drove it in. License To Ill’s rock feel engulfed Middle America into Hip-Hop. A whole generation outside of New York was now exposed to what would evolve into a culture, but not with out an all out war on Hip-Hop stalling it for what seemed like for ever. But then, between 1999-2000 Hip-Hop broke society’s chains and put the gas peddle through the floor. The debut of My Name Is took what the Beastie Boy’s did and multiplied it ten fold. Eminem’s contributions will continue to effect popular culture until the sun explodes, it will even outlast the Trump Jim Kong nuclear war, but the most important factor is he made it completely uncool to not listen to Hip-Hop. It was truly uncool to not like rap, and being as powerful as it is, peer pressure put Hip-Hop at the fore-front of American Culture. One year later, Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was released. The perfectly balanced hybrid of rock, rap, and metal won over any rock fan that wasn’t already over on the side of Hip-Hop. If you’re asking me, which by clicking on this article you kinda are, the collaboration of Collision Course was the nail in rocks coffin. While still exposing some Hip-Hop fans to desirable rock music, the sway for Rock fans to move adopt Hip-Hop was over whelming. It may have taken 13 years after it’s release for Hip-Hop to take the title, Jay-Z and Linkin Park was the point of no return.
Now the temptation of Hip-Hop goes hand and hand with the concept of being a great MC. Everyone wants to be the man. A lot of people have an issue with the materialism and misogyny within Hip-Hop, but the true mark of and MC is being able to take a party or crowd to the next level. Some one like Alice Cooper, the master of shock, looks almost PG compared to a group of guys from LA who have to be briefed by a whole police department before shows. You take Metallica’s ability to sell out every arena across the world, and dwarf it by Kendrick Lamar doing it and having the entire building rapping every word of every song. The power of the MC is greater than that of the rockstar. Look at Kiss who has put their name on every thing they could sell, to include air guitar strings. Now, because of this, the general opinion is that they are sell outs. But on the flip side, if you look at 50 Cent, who has sold everything from jeans to flavored water with his name on it, he comes across as a genius. The reason 50 Cent doesn’t come across as a sell out, is because part of being an MC is to sell yourself, or your persona. Not only in a way to push yourself as a staple of all parts of culture to create clout, most notably fashion and movies, but to actually sell what your saying. As an MC you have to sell that you’re the best on the mic, you get the most women, you have the most money or what ever you are portraying. It is a fundamental difference that gives rock a disadvantage in the race for most popular genre. The easiest way to explain this is to compare the two highest levels of fame in the genres, Superstar and Mogul. Dave Grohl, in my opinion, is THE Superstar in rock. From Nirvana to playing the devil in Tenacious-D, everything he has done has hit the moon. On the opposite hand you have THE Hip-Hop Mogul, Jay-Z. He has had almost a parallel entertainment career as Dave Grohl. Now here is the edge of the MC. If Jay-Z wants to come out and say “this rapper is trash, don’t download a song, follower on twitter don’t do anything with them.” then we listen. As a staple of Hip-Hop he has a certain authority that we respect. On the flip side if Dave Grohl came out with anything along those lines, people would be crushed and confused. On the surface, he carries more admiration than authority. We want him to be our hero and expect him not to bear anything down on us. Also, if you see Jay-Z drinking a bottle of his liquor it just comes across as cool or sell-made, but if you saw Dave Grohl wearing a Foo Fighters shirt it would just be odd. The ability to project what ever image you want, to sell yourself in a positive way, give the MC the oh so tempting ability of being the man. A MC has free range to do as they please as long as the accolades are there. The Rockstar is bound by his/her band and rock culture.
My quick final take is this. Hip-Hop is so accessible, to both the audience and the artist. Between mixtape sites such as DatPiff and Soundcloud, along with endless other online means, there is essentially unlimited free music. The key advantage of free mixtapes is the ability to sample anything you want for your beats, giving you the ability to cross over and tap into any genre or aspect of pop culture. For the artist, all you need is a MacBook and some Wifi. The ability to do a whole mixtape on garage band and instantly release it out on the web puts the artist in the drivers seat. You don’t need a friend who plays the drums, you don’t need rehearsal space. This is a very underplayed, even in this article, factor that helped Hip-Hop finally over come rock in the recent years.
Embrace debate. There was a lot that was left out for only the reason of sheer mass. What ever you think is missing, go ahead and leave it in the comments below.
I Got You,
Sean “Michael Cutter” Thompson
and of course Wikipedia.