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Food For Thought: What is “Real Hip-Hop”?

     What is Real Hip-Hop? Before we delve into the internet underworld of Hip-Hop which consists of, but isn’t limited to Hip-Hop purists, Boom-Bap lovers, and the proverbial “REAL HIP HOP” yapper that’d you find in the nearest Grandmaster Flash Youtube comment section slamming Lil Wayne, I beg you to stop for a minute and think to yourself, “What is REAL HIP-HOP?“.

Was “REAL HIP HOP” that golden era when 2Pac and Biggie were atop the Hip-Hop mountain? Was it when Ice Cube was “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and when Wu-Tang had busted the doors wide open with Protect Ya Neck? Or was it a simpler time where Rakim and Big Daddy Kane were the most finesse lyricists around?

Hip-Hop Legend & Icon Slick Rick pictured with mountains of jewelry circa 1988-1990
Hip-Hop Legend & Icon Slick Rick pictured with mountains of jewelry circa 1988-1990

     The term “Real Hip-Hop“, to me, is a slap in the face to Hip-Hop music and culture itself. Think about it for a second. When Hip-Hop first came to fruition, what was the sound and the target audience? The sound was disco music – the fad at the time and the audience were the people who frequented these discos and dance clubs. Hip-Hop started as dance music, but surely you would call Melle Mel and Busy Bee “Real Hip-Hop”, after all, they are the originators of it, right?

Please – think to yourself, and imagine the popular music out currently (Ed.Note: this article was written in 2012). What’s the sound? Right now, Techno Dance-Pop is the fad (similar to Disco being the fad in the 1970s). Who’s the audience? Mainstream, middle-class America is the audience which is composed of mostly Caucasian (just like it was 35 years ago).

Now humor me – what is the difference between Flo-Rida rapping about Apple Bottom Jeans in the club versus Big Bank Hank (of the Sugarhill Gang) rapping about his Lincoln Continental and his color TV (the “swag” of those days)?

Think to yourself. What did 2Pac rap about?


Yes, 2Pac was a very self-aware rapper, even conscious at times but he also has violent, womanizing lyrics laced with vulgarity.

Bitch niggas get their eyes swoll
In fly mode
I’m a homicidal outlaw
And five-o, get your lights on, fight long
Tonights gonna be a fuckin’ fight
So we might roll
My own homies say I’m heartless
But I’m a ‘G’ to this ’til the day I’m gone, that’s regardless” – 2Pac on “Heartz of Men

     Now ask yourself, what does Lil Boosie rap about? Sure Lil Boosie has violent, womanizing songs and lyrics but he also has songs where he shows to be very conscious of his surroundings. What separates one from the other? How do you stamp Lil Boosie as “NOT REAL HIP HOP” but in the same breath say 2Pac (and other rappers like him including Kool G Rap and Snoop Dogg) are “Real Hip-Hop”?  Do they not rap about, technically, the same things? Is one more “Hip-Hop” than the other? This pulls back to the point that it’s not what you rap about, it’s how you rap about it.

As a whole, the “Real Hip-Hop” term carries no weight and is a phrase used by pseudo-intelligent, so called rap “connoisseurs” in order to create nostalgia to their favorite rappers with a connotation so endearing that they cannot be slandered and their music cannot be criticized, thus leaving their legacy nothing but untouchable by all – because after a while, people will be afraid to criticize said rappers in fear of violating “REAL HIP HOP” codes.

That is more detrimental to the art and culture than anything a Lil B video has the power to do.


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