1. Beat This! Competition

Stop Following and Start Leading: Let's Take Hip Hop Back

  1. Fade

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    hopsin3.jpg

    The music business is a funny thing; it can make or break careers and it can also influence a whole generation of music lovers. It can also influence the people that make the music, such as beatmakers, producers, rappers, singers, etc.

    With the powerful influence that the industry possesses, it has transformed how we perceive music nowadays. It seems that the days of musical acts creating music because of passion has been replaced with necessity and wanting to be relevant amongst their peers. I recently saw an article titled "A DJ made a crazy mashup of 50 of the year's most popular songs", and I thought "why?"

    And this is exactly why I have a major problem with how the music today has become a very stale and uninspiring mess that I can only throw my hands up at.

    This is how bad the music is today.


    All The Music Sounds The Same

    Don't believe me? Take a listen to the top ten songs on the music charts (do they still have those?) and tell me that they all sound different. No, they don't. Why do I say that? Okay, let's get into specifics:

    There are different styles of Rap music, instead of it just being "music".

    Rap music used to be just that - "Rap". There were different styles but they weren't necessarily labeled like they are today. There was no "Boom Bap", nor was there any "Trap". A beat was just a beat, although they did have the whole East-West-South thing going on. By labelling a beat or a song under a certain banner, you're isolating that artist into a category, when in fact they should be measured by how good the song is. Is the song dope or not? That should be the only question.

    Rappers' flows all sound alike, the lyrics are all the same, the beats have the same patterns, same styles, and same sounds.

    No matter what style the beat is, there's also the question of why do all the beats sound the same? The patterns and sounds all seem so common and boring, like as if there's no life to them. This applies to all forms of Hip Hop beats, but what got me thinking was the Trap style beats. Now don't get me wrong - there are many really good Trap beats but there are also a lot that are just boring, and this also applies to any other form of Rap music. Even in the 90's, there was plenty of terrible music because as the whole 90's style grew in popularity, many artists started to sound the same. Sound familiar?

    The mixing and mastering is all very "hot" and loud.

    When mixing a beat or a full song, for some reason we've all been playing the loudness game for years now and it has to stop. Everyone knows the story; the music industry started mixing and mastering extremely loud, to the point where the mix is so in the red that it's borderline distortion, but they avoid that with tons of compression. The result? A heavily compressed sound that is very hard on the ears. Why do that?



    I Really Don't Know What To Do Anymore

    The main reason why I decided to write this article is because of my WaveFormz radio show. If you're not aware, I receive hundreds of submissions from artists, beatmakers, and promoters that want me to play their songs on my next show. I have been doing this for years now, and this past year it has really picked up.

    But there's one problem - many of the submissions are garbage.

    I hate to say it, but there is a lot of really bad music out there. Now, this isn't a Boom Bap versus Trap situation at all. In fact, I have probably played more Trap-style songs on my show than anything else, but as I went through the last batch of submissions, I noticed that these songs are just, well, boring.

    Out of 143 submissions, I kept maybe two dozen, if that. Yes, I'm being very critical of what I play on WaveFormz now, but that's because I want the show to be dope each week, and not just full of songs that are below average. When I'm recording the show, I try to mix each song into the next if possible, but with some styles of music, it's very hard to do and almost impossible. And forget about me doing doubles on some of these songs. Not happening.

    As I was listening to these submissions, I also noticed the vocal delivery and quality of lyrics, and there's just nothing there. A lot of the vocals either have lyrics that are just plain boring like rapping about a girl shaking her ass, "make it shake, make it shake" (I'm not kidding), or about all the weed and money they're throwing in the air. Hopsin's "No Words" video sums up perfectly what's going on:



    But it's not just the lyrics, it's also the delivery and style. In the 90's when DMX was blowing up, there were plenty of rappers that started to come out with a rough voice. Then in the 2000's when Jay-Z was dominating, the same thing happened. Now it's at the point where a lot of these rappers sound the same, with the delayed delivery and noticeable breathing throughout their verse.

    When Wu-Tang's first album dropped, why was it so popular? Because it was a sound that no one had ever heard before, and all of the members had a unique look, sound, and personality. In other words, they were different than the rest and did their own thing. If you continue to do the same thing as everyone else, how can you set yourself apart?

    The Music Industry Influence Is Insane

    So with everything I just mentioned, why do you think it's like that? Because of influence. If a beatmaker were to isolate themselves for an entire year in a cabin with no internet, what would happen to their beats? I don't know how they would sound, but I guarantee those beats would have a unique style that the beatmaker created. The same applies to a rapper writing and spitting lyrics.

    But with influence coming from all directions today, from the internet specifically, it's no wonder everything sounds the same.

    It's true that influence can be a good thing, like if an artist wants to be inspired, but it's what you do with it that will determine what your music will sound like. I had mentioned this in a recent article about creating your own style and not letting anything influence you. It's great if you get inspired from a song you like, but you have to still do your own thing.

    With that being said, I don't know where Rap music is headed. It seems that we're so far off course that it's almost impossible to come back. The music industry is all about money, sales, marketing, promotion, and so much more that I really can't say what's going to happen.

    All I do know is that Hip Hop is in serious need of fixing, and it all starts with the artist and music fans in general. Whether you're a beatmaker, rapper, producer, manager, or anything in between, it's time to change the game.

    In Closing

    What do you think? Leave your comments below, but let's also figure out what really needs to be done in order to change the sound of Hip Hop.

    Further Reading
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2015
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  3. Spuntastic

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    This is the reason I'm not listening to radio, watch music-tv or stay up-to-date with 'popular music' in general.
    There will always be "musicians" who are nothing but marionettes for managers (A&Rs). That's business and I can live with that. I mean noone forces me to listen to their shit. Trends and Hypes are the worst to me because a lot of musicians just adapt to the new styles instead of "keeping it real". Most popular example: Eminem. On the Marshall Mathers LP he had flow, unique content, dope beats and was really really funny ("Criminal" still makes me smile). Nowadays he has no flow, incredibly stupid lyrics, no humour at all and the beats are just shit. He's doing everything now he would've made fun of back then, like collaborating with Rhianna...

    I'd go a bit further and say the industry is JUST about money, sales, marketing... And I don't want to point with my finger but I see this attitude almost everywhere, even here. All over Soundcloud people are desperately trying to sell their beats. That's why they do what's hot nowadays and that's also why they are tagging the shit out of their music. There's nothing more annoying to me than listening to a beat and then hear a femal voice saying "THIS BEAT WAS MADE BY ...." ten times louder than the beat itself, 5 times all over the beat.

    I think music should be totally free. I love the idea of creative commons and that's the licence I release my stuff with. Money corrupts everything, that's why I think only after one is looking at his music without the business aspect, it can be truely creative.

    By the way, you can't watch the Hopsin video here in Germany because of copyrights n shit.....
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  4. Bugsy

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    I think the reason why everything sounds the same is because of TECHNOLOGY. I dont think its about the money, because money was always a part of the music industry. Its just really up to the artist if he wants the money to be controlling his music. Technology is the reason why everything sounds the same,Every year a new piece is introduced to us to make it easier, So every year, the road that supposedly teaches us how to hone talent, hardwork, dedication and most importantly atristry (not to mention ear training) is cut into a shorter period of time as careers progress. And in turn, we judge music by math and not by ears, we look at music instead of hearing it and every generation in our industry that comes and goes contributes to those short cuts being presented all because we want everything to be easier. My point is that our ideas as artists? has to be cooked, sizzling hot in our brain, simmered down, reheated, let it spoil only to be cooked again with spices before being put into a plate to be served.
     
  5. SoberMindedMuzk

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    Great article brother.. and good comments from everyone....now let's work on some solutions.
     
  6. SoberMindedMuzk

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    Agree mostly with u on Em...not to the point that I think he's whack...but still. Em used to have a different style of rhyming on every track of his albums, and (which I think was an underrated weapon) most of the songs on his albums had different subject matter. IMO for the last 4-6 years, Crooked I and Royce have been way better than him.
     
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  7. Fade

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    Great replies!

    @Spuntastic I agree about Eminem and many like him in that they just do what's trendy, and it's a shame. If you listen to Em's FIRST album way back "Infinite", you'll see how different he's become. It's not even the same person really.

    As for the music industry, well that's a big thing to tackle because there are so many things that are broken. Like you said, everyone is trying to sell beats now and it's ridiculous because it's all the same and now they're all trying to SELL the same! I mean c'mon. Does anyone know how to do anything original nowadays?

    @Bugsy That's very true with technology. One one hand you have something like Maschine or Renaissance that make it so easy to put together a beat, but it's also taking skill away (to a certain extent). I'm not saying they're making easy to make beats, but it sure is making it much simpler for everyone. But if you look back years ago, producers used a lot of the same gear too but it was much more creative at the time, totally different than today.
     
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  8. sYgMa

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    Amazing article... Loved it. Will probably post it online too... LOL

    As for what I think... Money and technology are the 2 main problems to me. Back in the days, when a beat came out, or anything came out, there was anticipation. You had to wait for DJs or radio shows to hear it. There were singles being sold in stores. The tracks had to be hot enough for a radio host or DJ to want to play it. Nowadays, if you made a hot track, you have Facebook, Youtube, Soundcloud, etc... You don't really need any delay and there is no filter between the artists and the consumers. Normally, that would be a good thing, but, unfortunately, because most people want to be successful as fast as possible, they tend to take the easy way out and just copy what's hot.

    The fact that we have also alot of means to produce music easily is also part of the issue. I think most of us started in production either by trying to copy a certain style of music before actually trying something totally new. But we also knew that, even if some of those tracks were hot, they were copies. Because we didn't want to be "biters"... that term was one of THE WORST insult for anyone in the music business, in my opinion... not anymore.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
  9. Fade

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    @sYgMa I told agree with you. I remember when I would hear a song for the first time from a 4th generation shitty cassette copy of a mixtape from S&S that someone I knew, knew someone that went to NY for a weekend and picked it up! So when I heard certain songs for the first time I didn't even know who it was really, I'd have to go to the store and try to find it. It sucked, but it also made you appreciate it a lot more.

    The times I would pick up some records and I couldn't wait to get home and listen to them - those are the days I miss. It's just not the same, like you said. Granted, with technology things are much easier which is a good thing because it's so easy to access, but the downside is that it's also too easy to dismiss a song quickly. This is why today everyone scans through articles, songs, the news, etc. The attention span is gone until the next hyped up interesting thing comes along.... and gets dismissed quickly as well.
     
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  10. sYgMa

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    Precisely my point... And I'm guessing that since the style stays in fashion for a while, and the songs die quickly, people get into that bandwagon real quick to get some piece of the action. Makes sense, but what a shame, music wise.
     
  11. MANFREDT

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    its hard though for a beatmaker, pretty much all rappers want the same brainless beats, they lost the feel for jazz blues and soul
    its hollow
     
  12. Fade

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    Right on point. I was just thinking about this yesterday and how most (not all) rappers today want the latest, trending style of beats. I understand their thinking, but it shouldn't be about that at all.
     
  13. MANFREDT

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    indeed, its like they are afraid to make something new, like ohh no thats not like all the other music, must be bad
     
  14. Ayron Thelen

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    100% agree something has 2 change. Not just the music, but the people listening 2 it & supporting it. If the fans change what they want to hear then the art will reflect that n there will be better music.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016
  15. MaseedProd

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    The loudness war will not soon be won until hi-fidelity sound systems are affordable to all. That and until technology can start transmitting larger amounts of data just as fast if not, faster than it does now. The subtle nuances that us audio engineers and audiophiles can hear in a mix is simply something that is unrecognizable by most consumers.
     
  16. tieb

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  17. NONONSENSEBEATS

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    This is very tru. Which sux cause the majority of my beats r very much jazz, blues and soul influenced. I just have the hardest time makin whats poppin at the moment ie: trap beats, because thats just not what I have n my head. When I make that type of beat 90% of the time its to please the customer (Which IS very important as well). We are just missing them different styles nowadays. Rappers just lost that amazing art to flowing. Everybody wants to sound the same because they see everyone else gettin paid from it. It really stifles us producers creativity.
     
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  18. NONONSENSEBEATS

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    I hear u bro
     
  19. Charlie

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    Good post. It's got so bad that I'm actually surprised when I do hear a song i like.

    If we could guess what the future of hip hop would sound like tomorrow, we would make it today. One of the top songs 500 years ago was Josquin des Prez’s – Missa de Beata Virgine. 100 years ago ? Billy Murray’s In My Merry Oldsmobile. 50 years ago ? Petula Clark’s Downtown. The biggest selling single of 2015 ? The hip-hop and soul inspired Bruno Mars And Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk. That’s 500 years worth of music.

    In the future creating hardware will be less tasking than it is now. Euro track modules will be even more sophisticated in years to come. Even in 2015 you can obtain a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) without spending too much money. Alongside the purchasing of an audio interface and a controller, which does not have to be first hand and you are on your way. Depending on your view point this could be a good or a bad thing.

    It could well be a bit like buying porn, were the amateurs in the main don’t cut it, and the quality stuff is left down to the professionals. That could well be the case if the increasing number of amateur music makers increase. Maybe even the use of playing instruments will also be obsolete and everything will just be sampled ?

    Maybe in 50 to 100 year’s time hip hop music creation will be partly generated via thoughts ? The thought and feelings that is located in the brain with the ability to work with a DAW or a beats machine via your mind. This could be possible in the future. Will computers overtake brain power? Maybe. but I do think the virtual instrument and human mind will be close somewhat and work in tandem in years to come.

    Rappers generally speaking don’t have a long career. This will not change in the future. Hip hop in comparison to other musical forms is still relatively new in form, starting with Kool Herc back in the early 70’s. So what will hip hop look like 40 years from now in 2056 ?

    Well, originally hip hop started off as an independent art but has long since been grabbed by the majors. I see rappers challenging the stranglehold the majors (Universal, Sony and Warner) have and rappers and artists getting into distributions. As big as Kayne, Jay Z, 50 cent and Drake are they don’t control the distributions of their music.

    I think structurally and scientifically music will be more understood in future years. Hip-Hop tracks could respond to neurological stimuli within the brain and then be created for the mood you are in. In the future brain function will be better understood through raw computer power, such that technology will be able to locate how music influences a person emotions.

    So instead of hip hop as an art form. Hip-hop will lie less in its creativity but more as method of science.

    Hip hop will be more complex combining itself with electronic digital music. Having said that people’s desire to have physical copies of their music will not go away. Even with the growth of MP3’s and the growth of streaming services like Lala which allow uses to download all their music libraries on their mobile phones.

    This underestimates the human desire for physical things. Humans desire to store physical things. The CD and vinyl will not totally collapse in 50 years. Human beings listen to music from centuries ago. The same way human beings look at paintings from centuries ago.

    Hip hop music is at its peak. In the future of hip hop shows will still be made and will be the major source of income. This is why you have hip hop artists who have not released music in years, like Big Daddy Kane. Artists live via there live performance. Tours will be even more important as it will be one of the main ways an artist can earn. Jay Z can gross close to 100 million for a tour. Tours and live music will never go out of fashion.

    Future hip hop artists are going have to starting grinding and working hard. Popping up for an interview when a single or album is being promoted will not be enough. There will be a reducing in the power of hip hop websites. They will exist but it won’t just be a “Let’s checkout world star” it will be more discovery based via smaller blogs and websites.

    Hip hop stars in the future will also be more available, more open to their fans. Twitter will not be enough for artists in the future. Artists in the future will have to let fans into their entire lives. All that Michael Jackson, mystique and mystery stuff won’t ride in 2056. Or the rarely give interviews like Beyoncé will not be tolerated.

    Finally one thing that will always remain the same is that the length of a song won’t change. But maybe hip hop music will go the way of the dinosaur and be extinct in 50 years’ time? The industrial revolution gave way to the making of modern instruments and production because of the amount of fossil fuels, but they will be obsolete in the future. Will there have to renewable energy resources for hip hop to continue?

    .
     
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  20. WolfgangMercury

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    what u r saying is correct i also think MP3 killed music too. Being shit is compressed to 1 file it destroys the sound. I found this out trying to mix MP3 files. It drives me nuts i fukking hate MP3
     
  21. arta

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    Thing is, I remember reading these arguments on soundclick back in 2003-2004, but we didn't know back then how bad things would get with trap music derivatives and mumble rappers.
    It's like me back then worrying about George W Bush back in the day, not knowing soon he'd be eclipsed by Trump...

    And these days everyone's complaining about the loudness wars, even film composers complain about the "trailer sound" that movie studios want throughout the entire soundtrack.