Did The Radio Kill Hip Hop?

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By TyLisa Johnson

“And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman. I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?” These are lyrics from “Keep Ya Head Up” by Tupac, a lyricist that some will label as one of hip hop’s greatest. He’s one of the many great hip hop artists who surfaced during the 80s and 90s when hip hop began to go mainstream.

The radio airwaves were filled with the smooth rhymes from groups like A Tribe Called Quest; Slick Rick, who told the greatest stories; Lauryn Hill, with her beautiful harmonies; and Notorious BIG, with his rough edged, but meaningful street chronicles. It was a time when people were using hip hop as an outlet to tell stories, and expose topics and subject matter that was often ignored. However, over time hip hop began to change from a raw art form to a commercial industry.

So with the commercialization of hip hop, has the art form died or evolved? I posed this question to some of my friends and one of them replies (in the words of Nas) “Hip-hop is dead!” When asked why he felt this way, he stated, “because it’s so commercial now, I can't turn on the radio anymore... I feel like every hip hop artist played on the radio is so commercial. For example the transition of Wiz Khalifa from Kush&OJ to Rolling Papers.”

When the current state of hip hop is discussed, there are just as many opinions on the topic, as there are hip hop artists. If someone were to ask me about this topic, I would just say it all depends who you listen to. I have lost all faith in the radio. The radio stations are paid to play commercial songs, that are pop-like and all sound the same. In my opinion the radio is dead. There are plenty of creative and innovative lyricists out there who don’t receive the heavy radio rotation. Hip hop artists like J. Cole and Wale, spit lyrics that are like poetry, and they always have deeper meanings that make you think. Like this: “Just another product of the Matrix, this maze I'm in amazes me at times. I just wanted to be at peace with you, and if I gotta settle for a piece of you then I gotta say Peace to you. With all due respect, I do respect you enough to expect, effort is all I ask.” That's an excerpt from the song The War by Wale. When Wale raps they aren't the basic things you hear on the radio. However, the radio doesn't play Wale as much as other artists, which makes him an underground artist.

When I asked another friend the question “is hip-hop dead or evolving?” He replied, “It isn’t dead. It's hard to explain why there isn’t more variety on the radio, but there are many artists who are talented lyrically and their music actually has meaning,” Some other friends made comments such as, “I definitely think the era of amazing hip hop has passed,” and “Hip hop is not dead, just heard different through different ears.”

I guess the point I'm just trying to make here is, you can't base this generation's music off of the radio, because I, and most of my friends, believe the radio is dead. They don't give honor where honor is due. There are plenty of artists out there putting time and effort into the music they create, not just using their songs as get-rich quick schemes. I feel as though we are about to enter a new amazing era of hip hop, so stay tuned!

TyLisa Johnson is a student in the Born For Greatness Youth Writers class. For more information, visit www.BFG-youth.com.

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