Written by R. Ruiz
Hip-Hop is a culture. It is based on four key elements; the beat, the words, the art, and the fashion. It is a symphony of creative mediums working simultaneously to saturate the senses with perspective and passion. “Hip-Hop isn’t just music, it is the spiritual movement of the Blacks.” To trivialize it as just another genre of songs is to blatantly disregard an entire generation, if not several generations of people of color struggling with poverty and representation. It is the literal manifestation of the first amendment for Black America. Hip-Hop has endured public scrutiny. It has spread and evolved, offering itself up for various interpretations over the years. It continues to change and grow just as the needs and wants of the public do. The most recent adaptation of this art form, however, threatens the legitimacy and ideals on which it was originally founded.
Artists like Future and Lil Yachty are just two waves in this tsunami of musical artists known as “Mumble Rappers”. Mumble rap is self-explanatory. It focuses on the typical Hip-Hop beat, heavy bass, great for dancing… and that’s pretty much it. Individual’s record themselves mumbling inaudibly on beat with the song usually intertwining one liner’s with a poorly written chorus. Listeners don’t pay attention to the lyrics, because there really aren’t any. And therein lies the problem. Mumble rap eliminates one of the integral elements of Hip Hop culture, the words. The message. The needs and wants of the people during these increasingly tumultuous times.
For those who may not already know, Hip-Hop culture began during the late 1970’s in The Bronx. New York at the time was rife with corruption and the phenomenon soon to become known as gentrification had already begun dismantling the city. Block parties like the ones most notably held by “Kool” Herc served as safe havens for former gangsters and graffiti “vandals” to congregate without consequence, whether it be from the cops or the crackheads. Instead of bullets, the room was filled with a barrage of lyrical shots. It was vital that an MC had his arsenal of synonyms fully stocked otherwise you were sure to be another victim of verbal assault.
As Hip-Hop has spread across this country it has embraced different regional qualities, maturing in sound, shifting from simple break beats to new technology. The emergence of “story tellers” as rappers ushered in the Golden Age of Hip-Hop giving us a pantheon of political rap Gods like Public Enemy and NWA, artists focused on highlighting the racist and often times violent conditions that have plagued poor communities of color since the Civil War. For the first time since Jacob Riis’s iconic photos of New York’s slums, “…an underground art form has become a vehicle to expose a lot of critical issues that are not usually discussed in American politics.”
In 2016, Hip-Hop continues to be astoundingly proliferate. It has enraptured nations worldwide from Haiti to China, Brazil to Japan. Hip-Hop has transcended its American origins to become rooted in one of the basic fundamentals of humanity. The unquestionable and inalienable right… to hope. Mumble Rap does not align with this message because it has no message. To take away the words of Hip-Hop, to take away this decades long mission is to kill its spirit and ultimately the spirit of Black America.