The Two Faces of Hip Hop

(Disclaimer: Been a while… This post was sup”post” to be posted in Feb., shortly before my computer cord broke, so take this one for what it’s worth. Better late then never eh? I’m back now. Feels good.)

 

Looking through the latest blog entries on rapradar.com, I came upon the cover for the new issue of Vibe magazine (http://rapradar.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/bruno-wiz-bob-vibe.jpg). It features three up-and-comers in the music industry. B.o.B., the Atlanta native with ferocious flow (see “Beast Mode”) and southern swagger, is playing both sides of the hip hop game with relative ease (his recent mixtape, “No Genre”, was a street hit and he will be performing at the Grammys). Pictured on the left of the cover is the soul-singing, Michael Jackson-Elvis offspring, Bruno Mars. He was featured on arguably the biggest song of B.o.B’s career, “Nothin’ On You”. Appropriately stuck in the middle is the Pittsburgh Prince, Wiz Khalifa. He is well known for peaceful prose for potheads based around the party life, as well as the Taylor Gang, his following and his movement. He is now best known for the city-repping superhit, “Black and Yellow”, which just reached #1. The bottom right corner of the mag boldy screams, The New Pop Music. Reading this title as a hip hop fan is… Interesting. Awkward. Cringe-inducing. Perplexing. But, lamentably, true. Allow me to channel the Double Rainbow guy and ask, “What does this mean?” For hip hop? Many “heads” cringe when a hip hop act approaches the threshold of the pop branding. Rightfully so, because more times than not, once you go pop you don’t go back. On one hand, the title suggests a noticeable magnetic attachment of hip hop music to pop. We have seen many rappers’ recent adventures in the mainstream, notably Drake and Nicki Minaj (the latter’s debut album, Pink Friday, has been described as overwhelmingly pop). Which brings me to the other hand: are these artists “Pop” to begin with? Vibe is known as a predominantly Hip Hop and R&B publication, so to me the insinuation is that these artists represent where pop is headed. As encouraging as this is for the artists themselves (their faces are everywhere, songs played on the radio ad nauseum), the pop label can also be deemed as something of a curse. As a pop act, will Wiz still have the Taylor Gang? Will B.o.B still flood the streets with free mixtapes? Or perhaps the purists should take a step back and take it for what it’s worth: Hip Hop is popular. Even if the Wiz Khalifa’s and the B.o.B’s are *sigh* Pop, there is still a dividing line between the hip hop world and pop realm. That line may be thinning more than Coolio’s hair, but it is there. For every Sugarhill Gang, there’s an Eric B and Rakim. For every B.o.B, there’s a Wiz Khalifa. Wait…

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