When living life, we are constantly looking back at our past. Whether it’s childhood memories at the beach, high school shenanigans you participated in, or the first time you rode a bike, that sense of nostalgia you get is second to none. The same goes for music. Our parents tell us that the late 60s to the late 70s released the greatest music to ever exist. I’m not arguing this point, but I wasn’t living in that era so I can’t be a true judge. What I can relate to though is the rise to prominence of hip-hop music. Musicians that took the underground movement of hip-hop and brought it to a whole new level are acts like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast Nas, Jay-Z, 2Pac,The Notorious B.I.G., and many more. The common theme with them all? They all started out in a seven to eight year window in the late 80s to mid 90s. Some of these acts aren’t even performing anymore or are dead. Many fans of hip-hop would admit that hip-hop after the 90s just isn’t the same. Saying that is fine, but why do so many people say that?
A pretty normal critique of the state of hip-hop in the mid 2000s was that hip-hop was starting to lose its momentum. Nas himself even went as far as titling his 2006 album Hip-Hop Is Dead. Now I would say that was a bit extreme, but he had a point. At that point in time, rap was more radio friendly than ever and cell phones played a part in creating the genre of “ringtone rap” with rappers like Soulja Boy, Jibbs, and Plies. Granted, every genre has their one-hit wonders, but at this point in time the amount of marginal MCs were flooding the rap more than ever. These handful of years in the mid 2000s put a damper on the integrity of the genre and many wondered if it could get back to its widespread respectability it once had. With that being said, what was to come next was surely worth the wait. A new wave of rappers, groups, and collectives paved their way at the beginning of the new decade that have taken the hip-hop world by storm.
First off, there is Kendrick Lamar and his crew Black Hippy, which include rappers Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. Yes, we all know Kendrick has been given the responsibility of carrying the torch of the West Coast by The Game, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and he released the universally acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d. city, but the others have definitely held their own in terms of expanding the visibility of Black Hippy and the West Coast as a whole. Schoolboy Q’s most recent album titled Habits & Contradictions certainly should not be slept on. Ab-Soul’s new album Control System is cold blooded. Lastly there is Jay Rock, who although is the least known in Black Hippy, can’t be forgotten either with his album Follow Me Home.
Then there is Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew. Pro Era includes dozens of people, a lot of them not even rappers, just homies of the rappers in the crew. The most distinct members in Pro Era besides Joey Bada$$ are rapper/producer Chuck Strangers and the recently deceased MC Capital Steez are the most distinct. They’ve taken New York hip-hop back to the days of legends like Nas, Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang Clan with their use of soul-sampling and rhymes that make you shake your head in amazement with how layered they are. But the shining star is obviously Joey Bada$$. He released his well-executed mixtape 1999 last year and he instantly got people lining up to work with him like Pete Rock and DJ Premier. What makes him such an astounding figure is that he is only 18 and already has the approval of New York rap OGs and is the creative director for the famous clothing company Ecko. Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era should without a doubt be on your radar.
The era hip-hop is in now along with the upcoming years could end up being reflected on with great admiration as a return to the good ol’ days of the late 80s and mid 90s where hip-hop was all about beats, rhymes, and life. MCs are competing with each other left and right trying to push the genre to greater heights. There was a rough patch in the mid 2000s I will admit, but to me that era of “ringtone rap” and the cheesy songs that came out of that are actually important because it gives us greater appreciation for what we have now and will hopefully continue to have in the future. Don’t take this moment for granted because it could be gone before we notice how great the hands holding hip-hop right now are.