Hip hop is without doubt a beautiful scene. It’s a genre that allows for freedom of expression in ways that other genre’s simply cannot, and it’s a something we can be proud of the US for giving birth to. Unfortunately, hip hop also has a horrible downside: its formula.
Sure, it’s true that any genre, given enough time in the spotlight, is bound to become formulaic as a result of the sheer number of people hoping to find their moment in the spotlight doing the things they’ve seen and heard their idol’s doing, but hip hop, being a sample-based genre, is especially susceptible to this unpleasant inevitability, and in recent years we’ve been paying the price.
In hip hop’s early years, the fact that it was sample based was an asset. It unlocked a whole new world of musicianship and got people thinking about music in never-before-considered ways. Maybe instruments aren’t the root of all music. Maybe music is born in our brains, and instruments (especially before the advent of the sampler) are just the way we found to express that music. When sampling came around, artists overcame the need for such simple tools. Making music became about who knew enough about music to find and manipulate sounds and recordings so that they would compliment each other so perfectly, the listener actually wanted to hear them looped over and over again. For a long time, it was an incredible new art that required a great deal of talent. Notice I used the word “was.”
Hip hop is no longer smart. In the late 90’s, people started to realize that there were patterns to be found in most hip hop songs. People noticed that songs usually contain two to three samples, one on the verse, and one or two on the chorus. Unfortunately, the general public tends not to be very musically gifted, and as a result, what they didn’t notice was that these samples usually blend well together to for a cohesive structure, but since at this time computers and music making devices were becoming readily available, nothing stopped those village idiots (if you will) of music from composing their tasteless crap with bits of song leading into other, completely unrelated bits of song (See “Black Eyed Peas – The Time”).
You probably know where this is going. Over the next decade, the crap turned into worse crap, and the worse crap turned into noise that frequently struggled to even be considered music at all. So why is it so popular despite it’s obvious tastelessness? Isn’t it obvious? Because the music is being played to a crowd that’s just as musically retarded as the people making it, leaving the few people who really understand the value of music with an undeservedly tainted impression of hip hop as a whole. Many dismiss it as stale and unoriginal (understandably), and as unfortunate as it is, more often than not you’ll get a sour face over a sweet one if you mention hip hop to a fella at random.
So what’s up with the diatribe you ask? I’ll tell you. Yesterday, I got an email about a couple of musicians called Saadi & Bajah, and I can tell you that upon listening to their single called “Lights Up NYC,” my eyes went wide and the walls around me melted away as if I were looking into the future. Thinking back, I was looking into the future. It was the future of the genre. Hip hop may have gone astray, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make a comeback, and if Saadi and Bajah are at the helm of that comeback, hip hop is going to be back bigger than ever. In a good way.
Say hello to everything “Empire State of Mind” was supposed to be.
Saadi & Bajah – Lights Up NYC