The Evolution of Hip Hop: A Conclusion

Throughout the course of this class we have discussed everything from early blues, hillbilly music, rock, rock ‘n’ roll, and everything in between. We found a way to easily link all of music in its earliest forms to the hip hop and rap that we know today. Of all of the things that we learned I think some of the most interesting things we learned had to do with the art of sampling. It seems to be the one thing that I noticed in the early forms of music that still continues at large today.

Because the evolution of music circled around sampling in all of it’s forms whether it was playing pieces from produced songs live in the studio or switching the records on the table at lightning speed to get the best sound and the greatest beats. Sampling is so predominantly used today that it is rare that one hears a song on the radio on a hip hop or rap album that has not been sampled.

If I were to draw a conclusion about the evolution of music I would say that because of what I learned through class and through my own research in writing this blog that without sampling and inspiration from other musical eras that what we know as hip hop would cease to exist. Music as we ¬†know it as simply a recreation of music that has already happened and I honestly don’t think we will ever see it any other way. I think that the art of sampling has ruined all chances of genuine musical creativity. Thank you all for reading and for taking the time to learn about the evolution of Hip Hop with me. ūüôā

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Missy Elliott

Missy Elliott is arguably the most unknown yet popular female rapper of all time. She is not only well known in the United States but also Internationally after taking multiple European tours and co-headlining with superstars like Beyonce. Her career has spanned over 25 years and she has produced 6 albums of her own and been featured on other various tracks with very well known and popular artists.

Before today’s class i had never heard of Elliott, so I decided to troll around and check out her music online, and from the popular songs of hers that I have listened to, ¬†I don’t recognize a single one. Not only were none of these songs familiar, but I also thought they were all relatively awful.

After listening to her song Work It, she kind of went against everything other female artists were trying to fight against. She stooped to the level of male rappers and objectified women and talked about sex in graphic detail. It’s like shes going against all the other women trying to make a name and a statement in the industry. I think this could be why she is so under-known but It could also be because she had a huge 15 year break in the middle of her career, but hey whose to tell her what she can and can’t sing about.

The Grey Album

Jay-Z and the Beatles were on the same album and the same tracks didn’t you know? I sure didn’t know. Danger Mouse released The Grey Album in 2004. The entire album was a mashup of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the Beatles’ The White Album. This week we were assigned to listen to The Grey Album in it’s entirety. Initially I thought it was going to be some awful mashups like you see on Glee where there is some major differences between where one song stops and other starts. That’s the only type of mashup I thought there was, so this album was quite the surprise to me.

I really enjoyed listening to this album, it had such a different sound but was still so familiar sounding. It almost turns Jay-Z into somewhat of a acoustic artist giving his music an entirely different sound. I had never listened to the Black or the White Albums individually but I had heard original songs from each. I must say I think I like the songs from the Gray Album more than I like the individual songs from the two albums it came from. The tracks themselves are hard to handle and try to decipher. It flows together so seamlessly that you can’t tell that this wasn’t the original version of the song.

This album defined the “mashup”. Take a listen to a song or two from the Grey Album and then listen to what I thought a good mashup was and then let me know what you think about mashups now, because my opinion of a mashup has now changed forever for the better. This album was flawless and fantastic. Makes the mashups I thought were good look like bogus kids bop garbage.

Nicki Minaj and her entourage of alter egos

I think in this day in age everyone has heard at least one Nicki Minaj song or seen a picture of her. I was never really a fan of hers because i thought she was too weird and out there wearing her bright colors and dressing very promiscuously. However, I recently learned that the reason she did a lot of what she did was because she had alter egos that she used to portray points in her songs and events in her life. I also learned that she used the bright colors to hide her lack of confidence.

One Minaj’s¬†most famous alter egos was Harajuku Barbie, or just Barbie. It is the most famous because it was the one nicki was living when she became a pop icon. Barbie is known for speaking softly and loving everything pink. She is featured rapping in BedRock and Monster.

Recently Minaj has traded in her bright pink wig and matching pink 7 inch heels for a more natural elegant look. She stated in an interview that this was because she now felt more confident about herself and her music and was looking forward to making music as herself. I know personally looking from the outside in I’d rather listen to music that came from this…

than from this…

Girl Talk and J Dilla

We were assigned to listen to the album Donuts by J-Dilla this week and I found my self having a hard time staying focused on it. I think this was mostly because of the lack of lyrics and semi calming beats. I didn’t quite understand what Dilla was going for on the album with the names of the songs or even how they all came together. After discussing the number of samples used in the album and how this effects the originality of the piece and whether or not the lack of truly original material means that there is a lack of originality in the album. We decided as a class that just because the album is based on samples does not necessarily mean that there is a lack of originiality because the way they are used and strung together takes an extreme amount of originality to create like Dilla did.

After having this discussion we were then asked to compare Donuts to a Girl Talk album. I chose the album “All Day” that was released in 2010. These two albums I quickly learned had an identical concept of stringing samples of a bunch of different songs together to make an album, but they were also two totally different albums. “All Day” took actual lyrics from other songs most rather current (2000’s or later) many of which were easily recognizeable. It was kinda interesting to hear the lyrics you know from one song with the background from a different song that you’re also familiar with. It was kinda confusing but also really cool how Girl Talk found a way to seamlessly put together songs that already existed to make sense and flow together. The album to me was a giant collaboration of songs that had been popular during the times of early popular music but forgotten because they weren’t the most popular. I actually really like the sound and flow of this album, mostly because its totally different from anything I’ve ever heard. I feel like this would be something cool to put on in the background of a party. The album can be found below.

It was a nice change to see a mashup that contained lyrics after listening to the mindless Dounts album. In a battle between All Day and Donuts, All Day walks away with the win for sure. That’s just me.

Kayne, Lord of Hip Hop

Kayne West is quite possibly one of the most influential artists in the evolution of hip hop. This is because he broke the barriers set by the gangster era that came before him. Kayne found new ways to change the genres view, sound, and reputation. He consistently found new ways to keep the music new and fresh while also allowing it to keep its integrity. He allowed the music to not stray too far from its roots, but let it get far enough away from them for the genre to gain back some credibility and gain new listeners who had grown tired of the gangster lifestyle constantly playing on their radios. He reinvented hip hop as we know it.

One of the many ways Kayne influence hip hop was how he was one of the first to actually sing instead of rap and to talk about emotional things such as death and heartbreak while being sincere and real. He did this on his fourth album “808s and Heartbreak” which was produced in 2008. ¬†Some of the inspiration for this album came from the death of his mother in 2007, and ending his engagement to Alexis Phifer. While dealing with these losses he was trying to adjust to being famous all his own. This album was a way for him to express his loss and loneliness. On this album he used hip hop beats with autotune and sincere lyrics. This combination took hip hop to a place no one had ever seen. It broadened the appeal and set new standards to being ‘real’ within the hip hop genre. He showed the world that rappers can have feelings and there is not a need to be constantly tough because emotions make art.

“808s & Heartbreak” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 450,145 copies in its first week. By 2013, it had sold 1.7 million copies in the United States. The first song the album, “Say you will” is very obviously his response to the breakup with his fiance. This song can be seen below. This is unlike most songs in the hip hop genre because it is sung and has a show low key rhythm that does not overpower the lyrics. the emphasis is put on what he is saying which is how he feels. It is works like these that have made Kayne a king of modern day Hip Hop for showing how many different sides and shapes the genre can take.

Song Analysis: “History” by Jay-Z

“History” by Jay-Z, an African American Artist was released the day that the first African American President was elected in the United States. He later performed the song for Barack Obama and countless others at the pre-inauguration ball. The song can be found below.

The first thing I noticed when I listened to this song was how different it was rhythmically from every other Jay Z song that I had heard before. The song had a simple back beat that did not overpower the lyrics. This song really put a focus on the lyrics and the words and the message. These lyrics represent something that I don’t think I’ve ever heard come from a rap artist before. They discuss the progression away from racism in America. I drew this based on the lyric “Now that all the smoke is gone and the battle is finally won, victory is finally ours”. From this i gathered that the battle was racism and by electing a African American president the battle had ended signifying a step in the right direction away from racism.

Even though winning the battle is important for Jay Z and the rest of the black community I think another important aspect of this song is the journey it takes you through to get to the victory. Jay Z takes us all on a journey through success, struggles, and working to gain new levels which eventually ended in the victory of the battle and working to eliminate racism. He plays upon the allure of reaching success and the amazing opportunities that come along with it. However he also tells us that success is never enough in this day in age because we always want more success.

He uses imagery throughout the entire song in a positive manner which is unlike anything we have seen before. The imagery we have discussed so far throughout the rest of the class has all been negative and in reference to women or sex or drugs. So it was nice change of pace to see such a positive song written for such a good reason. Hats off to Jay Z for making a deep and meaningful song and reaching his victory the same time America reached hers.

People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

A Tribe Called Quest produced the album “Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” in 1990. Although this album never became popular or mainstream in the US it has become more popular with time. The album contained 14 tracks that each¬†contained socially aware song lyrics and a definite lyric rhythms. Today, I listened to this album in it’s entirety and in order that the tracks are listed. The tracks on this album include: Push it Along, Luck of Lucien, After Hours, Footprints, I Left My Wallet in el Segundo, Pubic Enemy, Bonita Applebum, Can I Kick It?, Youthful Expression, Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts), Mr. Muhammad, Ham ‘n’ Eggs, Go Ahead in the Rain, and Description of a Fool.

After listening to each of these songs I reflected on them individual and on the album as a whole. The first thing I noticed about the album when i completed it was that many if not all of the songs were structured the same way, shared similar rhythms and some even sounded identical if you put they lyrics aside. I personally was not a fan of this album I found it rather boring because of this fact that they all sounded the same and there was really nothing huge to set the songs apart. Each of the tacks referenced a different personal or social issue. One thing I did like about this album and the songs on it was there was little negative talk about women and didn’t talk too much about the hard life on the streets as a rapper at that time.

One thing I noticed that was similar about the songs was they each used a sample in the intro and in the chorus that related to the content of the song. Most of them I didn’t recognize but I’m pretty sure they even through the Rocky Theme song in there somewhere. Each song seemed to include a different element into the rap. Some seemed to have a jazz influence where as others would sound more like old rap with heavy scratching, one even included authentic Mexican guitar samples. It was interesting to see how the songs changed with the different accents that the Quest pulled from different genres and used in the tracks.

Each of these things, the consistent rhythms, rather clean yet socially aware lyrics, and use of sampling in every song give A Tribe Called Quest their own unique anesthetic compared to the overruling gangster rap style at the time. They don’t use every song to say F*** you or your hoes they try to convey their points about politics using everyday words that don’t involve profanity. For example in “Youthful Expression”, “Politicians are magicians,¬†Make your vote, they hope your wishin,¬†Ambiguous words, senseless verbs,¬†They all amount to crap that’s heard,¬†Violent hip hop, money flip flops…” A group like public enemy would have done this basically giving the entire political F U but A Tribe Called Quest tried to explain why they think politicians are full of crap without just straight up saying screw you. This gives them an entire different vibe and anesthetic as a group and for this I have more respect for their music.

Even the album art sets Tribe apart from the other popular rap artists at the time. when compared to album art from Public Enemy, KRS-One, or NWA you would not guess that Tribe was a rap group. The three listed all have violent hard looking album covers that either feature their own faces or have some kind of semi-violent reference like cross hairs from a scope. The album cover for Peoples Instinctive Travels contains a wide variety of bright colors and drawings of people all over the cover who appear to be just taking a journey. This adds to the unique anesthetic of the group setting them apart from the rest of the rap world as we know it.

All in all I wasn’t a fan of this album but I thought it showed examples of the progression of rap and hip hop that we have been discussing in class. Each of the things that separate them from the rest of the typical rap genre make their mark on the genre more significant. I think that their music is trying to show that it is ok to be different and they are leading by example by being different in the rap world.

Rap on Broadway…wait it’s Broadway in Rap!

Today in class we discussed the song “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z which sampled from a popular Annie Broadway classic. I had heard this song before but never really considered the fact that Jay Z had blended two totally opposite genres of music together in one song. He made it work but it wasn’t well blended, it was obvious that the part from Annie wasn’t naturally in¬†that song.

The presence of this musical sound within rap caused me to question if this had happened with any of the songs form my favorite Broadway hit, Wicked. To my surprise there had been more than one rap hit that sampled songs from the shows soundtrack. I decided to pick one out and break it down a little to see if the the meaning strayed from the original song and how it flowed compared to some of the other sampled tracks produced at the time.

The song I selected was “Popular” by S-Preme, which contained a sample of the song “Popular” from Wicked the musical. the song can be heard here.

if you listen to this song and have every heard the wicked soundtrack or seen the musical you notice that this song is basically a huge sample they use the same two or three parts of the Broadway throughout literally every single second of this song. I don’t think that there is a single second of this track that hasn’t been touched by Broadway gold. Even though I think this song makes a mockery of the original it is well put together and has good solid flow where you can’t tell the music isn’t naturally supposed to be there. and from what i can tell the theme of this song does not stray too much from what was conveyed in Wicked. All in all I conclude that this is a proper use of a sample in which you don’t disrupt the meaning of the original song and let it keep it’s dignity.

Here’s the original broadway hit in case you wanna jam ūüôā

Rap Hates Tipper Gore

Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President and Senator Al Gore, was one of the founders of the Parents Music Resource Committee. This committee was formed to increase parental control over the access children had to inappropriate music. The committee suggested a rating system similar to the one we use for movies (G, PG, PG-13, R, NR). In the eyes of the committee this would prevent inappropriate music from falling into the hands of gullible teenagers who will be influenced poorly by listening to it.

Because of this radio stations took it upon themselves to begin making ‘clean’ versions of these songs by taking out certain words mainly profanities or negative slang words such as nigger or hoe. I understand why this was done, however i think it ruins the integrity of the music. The artist produced the songs using those words because that is how they wanted their music to be portrayed, changing or omitting words to make a ‘clean’ version distorts the meaning of the song. ¬†This committee also led to the creation of a parental advisory sticker placed on the front of albums with inappropriate content. Some stores refused to sell the albums with these stickers, one of the most notable being Wal-Mart.

The creation of this sticker made a lot of music unsellable and caused a significant amount of outrage within the rap community. Many rap musicians criticized or parodied the Parents Committee or Tipper Gore herself. As terrible as this is I found this one especially hysterical.

I know Tipper was just trying to do everyone a favor and had nothing personal against the music or any of the artists. To me what she was trying to do made sense even though it would slightly ruin the integrity of the version of the songs to be played on the radio. It would make sense to sensor the material available to the youth with music the same as we do with movies. You can view and hear more inappropriate things the older you get. Even though I know that in a word like today’s where everything is on the internet and the rating system would be useless at best. Tipper doesn’t deserve the kind of public shaming she received from the music community, she was just trying to make the US a better place.