The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 28th


‘Real’ hip-hop is a fantasy

Picture eloquently delivering your “Drake is the best rapper out there” diatribe in a heated music debate.

Some are excitedly nodding their heads in agreement, others are face-palming in disappointment at the mention of the emo rapper. Then, there’s that guy. The unsolicited and self-proclaimed hip-hop guru in the room who interrupts you to enlighten you. According to him, Drake doesn’t count, the reason being that he, along with most post-90’s artists, don’t make “real” hip-hop. Ugh, hip-hop snobs.

They’re the people who aggressively preface every conversation about music with phrases like, “Rakim, Nas, Biggie, Pac, Hov, now that’s what I call real hip-hop.” It’s either that or they praise an obscure underground group that only nocturnal hip-hop treasure hunters would recognize.

You would never think the words “hip-hop” and “pretentious” could possibly survive in the same sentence. But the hip-hop elitist would illustrate it rather perfectly.

Oddly enough, the phrase “real hip-hop” goes unchallenged in numerous discussions about the genre. But the phrase is indefinable because it is continually redefined.

Reknowned hip-hop blogger BlogXilla, senior entertainment editor of Global Grind, offered one definition for real hip-hop: love.

“Real hip-hop is from the heart, and no matter how hard I try, I could never be able to define what is real hip-hop. No one can,” he said on the Global Grind website last June.

However, being from the heart implies the phrase is relative and thus shouldn’t be a coined term.
I always remember connecting my iPod to the car speakers and seeing my dad slapping his noise-canceling palms to his ears, screaming, “You don’t know real music.”

For him, since it wasn’t Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong, it wasn’t “real” music. Because there were no cellos, clarinets or symphonies it wasn’t “real” music.

And like my 70-year-old dad, elitists have a cult-like attachment to old-school and golden-age hip-hop. They therefore accept only hip-hop that resembles such as “real.”

A reigning requirement for “real” among the genre’s elitists is that hip-hop incites social awareness and political advocacy among youth a la Public Enemy and KRS-One. For today’s generation those would be the Lupe Fiascos and the Kendrick Lamars.

Others would only demand clever use of literary devices like metaphors, wordplay and complex rhymes — the intricacies of a rap symphony.

Hip-hop originated as a youth movement — a means for youth to express themselves, their culture and their times. It would seem elitists haven’t gotten the memo that times have in fact changed, and therefore hip-hop is bound to change with it.

Though conscious rap still exists, hip-hop culture has grown to include the expression of all aspects of urban culture whether politics, partying or anything else.

The genre is now so big, it boasts a plethora of subcategories within it. Ultimately, hip-hop is an art like any other where the artists get to decide what’s true to them — so who are you to discredit it?

Apparently, to some it would make sense for there to be categorical oppression of hip-hop subgenres amid the already dismissed and oppressed hip-hop culture.

But let’s just face it. There’s no such thing as “real” hip-hop. All hip-hop is hip-hop. Tell me you like it. Tell me you don’t. Even tell me why. Just don’t tell me it’s not real. That part is not up to you.

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