The Rap Up #5: December 2009
03 Dec 2009
“this time 10 years ago we were mourning the unexpected passing of big l, mulling over the proposition of ‘conscious rap’ and marvelling at the grammy award winning lauren hill. nas started to drift into obscurity, dre put out his last quality album and kanye west was still making backing beats for jay z in his mum’s basement. so, has much else really changed..?”
As the end of the decade looms ever closer and every radio station, fanzine, magazine and website (including our own) is rife with talk of what the fallout from the 90s has taught us in the world of music and at the risk of jumping the gun, I feel it only right and proper to have a look at what one aspect has changed the hip hop community the most over the course of a decade. This time 10 years ago we were mourning the unexpected passing of Big L, mulling over the proposition of ‘conscious rap’ and marvelling at the Grammy award winning Lauren Hill. Nas started to drift into obscurity, Dre put out his last quality album and Kanye West was still making backing beats for Jay Z in his mum’s basement. So, has much else really changed?
Well, for a start, the main cause for all this kerfuffle was only just starting to establish a real power base in mainstream pop culture when the new millennium dawned. The seemingly unstoppable rise of the internet has seen radical transformations in the way that we consume music across the board. And recent interview footage with 50 Cent hints at an even more boisterously intensive online market in the future. During the build up to the release of new album Before I Self Destruct (which is accompanied by a 90 minute long film and gives Fifty his first shot as director), the platinum selling rapper from Queens has been bragging about his most promising venture outside of the recording studio, his interactive website www.thisis50.com. The blog ascetics of the website are plastered with competitions and exclusives surrounding the new release. This allows fans to keep up with the artist’s latest movements, as well as have their say in part of a truly interactive experience. And in true 50 Cent style it’s brimming with rumours, gossip and above all controversy – certainly worth a gander.
The internet is not only a place for fans to find out what their favourite rapper had for breakfast, it’s also an incredibly powerful and cheap tool for artists to further strengthen their position and span out into new sub-sectors of society. If you’re an unconventional rapper from south London, it could even be the formula for more wide spread appeal. The rapper known as Example was until recently a relatively undiscovered gem on the UK Hip Hop trail, but has since managed to crack the mainstream code in part due to a consistent online presence. With his witty banter and down to earth everyday man observations, the seemingly tireless worker and his team have managed to force a foothold and generate significant interest from the British public with the release of his latest single ‘Watch The Sun Come Up’. One of the originals on Mike Skinner’s sadly disbanded ‘The Beats’ label, Fulham’s proudest son managed to build an avid following simply around a Myspace blog, in a similar fashion to Lily Allen.
So, to the careers of commercial giants such as 50 Cent right through to relatively low key independent creations like Example, this internet malarkey is of utmost importance. But is there any sustainability in it all? Something large and universal with a clear transferable future. Well, despite distributors still trying to make up for lost ground on the downloads market, we appear to be closer than ever to achieving a balance between extortionate and outright illegal. Spearheaded by the arrival of Spotify, a programme that attempts to mimic the rewards of file sharing whilst boasting the stamp of approval from the music industry - the future is starting to look a little brighter for the next generation of internet consumers. Instead of having to trudge through the murky online waters of the pirate bay to get their hands on the goods, a plethora of clean, free and quality services appear to be popping up on the horizon. If you want to see how this is going to improve the market for urban music in this country, look no future than the collection of rising stars that are already being hailed in some corners of the press as ‘the new Brit pop’. The likes of TaioCruz, TinchyStryder (pictured above), N Dubz and Chipmunk are riding a wave that’s fuelled by an exciting new online community. In latching on to these new and improved services, a whole world of opportunity is suddenly opened up, accessible to so many more than the relatively small percentage of users who are brave enough to navigate the darker realms of the internet. One of the finest examples of the kind of services pioneering this new development is the newly revamped BBC Switch (www.bbc.co.uk/switch), which has recently become the main focal point of Radio One’s programming. The quicker the Hip Hop community latch onto this idea, the better and so far we’ve staked one of the biggest claims in an area that promises to be a huge part of the music industry’s future. So, with our most promising young prospect dead, our most exciting scene of the decade still in its infancy and our most accomplished female rapper about to disappear along with one of our greatest rappers ever; our greatest producer tailing off with our next greatest producer not yet out of his mum’s basement.
Has much else changed since the establishment of the internet? Thank goodness the answer is yes and the future looks even better for megastars, minor acts and movements alike.