Opinion

'Mumble rap' poorly represents hip-hop's history and tradition

Hip hop has always been a genre that evolves with the times. Since it was born in the early 80s in the Bronx, hip hop has changed with the culture and has had a growing influence on our society.

Over the years, there have been various styles of rap but the current most popular form, mumble rap, is the most dumbed-down version of hip hop yet and is a disgrace to the proud lyrical tradition that was built by legends of the past.

When hip hop was first created, it had elements of jazz, spoken word poetry and soul music. The first MCs used their words to show what life was like in their communities, which were largely ignored by the rest of America.

Groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A. used their music to tell what it was like to be a young black man in America, which was important after the Civil Rights Movement, when many Americans mistakenly thought all were now treated equally. Chuck D of Public Enemy famously called his group the CNN of black America because it showed the other side of America’s racial divide.

Hip hop gave a voice to those that were unheard and throughout the 90s, it evolved into an elaborate form of expression for individual rappers. Back then, a rapper was judged by his lyrical skill and rhyming abilities. On street corners and concert stages, rappers competed to have the best flow and rhymes and the most skilled lyricists were the most respected.

To make it to the top of the rap game in the late 90s, artists like Nas, Andre 3000, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. wrote beautiful raps with complex rhyme schemes, elaborate wordplay and social awareness. They were poets that spoke for a generation of young black Americans and their words alone carried them from adolescent hardships to international stardom.

Today, the great poets of hip hop’s golden age are either dead or cling to their former fame in a world that no longer values their lyrical gift.

What was once hip hop has devolved into a cheap knockoff genre with no respect for the power of words. We are living in the age of mumble rap.

In the past few years, mumble rap has exploded into mainstream music from the success of artists like Future, Migos and Young Thug. Mumble rappers make hit singles by muttering nonsensical and often incomprehensible lyrics over a beat that can fill the club.

The words, if understood, rarely speak to anything deeper than money, women and drugs.

As bad as it sounds, it’s what the listeners want. Mumble rappers can make it big because our generation no longer cares about what the rapper is saying, we just want something that sounds nice that we can get drunk and dance to in the club.

It is repetitive and boring; mainstream rap is no longer a matter of skill but has become a popularity contest between Soundcloud rappers who became relevant because their song went viral through a Vine or because their social media presence is entertaining.

Lil Pump, a previously unknown rapper, got famous for his song Gucci Gang, which currently sits at #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song has the lyrics “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang!”

If you’re wondering if there’s a deeper meaning, there isn’t. Rappers like Lil Pump don’t last very long at the top because they aren’t talented enough to stay relevant for more than one or two songs. What separates mumble rappers from their hip hop forefathers is the lyrical skill and social awareness that make older rappers timeless.

Many of these new rappers have no respect for those that paved the way for their careers. Mumble rappers Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty and Kodak Black have publicly expressed their disregard for old school hip hop, as if their raps could even compare to the lyrical masterpieces of the past.

Mumble rappers make their money from the apathy of our culture. They know that people don’t care about what they say in their raps, so they spit poorly written bars about the same thing over and over. There’s little respect for good lyrics anymore and socially conscious rappers can’t make a living from their raps.

While there are surely current rappers who carry on hip-hop’s history of lyricism and social insights, the popularity of mumble rap all too often overshadows these artists.

Some may say that “real hip-hop” died with Biggie and Pac, but mumble rap is the nail in the coffin. These rappers spit nonsensical bars on the graves of the great hip hop poets who painted pictures of harsh realities and racial injustice using only their meticulously written words.

Peter is a junior majoring in journalism and English. Send all of your comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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