Kendrick Lamar and J Cole are gold in a field full of dirt. For this particular article, I must confess that I may be a bit biased. Some people may not agree with me and that is okay. I don’t expect you to because this is solely my opinion. Maybe I will sound old-fashioned to some while maybe a few people will agree with me. As we all know Hip Hop/Rap is the most influential and polarizing genre of music, today. Whether it’s East vs. West or Jigga vs Nas, there has always been some type of conflict in Hip Hop. This shows that Hip-Hop is also the most competitive genre of music. Today, the genre has two branches that go head to head: Conscious rap vs. turn up rap. This conflict between the two worlds has even those in the conflict speaking up. I feel that this is meant to spark up a discussion. You can take a side and defend your choice, or you may find pros for both.

I love Hip Hop. I live it and I breathe it. Some love the conscious side: The messages, stories, and  relatable situations. This is music that can uplift, and turn a day in the life into rhythmic poetry. Conscious rap feeds drained hearts and souls. Others prefer the turn up: The bottle popping and club hopping. This is the  music you shake your dreads to. Both conscious rap and turn up rap are elements of hip-hop, and for a long time, it was perfectly fine to like both. There were even times when artists of the two collaborated and created music for both sides. But in recent times, with the attack on the African American community and culture, the two rap forms are on a collision course.

The way we are looked at by others is the biggest reason why I side with conscious rap. I truly feel that music is the universal message of races, and  hip hop is the leading language of black culture. It is extremely difficult for me to rock with certain entertainers. The world sees us through our music, so when they see artists like Migos and Young Thug, we are judged from face value. Kendrick Lamar refers to these type of rappers as “Jiggaboo’s,” on his untitled album. It is not entirely fair but sadly many people judge and make assumptions about black people because of Hip Hop. There is nothing more influential than rap music. 

 These are the same judgmental people who believe that hip-hop is simplistic. Turn up rap is what the radio regularly plays and pushes out nowadays. The basic club anthems and twerk music dominates airwaves, with only a sprinkle of consciousness at times. Unfortunately, even our consciousness Hip Hop artist only get play if they make a girl song or is feature on another rapper’s turn up song. We are so much more than turning up or, at least, we should be. To achieve mainstream success or sell enough records to keep the lights on many artists force themselves to make turn-up music even when we know that’s not them. Due to label pressure and the fear of not selling records, some artists dumb down their music to cater to the masses and record companies looking for the next big single.

I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars
They criticize me for it yet they all yell “Holla”
If skills sold truth be told
I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense (But I did five Mil)
I ain’t been rhyming like Common since~ Jay-Z Moment of Clarity

There are few artists like Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, who have gone against the norm and it has worked in their favor. Cole himself learned the hard way after his first album. The company wanted him to put out a single to cater to radio, so in fear of losing his deal he put out “Work Out.” The song became a commercial success, but Cole was looked at differently by his fans and peers, who knew he was better than that. Come to find out his most praised mixtape, Friday Night Lights, was supposed to be his first album but it was not approved by the label because it was said not to be commercial enough. He said himself he wished he believed in the project more and tried harder to get it in stores. Nowadays he can do almost anything as far as music because he can be himself and still entertain the masses.

As I have been stating. Hip Hop is an art, a freedom of expression. Before the money and fame kicked in, Hip Hop was putting your emotions into a chamber and releasing your own individual poetry. I feel like a lot of what is popular nowadays sounds the same. There is little to no individuality today. Everybody uses similar beats, damn near the same flows, hell they all even dress the same. To the naked eye, you can’t tell these dudes apart. They are all talking about the same thing: Big booty girls, being rich, having this many cars or cribs, staying high or drunk all day and night, or having sex with many chicks. These are the types of songs our young black men live by because they think it’s all good—and the way to go. Women too. These are the types of men they look for, have kids by, and wonder why things don’t work out. Look where they draw inspiration from.

“Just a poor N*gga making rich decisions” -Lupe Fiasco

Now, being an artist of the turn up isn’t always the best career move. Why? Well for one, there are new artists making the same stuff every day; so you may be hot today, but burnout fast. Ask Trinidad James or OT Genasis. What was Trinidad’s last hit? What was the name of OT’s CD? I’ll wait. Artists like this only pop off singles, but they lack substance for an entire album. A lot of them don’t even get a chance to make albums and sadly, a lot of people wouldn’t buy them anyway. Even fans of the singles. I mean a mere 18k people actually bought or streamed Young Thug’s album the first week of his release. In Contrast Kendrick’s surprise album with a bit denser content moved about 170k units last week. Like the great HOV, once said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. Can you confidently say, with a straight face, that Fetty Wap will still be here in 5 years? Can you really defend Chief Keef?  What’s gonna happen to people like Silento (Whip, Nay Nay) and iHeartMemphis? Especially after the ship has sailed for those dance songs? Has anyone seen Roscoe Dash anywhere? Hurricane Chris? Just saying. Facts. No one is buying that garbage!

“Critics want to mention that they miss when hip hop was rappin’

Motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mike’d be platinum” -Kendrick Lamar

I will say this. I’m not a Future fan, but I respect the hell out of his hustle. He knows how the game works, and plays to his advantage. Even though I don’t listen to his music, I got respect for him. Even 2 Chainz, I’ve been a fan since his DTP Tity Boy days. The song Watch Out is my song, so I am not a total buzz kill for turn up music. My thing is, how relatable is it compared to a J. Cole song? For example, not many of us had “Trap Queens” or carry choppers. But I am sure a lot of us have dealt with the emotion of being pregnant, missing their father or losing a homeboy to the street. Not a lot of us have bands, racks. Not a lot of us got bad b*tches, and drive sports cars. It’s a fantasy. I get it. Some people strive for it so they listen to it. But they have to realize that it doesn’t always work that way. I realized I wasn’t going to be the next MJ, so I began looking for real things. The sad part is there are people my age and above that still try for that life. I have no problem with it being in the club. But that’s where it should stay, it should not spill over into real life. Honestly, the rappers spitting those very same lyrics are probably not living that life anyway. One day you will find out, and it will be like finding out that Santa Clause is not real.  As for those with kids, please watch their ears. I’m sorry I rather my son sing “I Love Myself” than “I’m In Love With The Coco.” I don’t want him running off on any “plugs.” And I damn sure don’t want him not making friends because “Young Metro” don’t trust them. No pun intended.

Conscious music gives you a more positive and broader perspective. You still dream, but dreams that are not only obtainable but positive. Down to earth, poetic, the individuality and artistry. Stories you can relate to and understand. Now there are artists that can pull off both and make it work. Those guys are winning. People like Drake, they understand the balance. See, nowadays the audience wants to get to know the artist on a personal level. We want to understand their struggles and flaws, so we know they are just like us. For that reason, we put J. Cole and K. Dot on even higher pedestals. They aren’t afraid to tell us who they are and show emotions.

That’s why we hear your music in fast forward ‘Cuz we don’t wanna hear that weak shi* no mo~ Kanye West

So what is people’s knock against conscious music? They don’t get the messages? The beat isn’t trap enough? The lyrics make to much sense so the artist is boring? You are not entertained? The concerts are not lit? None of that even makes sense. I’ve seen Kendrick in concert and I left with my voice sounding like Al Bundy but maybe that’s just me. Music is an art form, but I just wish we knew how to appreciate a Basquiat when a stick figure artist was in the room. Conscious music does not need a DJ Mustard beat, and a hook that takes up half the song. No production has to come in and make the record pop. It pops because it’s real. In today’s world, we need more of something real;

Conscious music is an art form that expresses the messages that many of us can relate to. It doesn’t need a DJ Mustard beat, and a hook that takes up half the song. In remembrance of The Notorious Big, Chi Duly and Mick did a mash-up, mixing The Notorious Big lyrics over Metro Boomin beats. The concept was really cool but honestly the heavy 808 drums and distracting bass lines took away from the listening experience with the lyrics. The beats suffocated the lyrics, whereas in reverse, catchy, heavy beats usually serve as life support for sub-par, remedial lyrics. In other words, Biggie and other lyrical assassins don’t need all that noise on the beat.  In today’s world we need more of something real. Music 

 In today’s world we need more of something real. Music realer than getting b*tches, sippin lean, chopping Os and blunts. It would be nice to go back to the early 90s, when the music had meaning. When it spoke to the people. Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah,  Public Enemy and NWA; Yes, some of these artists were raw but they illustrated the cruel world we live in. Nowadays they want the style but not that attitude. They think its cool to wear the boxing gloves but don’t want to fight.

Again this is an opinion piece. Who am I to tell you what to listen to? Music is subjective and that is the beauty of it all. Some folks like to play video games all day while others prefer to read. Some of us have duality and enjoy doing both. That is fine but can you honestly say that the music on the radio and what’s hot in the club is the right message to send? Not only to ourselves but to other cultures as well? If we are going to give other people a reason to be afraid, it should be because of our intellect, not our savagery and ignorance. I am a father of 3. I know I may sound like one of those old parents talking down about the new generation but I am still young enough to know the effects that the music have. I still see the effects (good and bad) it has on my generation, and the future. Personally, I look at music from an artistic and expressive angle. The emotional connect and the intellectual and literary challenges–  words becoming pictures. When I hear the stuff on the radio, or what’s being pushed by social media,  I’m just not a big fan of it especially because I see how people judge our culture and community because of it. At times, it is our own fault because of the message we put out there. We are so much better than what we portray. I challenge you. Cut the radio off. Turn off Future. Stop dabbing for a second. Listen to something that hits home to you. It doesn’t have to be Kendrick or Cole. There are plenty of people that have music that will challenge your mental, entertain you and make you relate all at the same time. Pause the turn-up and wake up.

~Gene Stamper

Facebook Comments

By admin

2 thoughts on “Conscious vs. Turning Up: My Opinion on Today’s Hip Hop”
  1. I see you don’t monetize your page, don’t waste your traffic, you
    can earn additional cash every month because you’ve got hi quality content.

    If you want to know what is the best adsense alternative,
    type in google: adsense alternative Mertiso’s tips

Comments are closed.