Ab-Soul is the latest rapper to share some of his feelings on the new wave of rap artists, calling them “weak” in a tweet on September 7. Ab-Soul is nowhere near an old head (he is only 29), but his remarks on this new era of rap echoes similar sentiments shared by a lot of the hip-hop community. Rap legend, Pete Rock, recently expressed his views on Lil Yachty and Young Dolph, calling both artists trash and demanding they “make better music and write better lyrics”.
Both Lil Yachty and Young Dolph responded to Pete Rock by calling him corny, acknowledging that many young rappers really don’t care what the old heads of the game think about their music. Lil Yachty has also stated that he has no interest in learning about the history of rap music, even having the gall to say that he cannot name five Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac songs. Both Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert do not call themselves rappers and tell fans they’re making their music purely for fun. Maybe it’s time that we stop calling what they and other new artists are doing rap music – and create a separate genre entirely.
Rapping isn’t what it used to be: Rappers or MCs usually accompanied DJs by creating similes, metaphors, and rhymes to layer over the DJ’s beats. The beats were most important as hip-hop took disco anthems and used the break (or the get down for those who watched the show) to form the beat of the track. Over time, rappers became the focal point of hip-hop as the rhymes became much more complex and started to reflect a deeper message. The beats were still very important to the quality of the song, but lyricism and flow mattered more.
What we are seeing today is a reversion back to the importance of the beat; however, much of that comes with an abandonment of lyricism as a craft. The reason why old heads are able to critique the music of today is because the quality of the MC is just not as good as it used to be. Today, rappers rhyme simple couplets over trap beats, which is fine, in moderation. But, because trap anthems are infectious, the rap market has become oversaturated with them. Rappers would rather follow a formula, creating fun rap tracks that could play in clubs. Fun songs are important because they allow us to escape reality, but deeper rap songs that resonate with us because it allows us to identify with rappers’ stories.
It is important, though, to not overgeneralize the entirety of the new hip-hop era. Rappers like Cousin Stizz and Young M.A show that a rapper can create trap anthems and still have dope bars. Chance the Rapper is creating gospel tracks and experimenting with a new sound. Childish Gambino and Vince Staples are both complex rappers with a flow and lyrical ability that can rival that of old artists. So, rap is not dead and it honestly never was.
But, I wouldn’t categorize Lil Yachty or Lil Uzi Vert as rap artists. Don’t get me wrong, I will be the first person to play Uzi’s “Top” or rap Yachty’s verse on “Mixtape”. But, they are not rappers and should not be included in that category of music. They follow a formula that is not innovative, but simplistic. If they were speaking about something much deeper, then maybe we would be able to include them in the broader category of rap. But, as a whole, they do not represent rap music in the slightest. It might be time to create a new word: quasi-rap, mumbling or coupletting, perhaps?
Photos via Getty Images / Paras Griffin