What is Real Hip-Hop?
The Term “Real” within the Hip-Hop community took off in the late 80’s, early 90’s. From my experience, I would say it stemmed mainly from the West Coast. The group N.W.A comes to mind as they covered many hard topics about the streets and one of their main expressions was how they are “Real Niggas”. It seemed that what they wanted to put across, wasn’t so much that they are in actuality gangsters but mainly that they are indeed from the streets, they are aware of the ills in society, they are willing to break out from the norm and they were going to get things done their way by any means necessary. They were the REAL deal. As we all know, with N.W.A and the introduction of the entire West Coast there was a shift in Hip-Hop as a new Genre was formed, labeled Gangster Rap.
What does this have to do with Real Hip-Hop? Hip-Hop originated from NYC and all of its aspects were considered “real”. Before everybody had to claim to be from the meanest streets, pop bottles, pack guns and spend endless amounts of money to be considered real, it was all about fun. The music was at its young stages at the time, so there weren’t any sub genres, everything was just considered Hip-Hop. Be it a Party track, a conscious song or the depiction of the gangster life style, it was all Hip-Hop. One of the very first Hip-Hop records to hit the mainstream, titled Rappers Delight by Sugarhill Gang, in actuality was a party track. Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock was a party track. The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is as “Real” (in today’s terms) as it gets when it comes to addressing the tribulations faced in the ghettos and how hard it is to grow up in one. It is the first Hip-Hop record ever to be added to the United States National Archive of Historic Recordings. Not one of these artist or Records at the time had to prove their authenticity or had to shout out they are “Real” or claim “they have the real Hip-Hop”.
It’s really annoying now-a-days peeping some of these rappers always wanting to downgrade some others by stating their style or form of the art is stronger or superior because their “lyrical” . How can you be more lyrical? As per Webster’s Dictionary, here’s the meaning of Lyrical:/adjective/ Having an artistically beautiful or expressive quality. Notice it makes no mention of the need to have a richer vocabulary or complex metaphors etc. Tupac is a perfect example of raw poetry. He wasn’t the most “lyrical”, but definitely had a way of putting his message across. So all of you out their claiming you’re music is the realest because you are “lyrical”, give it a break already, lyrics are simply words of a song. In this case, which song doesn’t have lyrics?
On to those who claim they are real because they are tough. Just because you caught more cases, have been shot several times and are part of a gang, all the while being a rapper, doesn’t make you “Real”. The Hip-Hop community needs to let go this dumb nigga mentality quick, it has gone on for too long. We need to admit that rappers need not be ex-hoodlums in order to be accepted. If a white collar MC comes along and wants to Rap about what a tough time he’s having at work and how his boss is a jerk, there’s going to be millions of people that will relate to that. And guess what, that will be Hip-Hop and it will be as real as it gets.
We also have rappers that play a role in increasing people’s knowledge about the world around us and its politics, race issues, social issues etc. Many of them put across their opinions and they work as eye openers for countless people in the Hip-Hop community. Some are overly political, others focus on what gathers attention and it always makes for a good listen. It’s hard though when rappers or diehard fans of this genre insist on playing this sort of music day in and day out. I mean, you’re not going to have any chances of grinding on some ass on the dance floor if the DJ only plays Talib Kweli, right? Understand, every Genre has its place, I know you feel like all conscious rappers are the Realest but sorry, it’s just Hip-Hop.
So, what should this lead us all to acknowledge? That there is no fake Hip-Hop, it is all just Hip-Hop. Once we acknowledge that Hip-Hop has grown up and we have many genres to choose from and those who perform in these genres share the same passion as the next, only then will the music’s true potential and creativity flourish. For now though we’re stuck on proving who’s the “Realest”, instead of simply being an artist.