Hip hop and R&B have officially been named the most popular genres of music in the United States for the first time ever. This statistic comes straight from Nielsen Music’s annual report on music consumption trends. According to the report, hip hop and R&B make up 25.1% of all music being consumed in the United States. In comparison, rock and roll has officially been taken down from its old popularity to a mere 23% of all music consumption. The report attributes the rise in hip hop music to the near concurrent rise in streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify. While rock and roll still dominates the number of physical album sales, hip hop and R&B are quickly being defined as the sound of the new generation.
I grew up in an interesting situation surrounding hip hop and rap music. My parents were not the biggest fan of the genres. I grew up listening to whatever my parents listened to: Michael Jackson, Prince, Queen, Bon Jovi, George Michael, among others. Often times the general mood about rap music was that it was obscene and wasn’t “real music.” It took until I was around 13 to 14 before I was exposed to real rap music. I had just gotten my first iPhone and was starting to delve into the music world on my own. Eminem was the first rap artist who caught my attention. I was conflicted as the obscene things that my parents told me about were in the music, but it was so artfully and skillfully combined with beats and instrumental that it just made sense. I started picking up on what my friends were listening to. That opened up the floodgates completely. I started listening to Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Tyler the Creator, Kid Cudi, Logic, Lil Dicky, Post Malone, Childish Gambino, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, and many others. “College Dropout” by Kanye changed my life as it was the first time that I couldn’t stop listening to a rap album on repeat.
Many people see the monumental popularity of hip hop as a sign of the growing popularity of the glorification of drugs, sex, and violence. Some think that it even causes people to commit these dangerous acts. I am not a doctor by any means, but I speak from experience as a person who has listened to this type of music for awhile. Personally, I think that people overlook the artistic talent of many rappers nowadays. I still love classic rock and other music genres, but rap has something different about it. Take any classic Beatles song for example: pretty simple lyrics coupled with rather basic rhyme scheme. I’m not hating on the Beatles, not by a long shot, but there is a difference between that classic music and hip hop. Eminem for example has been known to fit multiple rhymes and metaphors into just a few words. Much like how Shakespeare is studied and how each of his words are picked apart for interpretation, rap music can also be deciphered for multiple meanings. It has a complexity and an intelligence that is wholly underappreciated by many of the older generation.
Yes, I agree that some rap music can be obscene and meaningless, but the generalization of an entire music genre based on a few artists is wholly unfair. Back in the 1950’s, rock and roll was heavily despised by the older generation due to the sexual connotations popularized by artists such as Elvis. When Elvis Presley himself performed in San Diego in 1956, his sexually charged dance moves caused the Chief of the San Diego Police Department to make a public statement against Elvis’ actions. Who is to say that rap music is any different? Who is to say that in 50 years from now our generation will place the trailblazers of hip hop and rap on the same pedestal that we put rockstars?