“Hip-hop is dead,” rapper Nas, proclaimed almost 10 years ago. The reverberations were heard throughout America. Older generations agreed and accepted the opinion of the acclaimed veteran. Younger generations rebuffed this idea and continued to support rap acts, as they tried to supplant pop acts on the billboard charts.
The funny thing is if hip-hop was dead, then consider it to be revived and readying for a takeover.
In the time it takes to write an article, 10 of the top 30 songs in the country are headlined by or feature a hip-hop act. The number one song in the country is Work by Rihanna, featuring one of the top rappers in the country, Drake. Hip-Hop also boasts seven of the top 22 albums in the nation. Not to shabby for a genre that has been considered, at different times, to lack creativity, incite gang behavior and was even condemned to the grave.
While speaking on the current state of hip-hop in 2006, Nas’ declaration was less about the topics of choice in popular songs, but attributed to the lack of power rappers, yielded in their careers. During an interview with MTV that year, he explained his stance:
When I say ‘hip-hop is dead’, basically America is dead,” he said. “There is no political voice. Music is dead … Our way of thinking is dead, our commerce is dead. Everything in this society I think hip-hop could help rebuild America, once hip-hoppers own hip-hop … We are our own politicians, our own government, we have something to say.
Now, it is 2016, the year where Nas can see how the hip-hop has changed its course and continues to become intertwined in the American picture. This may be primarily due to the industry’s shift to Internet streaming.
Many people do not understand how the shift in music sales has also shifted the power in the music industry. The artist has more of a say. The machine has less power. Influence is at an all-time high.
In the fall of 2015, hip-hop was named the most streamed music genre in the world. It comprised of 17 percent of all music but made up 26 percent of all streamed music.
That figure is significant. It means this generation is listening to what they want because it is accessible to them. Streaming allows a hip-hop act to release their music to the masses, some without the deep pockets of industry veterans, and the intense following of other musical acts.
Due to the impact hip-hop has had on this generation, its influence is more evident, even in the most precarious of situations.
During a recent uproar in Chicago, when residents refused to allow Donald Trump to hold his rally near downtown, news coverage highlighted a sign that read, “Young Metro does not trust Donald Trump.” The sign pays homage to the audio tag, a hip-hop producer uses in his music. In the tag rapper, Future, declares, “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon shoot you.” This sign proved how hip-hop can be prevalent and relevant throughout different walks of life.
Hip-hop is a billion-dollar business and shows no signs of slowing down. Nas may have predicted a funeral, but years later, that funeral has shifted to a wedding, between hip-hop and mainstream America.
Thanks to this generation’s stars, like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Young Thug, Fetty Wap and more, hip-hop has staked its claim as a burgeoning empire and it cannot be denied this time. This underdog is an underdog no more.
Hip-hop is alive and kicking.
Opinion by Dion Dawson
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Billboard: The Top 100
NY Times: Hip-Hop and R & B Fans Embrace Streaming Music Services
Hotnewhiphop: Hip Hop Is The Most Streamed Genre In The World
XXL: Metro Boomin Doesn’t Trust Donald Trump According to This Protester in Chicago
ABC News: Hip-Hop: Billion-Dollar Biz
Image Courtesy of Sekundo .’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License