Her name was hip-hop, she had an afro centric, free from the oppressor, and conquered justice within injustice vibe. Her voice had many different tongues all of which stored a struggle that were just waiting to be sung.
Afro centrism, political and social freedom from oppression, colonization, and systematic injustices was the centre of hip-hop music during the late 80’s and early 90’s. By the late 90’s, however, hip-hop transitioned into a platform where emcee’s brought more than just their story but a message attached to that story for their audiences to hear. This era welcomed younger emcee’s such as: Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Tupac Shakur, Common Sense, Jay-z, Big L, Wu-Tang Clan, and many more; these rising emcee’s all brought the same struggle and different lyrical styles into the growing industry.
Many of the artists mentioned above were influenced by the political and social oppressions and struggles during the era of hip-hop’s manifest, however, these artists broke from the afro centrism/pro-black movement style which initially drove artists before them. The 90’s welcomed ‘gangster rap’, which had emcee’s from the west and east coast of the border slapping their constant struggle with police or the system over a beat. This era left afro-centrism behind and reinvented its music and culture into a much rougher genre, leaving everything uncensored.
One of the artists that highlighted this transition was artist Common Sense, better known as, Common; in his song (the inspiration behind the title of this post) I used to Love H.E.R; the acronym H.E.R stands for ‘hearing every rhyme’, ‘I used to Love Hearing Every Rhyme’. Common presents hip-hop to listeners as a metaphor, the metaphor being a female.
He highlights how she was when he first met her and fell in love with her, and how generations slowly became influencing her, causing her to change into a more ‘industrialized’ style, losing her raw originality and becoming what was popular.(For example: “I met this girl, when I was ten years old And what I loved most she had so much soul, She was old school, when I was just a Shorty … Slim was fresh yo, when she was underground Original, pure, unhampered, a down sister Boy I tell ya, I miss her … But then she broke to the West Coast, and that was cool She said that the pro-black, was going out of style She said, Afro centricity, was of the past.)
In many ways the audiences that first supported hip-hop are still clinging to the original and raw lyrical content and culture that strongly dominated the music industry during its manifest. Many, myself included, have witnessed hip-hop’s evolution into what is now being classified as ‘hip-hop’ and cannot fight the temptation to remind audiences on her original roots.
Hip-hop was once a platform to explain the darkness and beauty in the struggle, where stories could inspire and liberate, however, moving into the early stages of the 20th century and up until today, hip-hop has now become a platform for just about anyone to rap about the complete opposite as long as it’s accompanied by a well-produced beat. Hip-hop is now money driven, the images attached to her are of clubs, strippers, luxurious cars, and the extravagant lifestyle; there is no struggle, no stories, and a severe lack of originality in lyrical content. As Nas once said hip-hop is dead, but who pulled the trigger?
Jency Abarca is a fulltime public relations student at Humber