In hip hop’s beginnings everything was experimental, from the turntable to the MC. The idea of speaking on a beat was unheard of, let alone record scratches and music sampling. Since hip hop was in its early stages then, there was no hit making formula, it was all about what the artist wanted to do and after they finished the album, they put it out and hoped for the best. The album could have been a smash or it could have been garbage, but you had a feeling that most of it was what the artist wanted to do. As hip hop’s popularity increased, so did the revenue it generated. Coupled with the influence hip hop began to have it was only a matter of time before our beloved capitalism grabbed a hold of the trend and transformed it into the cash cow it has become today. By seeing what was profitable and what wasn’t, record labels were able to maximize profit by controlling what an artist released and eventually even having a hand in the artist’s creative process. This resulted in the inundation of club bangers and trap music. Since these are the types of songs that had become the money makers of their time, it is obvious that this would be the business model record labels would follow. Record labels are businesses, and businesses are in it to make money, period. (No hate in that last statement, just being real.) If you need proof of this timeframe, just go back to the reigns of the following: Dip Set, St. Lunatics, Chingy, Young Jeezy, and Fabolous. I’m not saying they sucked, what I am saying is they are the product of an industry having its hands in the creative process, somewhat akin to letting people be creative within boundaries, “You can make any song you want, just make sure you create some songs that include what we’ve laid out here.” Now it’s understood that if you want to be successful as a hip hop artist, you better have some songs that talk about either the money you have, the drugs you sold to get the money you have, how you are going to spend the money you have, how the ladies find you irresistible because of how much money you have, or any combination of the above. It better sound good in the club too! If you need me to point out the evidence of this, you probably still use cassette tapes and this article is lost on you. The music industry was able to better dictate what would be released to the masses because they held all the distribution power. If the artist didn’t march to their tune or they sounded like they could be a threat to one of their money makers, the chances of their music being released were slim to none.
As more people began to utilize the internet as part of their everyday lives, musicians began to realize that the internet provide ability to release work that they created without worrying if what they had would be good enough for a label. The internet literally provides free global distribution and allows talent that you may have never heard of otherwise to shine without being suppressed by some executive sitting in an ivory tower deciding what should and should not be released. Need an example? Just go to your iTunes or wherever you store your music and look at all the mixtapes you’ve downloaded. Imagine what you would have paid for those. Better yet, take a good listen to them. Do you really think a label would have put most of that out? NEGATIVE. But somehow, some way, this music that didn’t make anyone any money still sounds awesome. The best part about is, there is so much more out there waiting to be discovered, new artists, new musical approaches and no one to tell these artists that what they are making isn’t good enough. As more people realize they don’t need to buy a major release that sounds okay when they can support these relatively unknowns that blow their minds, the quality, variety, and the soul of hip hop will continue to grow.
This is not a slam on any hip hop artist or even the industry. If anything has stayed constant, it is the fact that hip hop, like many of its followers, will do what it needs to do to ensure that it continues to prosper by adapting to its surroundings. What the internet has provided hip hop with is the ability to continue forward without having someone limit creativity because it affects the bottom dollar. Labels are not going away, ever. What the internet has done is even the playing field so anyone with talent has a fighting chance.
~ Irish Ninja