The Billboard charts will tell you. The YouTube trending videos will tell you. Even white suburban middle schoolers will tell you. Hip-hop is at its peak. A majority of the mainstream music consumed is hip-hop or at least hip-hop influenced. But I predict that hip-hop, as we know it now, will die out.
Hip-hop’s journey has been a strange one. Its origins aren’t traced back to a single person, but a community: people of color in the Bronx. From there the art has been reimagined, commercialized, parodied, copied and remixed. A mixture of those things brings us to where we are today. The prominent sub-genre of hip-hop today is trap music characterized by slower hi-hat centric songs usually more focused on production than lyrical value. These rappers are the new rock stars, these rock stars including Migos, Future, Lil Baby, Travis Scott and many more. So if we are living in a popular era of hip-hop, why does it have to stop? We will look to another music genre for that answer.
Jazz was once the music of the rebellious youth, but no more. Now I’m not saying Jazz isn’t still around. We do hear names like Kamasi Washington and Flying Lotus and Thundercat keeping the art alive today. But Jazz went through an underground creation phase and rose to mainstream popularity and then dipped back to the underground. Hip-hop might be following a similar trajectory. Jazz was widely welcomed because of how it incorporated new dances. Swing dancing was accepted and boosted the popularity similar to how hip-hop style dances are constantly sweeping the nation. But at the peak of Jazz several things happened to have its decline in popularity. Some Jazz artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Charles Mingus wanted to experiment in the genre more and move away from the dancing feeling and play with tonal structure of the composition. Jazz began to be more accepted as a high art and was characterized more as intellectual music. It became less about expression for the average person and more about critical analysis and that may have scared a potential new listener away. Soon public opinion swayed so much that Jazz was viewed as background elevator music. Something nice but nothing worthy of being on Top 40 radio. Hip-hop shows similar signs. Just this year, Kendrick Lamar has received a Pulitzer Prize for his work on his hip-hop album “DAMN”, and Nas‘ album “Illmatic” was recognized by the Library of Congress to be culturally important. These are signs of intellectual acclaim. Several hip-hop artists have also started to play with experimentation more and move away from classic hip-hop forms such as Death Grips, Tyler the Creator and Noname. Their venturing out from classic hip-hop production shows fatigue in the genre. There are artists out there wanting something different and their listeners are buying into it too.
Overall no music genre can stay the same and last forever. Things change with each generation and that is only to be expected. Every new generation of musical artists wants to make their mark unique and different. With that being said the time for hip-hop is now. It is everywhere and it is a good thing, but this good thing can’t last forever.