Hip-Hop Needs To Be Redefined

Back in 1999, The Matrix came out in theaters, providing a soundtrack far superior to the overrated cookie cutter science fiction of the film. The soundtrack introduced me to one of my favorite bands of all time, Rammstein, as well as "Rock is Dead," the only song by Marilyn Manson I could stand to listen to.

Even though I was really just a pre-teen around that time, I frequented indie record stores and read music magazines. It was pretty well established among rock enthusiasts at that point that rock was dead. Everyone was pretending to like hip-hop and the biggest rock acts were the like of Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit, which blended rapping with simple metal riffs. It wasn't until the White Stripes blew up that rock music seemed to really take off again.

It really feels like hip-hop is in the same position right now that rock was a decade ago. The genre is in need of new energy, a new direction and new personalities. Even the pretty good acts, like indie Californian rappers U-N-I or the fairly stellar releases like veterans like Nas, Jay-Z and Eminem, seem to be missing a certain something that was there in the first Dr. Octagon or Nas' Illmatic.

Rap seems to know this too. The fantastic new release Brooklynati by Ohio group Tanya Morgan has a song called "She's Gone," another take on the cliche depiction of hip-hop as a woman that has done her lovers wrong. While it's cliched, the metaphor works. I fell head over heels in love with hip-hop as a teenager, spending nearly all my time with her, writing about her and defending her against the ridicule hurled by friends and family.

In the mainstream mind, hip-hop has a well deserved bad reputation. From the tragic East Coast/West Coast beefs all the way to 50 Cent's violent, nihilist rants, the impression of most music fans seems to be of hip-hop as a genre that is neck deep in violence for violence's sake and sex for sex's sake. People like myself that know better from having listened to the brilliance of Kool Keith, Mos Def, Nas or Grayskul have an uphill battle to present the better hip-hop.

This leads me to a proposition. Up and coming acts like U-N-I, Tanya Morgan, Onra, Zion I or The Gigantics should just scrap the "hip-hop" label and go for something else that squarely describes their music. Alot of electronic artists don't call themselves such in order to avoid the "techno" label, and it would be wise for intelligent linguists in underground hip-hop to follow suit. How about using "future funk," the phrase mega-producer Onra uses on his new song "My Comet?"