As I’m writing this, KRS One is probably holed up in his Bronx residence writing up a storm, preparing himself for a nightly show with no intent of drawing a finish line to his career.
On the opposite coast Vince Staples, still a newborn to Hip Hop, is already contemplating his departure from the genre. I have no way of knowing Vince’s true intentions behind this move, however I can speak to why this isn’t a nuanced occurrence in Hip Hop today. This isn’t meant to be a rant about how the genre was better in the past, all new rappers are whack, and something something skinny jeans. The genre’s always had it’s problems and I just think it’s healthy to recognize current symptoms.
I invoked KRS for a reason that is, when he started to participate in Hip Hop, the genre was in a state where young bucks couldn’t just dip their toes in a fringe activity. The culture drew them in to a point where people like KRS would at the very least have to learn about and understand other areas of the culture. Graffiti, The Zulu Nation, and B-Boy life were all necessary course materials to mastering the topic at hand.
Of course there were “exceptions” like The Sugar Hill Gang, but they were marketable and an industry sponsored group. If a new emcee wanted to get the respect of old heads, have Kool and Bam look their way, they had to learn the culture, it was inseparable.
Today we have the internet; a blessing and a curse, to be cliche. With Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Datpiff, and other similar sites, it’s never been easier to make your own mixtape. The path from fan to emcee has switched from local to express. It might seem egalitarian but, it’s caused a fissure between those that are immersed in Hip Hop culture, and people who just want to hear rap songs. Vince Staples has undoubtedly benefited from the exposure brought along by the internet, picking up fans with ease. However, Vince is a painfully authentic artist and the fans he’s amassed, for the most part, fall on the other end of the spectrum. I don’t think Vince’s fans care for the picture he presents of street life, and I’m pretty sure he’s aware of it. On “Lift Me Up” he says,
“All these white folks chanting when I asked ’em where my n*ggas at? Goin’ crazy, got me goin’ crazy, I can’t get wit’ that
Wonder if they know, I know they won’t go where we kick it at”
With an ignorance of the truth in Vince’s music, how can his fans be showing real love? I came from a poor family, but my parents scrapped up enough together to send me to a private school where I wouldn’t hear the end of “poor jokes” thrown my way. Years later those same kids started pretending to be broke and “hood”. If by some turn of events they ended up as fans of art I made influenced by my economic background, it would most definitely feel uncomfortable and disingenuous. Vince’s experiences go way deeper than mine, and I can’t imagine it’s easy to share emotions to be met with cheers from people that could never relate.
art by your homie, Arthur Banach
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