Is Hip Hop Lacking Originality ?

Check out the editorial..
All This Originality Is Killing Me


you make plenty of good points, but you seem to be going overboard on the originality situation. True, there are people like Puffy and Jermaine Dupri who jack hooks like they're going out af sytyle. Take MC Lyte's latest album , and tracks off of Biggie's album. In R&B hjip-hop it it s done on a regular basis. Just a take a look at Mary J. Blige. However, producers have been borrowing from artists for the longest time. We just didn't tecognize it because they were digging in the crates. Nowadays it's more profitable to just take from a big hit and since we've as members of an earlier school generation have ended up knowing a lot of the samples that have been used. A lot of this came from our hip-hop black sheep offspring, bass music. The formula there is mainly to take a poplular hook and meld it to a bass beat. Needless to say, this music is a business first, unfortunately, and recognition can be the difference betweena hit and the unemployment line., so to conftinue to eat they go for the sure hit. One has to ask a question, what is more remareble than a hit song you heard when you were younger that your parents enven grooved to?

Now, on creative terms, thatr doesn't justify the means, but that is the way of likfe, to fulfill the need for the dollar. How else can one explain the emergence of Foxy Brown and Little Kim as icons of any type of femininity?

Many bay artists are finding originality, but that depends on the originality of the producer and the vision of the artists. Unfortunately, there has been a shortage of thos two items, mainly because of the lessening of commercial viability for originality. In other words, the creative artists don't sell as uch as they used to, and the producers are haveing a hard timedisplaying ttheir vision. ONe the east coast, look at producers such as Pete Rock, Tony Dofat. they're being left off the hook by TrackMasters, who bite like a dog. same thing for the west coast. Dre is busy trying to be an entrepreneur. Quik seems to be in limbo. What about those brothers from Infra-Red ? Haven't heard a peep? It takes skill along with creativty to be a great producer. Only Warren G as a producer has been making any noise on the left coast recently. That tends to happen with a lucrative Def Jam deal. If A&R at these record labels let the good producers back in the game, things would change. However it still takes that one hit....

Also, I don't think that remakes are such a bad thing. They're done in R&B and pop all the time... It just helps to legitimize the genre and gives love to old-schoolers. Tell me you didn't get a laugh from seening Biz in Snoop's vapors video. It isn't dpone extremely often, and if you listen to Just Another Case you'll hear that Slick Rick guested on the track. If it gives love to the original artists, great, but if you take and show no love to the original artists Biggie did with that refrain in Hypnotize with Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can't you see... theremight bve a problem. Sometimes, too, a remake can give love to the original artist. I saw Roberta Flack on Rosie O'Donnell giving love back to the Fugees for the track being sung in the same key because the song brought back an interest in her music. Think about how rappers revived James Brown's career in the 80's. For a while, practically every song had a James Brown or Funky Drummer sample. The Staying' Alive sounds like the Bee Gees themselves may have contributed to the track and changed some of the ad libs; that is creativity. However, I will agree that there is a dearth of creativity and like I said before it is based on the dollar, but one has to take a greater look at creativity. It is a cooperative effort and the last reason it is stifles is that many of our creative artists don't have deals are in contract disputes, too busy being businesspeople, or are just on haitus. That is mostly the record companies' faults plus the fact that many of these artist are being passed up for the most commercial artists, leaving the better ones out in the cold. The only other thing to do is conform or become an outcast in the industry like KRS-ONE or Too Short. Not to necessarity say they did that, but they are good examples of beyond the norm. If we gave more support to our good artists this might happen less. Like I said before, money is the bottom line....

Ti Back2Basix

I believe hip-hop is repetive like you stated but also, it's what's selling today. You also have to look at it as saying, "Oh, I remember such and such's song" and artists' saying "DAMN, i should've used that beat." Personally, being a d.j., I like looking for old songs that have been re-created, for lack of a better word, and listening to both to see the difference, whether hip-hop or rap. I classify biting as someone with no concept whatsoever, I won't mention no names.

This is D.J. Gee Nice
saying "WHAT What?!?"

When I was younger (not too long ago) I couldn't wait for the latest from whoever. Nowadays we all feel a malaise about the industry. I could never incorporate gangsta rap into my lifestyle so that was the first problem. Old school artist are now getting old (check out Water-Bed Hev. Luv the guy but even he feels there is something missing) and now this note from you about the lack of creativity.

I fully agree. It is scary to see such a potential market change in such detrimental ways. However there is nothing that we can do except educate and empower the artist. Remember when D.U. first droped? Black Sheep? Those were the last new artist that I could really jump to. I thought I was just getting old.

In any case, I really appreciate your newletter and site. It is insightful, timely, very deserving of the accolades that it has received so far. However you do need to work on the text formatting a bit. Good luck

I just wanted to drop you a line about your segement on the state of hip hop. I agree that orignality has taken a back seat to marketing, but i like to share my opinion.

i think if you look back, we always had people making close relations to the songs they were using. Look at Rakim's "I know you got Soul" or Rob Base's "It takes Two". I think the key difference was that we weren't as familar with the songs as we are now. Now everyone and their brother is making a breakbeat record with every rare funky record. That's whack in my opinion (I'm biased because I'm an avid collector not just for beats but for the simple fact that i love the music of that era).

Also, I think that, in the past once we started with those Peter Pipers and such, we took it to the next level and started really flipping shit. Look at P.E. (who used a lot of shit that was straight of records - look to Public Enemy #1 and Night of the Living Baseheads), Tribe and the whole state of music from 89-93. that made creativity the rule and people were GETTING DEALS BECAUSE THEY WERE ON SOME DIFFERENT SHIT. That for me was the next important part of our history, but the one problem was that some of these artists weren't ready to take it to the next level. I think the problem with a lot of the "creative" stuff was theat the artists weren't into the whole entertainment part of the business.

And to make matters worse, there weren't many outlets other than a few select spots to see artists live. Thus, beginning the MTV era. As we know, Hammer and Digital and Vanilla Ice and Naughty started making, for lack of a better word, pop hip hop. That changed a lot of things. We had Naughty using the Jackson 5 and doing hot vidoes and Treach was such a pressence in front of the camera that people started gravitating to those kind of asrtists. Then what was going on *(at least in N.Y.) was the birth of the mixtapes. Back in those times, mixtapes weren't about getting the exclusvies or the freestyles, they were about the blends!!!! Ron G and Kid Capri were the kings of taking a old record and putting some hit accapella on it or putting some r&b accvapella over some hot hip hop instrumental. Puffy and co. just put those records on wax. Now all we have is that (at leasst on the major label level) because it's working and those "artist" groups aren't hitting people from different angles.

Back when Hammer was blowing up on MTV, P.E. was coming from doing shows with rock groups or KRS was doing speaking tours. Now everyone is hoping to either get their video on or on the radio and if it doen't make any noise QUICKLY labels move on to the next. We've become fickjle much earilier than ever. There's a lot of people out there trying to get an alternative to what's out there, but it's so fucking hard to compete with a major who can offer a dj loot, trips, etc. to play their records. WE talk to some many programmers and one of the first questions that comes up is "how are you doing at soundscan and BDS?" Well we can't afford to pull BDS and Soundscan because it cost $500 a week to do it! Very few DJ's outside of the mixshow and college are playing music they really like. it's always "Well the kids want to hear this." But back in the day, DJ'S BROKE RECORDS. Now record companies have (in my opinion) programmers locked down. Hip Hop was the most expressive shit out there, now you have powerful people like Funkmaster Flex going on record saying that he "doesn't break records - I only give people what's already hot." Well how'd they get hot? it's a lot easier to have a hot record if the South Bronx was hot and you have the ability to convince a station of your support by doing co-promotions, ads, etc.

We at the independent level aren't privvy to that YET. I feel that in the near future some of the groups that are starting to get attention from the mixshow and college DJ's are on the verge of gettin it on. Some of these heads are making real inroads, but it'll be interesting to see if and when they get on a major how those same mixshow and college Dj's will respond to them. Basically, what I'm rambling about is that, Hip Hop has become a business with too many people at the creative side not knowing how to use the business. Wu is really the only organization that is making real power moves. They (in my opinion) are the only heads that are making music that against the current state of hip hop who are succeeding. Their first single was such a bold statement. We all know they are capable of making "You're all I need", but as their first foot forward, they come with some 5min+ slow shit!!!! I love them guys!!!!! We need more heads like them to succeed so we can have some diversity in this music.

Nowadays, it's either you a gangsta/player or on some lyric shit. Back in the day we had P.E. rocking with Rob Base and you could hear both at a party! Now that it's a rarity to hear the Liks and lil kim in a party. WE need to get back to the times when we listened to the music and we need to begin to be able to effectively criticize the music that's being made. We've haven't allowed our journalists the freedom the say so and so is whack without their fear of being jumped. i think the criticizism will make everything better. If we were able to have discussions and find out why the artists make the music they do. I think it'll open new levels of appreciation becasue it'll remove the focus away from the music and towards the people making the music. In a way, i'm saying I want heros. i want to make icons of the people who do make music I love. I want Primo to be the Jordan of producers and know about his thoughts and ideas. I want to know more about the Luniz than they got five on it. i want Hip Hop to be about saying someone's is whack and they coming back with some hot shit like when Mr.Magic dissed P.E. and they came back with Rebel Without A Pause. WE need the tension, without violence of course, but we need the tension. We need people who want to explain why they (in most of our opinoions) have run out ideas to the point where we're using O THER HIP HOP RECORDS! We need poeple not getting away with subpar work. And if they are, we need to be able to step to them with intelligent opionons and have them articulate what they're aiming for. It can't all be about doing whatever it takes to make money and it's time we not allow that to justify every move we make. Anyway, Dave, hopefully I haven't bored you, but I, for one, am longing for expression of ideas and feelings.

Georges Sulmers
Raw Shack Productions

Yo Davey D, In response to your last article in this newsletter on originality. I will agree on the fact that artist are not using their creativity much any more. My firm belief is that the industry from labels on down to radio stations to consumers who purchase the product have an attraction to the familiarity of all of these remakes or rip-offs, whichever term you choose. I believe the labels have formula in mind as to what kind of record will easily sell. The bottom line for most labels is the almighty dollar $$$, as I'm sure your aware of.

At another angle, hip hop was born from D.J.'s working the 1 and 2's and having an M.C. rhyme over the breaks. Of course if you go back to the inception of hip hop, it was the Jamaican D.J.'s 'toastin' to the records they were spinning. I think that hip hop has not fallen far from it's early roots. The beginning had the D.J.'s 'toastin' on to having M.C.'s rock the mic to its beginning on wax with early groups having bands re-play R&B/Soul hits for them to rhyme over to sampling of the mid 80's which continues today. Sampling seemed to be on an exclusive James brown back in the mid 80's but that then expanded out to cover just about anything that made a dope loop. As it exists now, the same loops keep reappearing more and more frequently in songs and it seems that we are stuck inside a bubble in terms of creativity in hip hop.

For a final comment. Even though sampling continues to persist, there can still be a way to flip the loops certain ways and add your own flavor, as you made mention of in your article. Excuse the length of the comments. Peace 2 ya,

Hi Davey D. !!!

I basicly agree with you, that this flood of totally adapted songs aren't the offspring of originality. I mean Sampling is always eqal to redoing a song, but I don't think there is a need of allways choosing the most popular ones. Here I have to add little critique to some East-Coast Producas who think is enough to take just one or two samples for a song, that sounds like the originality. No disrespect, but the artform of sampling is also to give the sample you took a new character by adding something else to it. That's one part where I have to say, that many Producas from the West-Coast are more carefull and serious about - to create something new & own. Big Up to my favourite ones RZA, E-Swift & Ant Banks.

Peace & out ...

Da Meista '97

First of all lets face that in evry thing theres mo sides than just 1 or 2. i think that 'beat stealin' or sampling from another artists aint so serious,but when it comes to bitin rhymez,itz really wack.soundz and beats shouldn't be taken as they were made at da 1st place,they ought to be remixed or changed or they should contain the remakerz own soundz etc. i want to point out one good example of this mess,it is the smif'n'wessuns 'Wrekonize' remix containin singin from the original song.i think its the best way to manifest thank you's to the artist ya have sampled from.

peace in case ya need it.
A.Roos from Finland,Europe

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