Preston Mitchell | Staff Writer
If any genre differs from the music of my youth, it’s rap. From its late ‘70s conception to the ‘90s Golden Age, the genre has prided itself on clever lyricism and storytelling. While the last decade popularized trap music – in which artists like Gucci Mane, Jeezy and T.I. depicted hardships in impoverished settings – wordplay was still the focal point.
Today, we’re witnessing the rise of the subgenre called mumble rap: trap artists supersede emphasis on punning for melodic flows that, quite frankly, don’t make much sense.
There’s “Panda” by Desiigner, which was the No. 1 song in America for two weeks, and “Lifestyle” by Rich Gang. As much as this new generation of Future, Young Thug and Fetty Wap has divided rap listeners, there’s no need to worry.
Every genre of music undergoes its own experimental “glam” phase, and hip hop is finally catching up.
Much like today’s flamboyantly-dressed rappers, glam rock saw poppy musicians creating their own psychedelic music – often drenched in androgynous clothing, makeup and ridiculous hairstyles. It was the heydey for glittered faces, campy spectacle and the tedium of “The Rocky Picture Horror Show.” Fortunately, it lasted only during the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
This offbeat era gave us Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper and especially David Bowie, who was the model for artists like Kanye West and Marilyn Manson to constantly reinvent themselves. Without the Bowies or Coopers, we wouldn’t have had Elton John, Freddie Mercury or even Prince to forge their careers from glam inspiration.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is country music, which had its own glam phase in the early ‘70s after pop country became the norm in Nashville. As a reaction to this wave of simple songs and lush production, contemporaries like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings introduced “outlaw music” to reinvigorate the genre.
A distinct mix of Hank Williams-style honky tonk with traditional folk rock, outlaw music maintained its own scene in Austin, where many musicians grew out their hair to combat country’s social conservatism. Above all else, it paved the way for songwriters stuck in the Nashville system to break new ground in their own way — like Kris Kristofferson, Steve Earle and Dolly Parton. As the late Merle Haggard would say, they all liked “living right and being free.”
Rap music is only 37 years old, so it was inevitable that it would encounter a weird chapter. Not all trap is necessarily bad, but the current crop has more misses than hits.
Much like pop, jazz and even classical music, hip hop will continue to progress and play around with various oddities before returning to its lyrical roots. If you’re someone like me, you’ll simply have to wait for that time to come.
What a time to be alive, indeed.
Featured Image: Courtesy | Freebandz.com