Jay Z and Beyoncé arrive at the presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 21, 2013, in Washington, D.C. WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES
Hip-hop was just all right in 2013. Will the music we love be stronger in the new year?
Around the family dinner table over Christmas, the conversation turned to the recently announced Outkast performance at Coachella 2014—the event that pretty much all hip-hop heads are looking forward to—and the overall state of hip-hop going into 2014, which has decidedly more mixed reviews.
Was 2013 a good year for the music we love, or does it need a new blueprint? Will 2014 bring an as-yet-undiscovered breakthrough artist or album, or will hip-hop continue to be a marginalized art form consumed by many and controlled by a few?
Expect the same group of regulars to put out more of the same material: Rick Ross will still rap about cars, clothes and hos. Weezy will figure out new metaphors for oral sex. Future will kill us with Auto-Tuned hood raps and Drake will keep “srapping” (singing-rapping). He did say on “All Me” that he’s “the light-skinned Keith Sweat” and he “gon’ make it last forever.” I believe him.
Here’s what we might see from some of hip-hop’s other notables:
Kendrick Lamar emerged as the most radical MC of 2013 with hooks like, “If Pirus and Crips all got along/They’d probably gun me down by the end of this song.” My hope is that the Compton, Calif.-raised rapper will remain reflective and introspective without falling victim to corporate pressures to sell his brand by any means necessary.
And speaking of ways and means, let’s talk about Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z. Fans are disappointed that he seems to teeter on that blurred line between rap and action. But I’m not. Yes, his lyrical themes still take on poverty and its adverse consequences on the community—but that’s about it, beyond handing out college scholarships and potable water to African communities, “Jigga man” hasn’t meaningfully poured his resources into (re)building African-American institutions. I’m reluctant to expect him to sponsor a school in 2014 or underwrite a curriculum that integrates hip-hop-based pedagogies to teach kids entrepreneurial skills.
We’d save ourselves a lot of disappointment if we just accepted…