Hip-Hop’s Problem With Labels | University


Tyler, the creator criticized the use of the term ‘rap’ to describe his musicFLICKR / MARK C AUSTIN

At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Tyler, the creator IGOR won the Best Rap Album category – even though Tyler himself explicitly claimed that it was not a “rap album.” Tyler himself was the first to take note: In a subsequent interview, he criticized the Grammys for their policy towards black artists like himself, and noted that they consistently categorize “guys who look like me” as rap or urban. It is easy to understand where he came from. Yet it’s not just the Grammys who mistakenly compare rap albums like 21 Savage’s I am> I was to more neo-soul and pop-oriented versions like IGOR. You’re likely to find hip-hop fans making the exact same comparisons online at the end of 2019. IGOR is in the same stage as I am> I was in terms of quality, fails to understand that the two hardly play the same sport. Tyler’s comments tap into a deeper issue that critics and casual audiences alike are guilty of: the misclassification of rappers.



California band Death Grips frequently mix hip-hop with industrial musicFLICKR / MONTECRUZ FOTO

Misclassification in music can sometimes seem like it’s messing around. Any label on an artist will fail to capture the intricacies of their work, and anyone who refers to genre labels as if they were the word of God is missing the point. Yet for rappers, the existing labeling is so hopelessly inadequate that it is on the verge of being unfair. Hip-hop artists today are a far cry from the MCs of the ’80s and’ 90s. Yet some old-school hip-hop fans constantly complain about how we got out of the thoughtful storytelling of something. like that of Nas.Shootings“To the mumble supposedly derived from songs like Future”I thought it was a drought“. Their complaints are partly taken seriously as we always give these songs similar labels. However, on inspection, with the exception of the two songs featuring a rap style, the two probably have less in common than apples and oranges.

“A $ AP Rocky said he didn’t think the term ‘rapper’ meant anything honorable.”

These differences between the subgenres of hip-hop go beyond technique. The leather-clad team of Playboi Carti that robs a supermarket for the music video “Sky” is nothing but punk. Children see the resounding guitar chords of GHOSTS and the divine proclamations of freedom on “Freeee (Ghost Town, part 2)Are the definition of psychedelic. Thunderous and nightmarish Death Grips “Fever (Aye Aye)»Embodies industrial music. Lil Peep’s discouragement on “Cry baby”Is unmistakably emo. And the drilling scene in cities like London and New York is entirely its own thing. If anything, the blending of historic musical genres with hip-hop sensibilities to produce new subgenres should be championed. Instead, audiences crudely compare these projects to each other to solemnly conclude that rappers were better in the ’90s. In doing so, we both misunderstand our current artists and become a barrier to change. Instead, we need new labels that respect the differences between these subgenres. We need classifications that appreciate the history of hip-hop without becoming zealous. And we have to make sense of our existing language before we try to push it into our new reality.

Playboi Carti music videos often have a strong punk influenceYOUTUBE / PLAYBOI CARTI

Naturally, with this view comes its fair share of controversy. In an article for DJBooth, Yoh Philips found Lil Uzi Vert’s declaration of being a disturbing “rock star”. For Philips, self-defined rappers do not respect the hip-hop fans, critics and platforms that caught their attention in the first place. While Phillips has no problem with rappers crossing genres, he argued that his “biggest problem, when it comes to classification, is this implication that being considered a ‘rapper’ is something. vile, shameful and deplorable. ” On the contrary, Philips argued that rappers were “poets, alchemists and heroes”. Sadly, his concerns were almost confirmed when A $ AP Rocky said he didn’t think the term “rapper” meant anything honorable. It is undeniable that with the new labels, there is a risk that artists will forget and not respect their place in the history of hip-hop. Yet while I sympathize and agree with the latter part of his argument, I don’t think rappers owe their fans to shy away from calling themselves “rock stars”. This conclusion has the central conviction that the external classification makes an artist what he is. But if there is something, surely the artist should have a say in what they are? By giving these privileges to fans, we are back to square one – comparing Slick rick at Smokepurpp.

How do you make sense of all this? Well, quite simply, by developing the labels that we use for the rap subgenres. By all means, we should keep the label of “rapper”. It should be a point of pride that connects artists under an umbrella term, which is incredibly useful for new listeners. Yet, in the same way that calling a song “rock” indicates that a listener is likely to hear electric guitars, the term should not be taken as informative. Instead, sub-genre labels like “emo,” “punk,” and “psychedelic” should do most of the work – the same way they do rockstars. We, the public, must respect an artist’s decision to align with these categories. We need to identify and welcome new subgenres, and resist our constant urge to compare anything that has rhythmic verse. And above all, we should be excited at the prospect of witnessing new stages in the development of hip-hop.

About Raymond Lang

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