Posted by Jenna Postler
Hip-hop is, and forever will be, an evolving genre. Since its conception, the genre has centered around a sound that is focused on hard beats and rhymes.
Starting with artists like RUN-DMC and continuing through the period where gangster rap was mainstream, an emphasis was placed on not only production and lyrical quality, but also on rap as the genre of the oppressed and downtrodden.
Artists highlighted their social upbringing, seedy neighborhoods and illicit activities through lyrics that were raw and uncensored. Beats behind the lyrics in these forms of conventional rap are heavy and loud, often devoid of complexity.
Recently the genre has seen a shift into a new type of rap categorized as alternative hip-hop.
This deviation of hip-hop has been quite controversial, as its emphasis lies not in hard beats and rhymes, but in the melding of other genres and lyrical quality. Therefore, the question is asked, is alternative hip-hop good for the genre as a whole?
There are two schools of thought on the issue. One notes that it is a positive change and the other states that alternative hip-hop is not.
Critics of alternative hip-hop claim that the grimy roots and traditions that hip-hop is comprised of are forgotten through the new genre.
Alternative hip-hop artists may come from backgrounds that are not at all normal in hip-hop nature. Others fear that the alternative divergence will bring in listeners who do not care about the foundations of hip-hop.
Alternative hip-hop has the potential to appeal to more people, as alternative hip-hop audiences often sample other genres and have diverse fan bases.
Supporters may also be trying to steer away from traditional aspects of hip-hop to new hip-hop that is often more lyrically, socially and culturally aware.
Artists new on the alternative hip-hop scene include Little Brother, Das Racist, The Cool Kids and Kid Cudi.
Often unsatisfied with current hip-hop, these artists look toward the genres of indie rock, soul, reggae and folk for inspiration. This inspiration may be translated directly into production samples, featured artists or may come in the form of lyrics.
Alternative hip-hop has certainly helped rap become a more inclusive genre, branching out from its traditions in ways that can be positive.
By defying conventions inherent in traditional hip-hop, alternative artists are blazing a path toward new and unchartered territory, where no subject is off limits.
Jenna Postler is a sophomore from rural Vt. who knows what's hip (hop) and can be heard from 2-4 a.m. every Friday morning on WSPN 91.1 FM.