The Fall Of Regional Divisions In Hip-Hop
Article by Persiah Alcorn
There was once a point in hip hop in which you could tell where an emcee was from simply by their beats and lyrics. Rappers took pride in producing music for their neighborhood, state, and region. Whether it was Tupac telling us how it was to live and die in Los Angeles or Dr. Dre rapping over a smooth sampled beat featuring Parliament’s “Mothership Connection,” the West Coast had a distinct sound. In contrast the East Coast generated raw sounds and flows like that of the clan that wasn’t nothing to mess with or freestyle king Big L.Southern rap was predominately fast due to the mainstream acceptance of Miami bass artist such as The 2 Live Crew, but would soon transfer over to Texas’ chopped and screwed style of music. This style of music slowed the tempo down to that of a snail’s speed which was seen frequently from artist such as the South Park Coalition and UGK. Since the 1990s regional distinctions have crumbled in hip hop. Artist such as Kendrick Lamar, Travi$ Scott and A$AP Rocky all break down regional barriers and (unbeknownst to them) have pushed hip hop further.
When you think of Compton do you think of the cat and mouse rap antics of Sugar Free and DJ Quik? Do thoughts of gangster rappers like Eazy-E come into your mind? Kendrick Lamar has chosen a route that opposes that of his past Comptonites. Not as conscious as Common and not as gangster as Mack 10, Lamar has crafted his own method of rap. Also Lamar’s beat selections do not fit the mold of what many listeners think a California emcee should rap over. From songs like “H.O.C” in which melodic trumpets dance with guitar chords to “Cartoon & Cereal” which blends robotic vocals with pounding bass, accompanied by imitated gun sounds. Lamar’s production not only steps outside the West Coast assembly, but it makes hip hop enthusiasts question what the West should even sound like.
Throughout the 21st century hip hop has branded music from the South as ignorant, simple, or as “dance music.” Mo City native, Travi$ Scott, just cannot agree. Hailing from Texas it was expected of Scott to produce music with heavy UGK samples as well as having chopped and screwed singles. Contrary to most of his fellow Texans Scott has chosen to take an unconventional approach. A blend of Kid Cudi, 808s and Heartbreak Kanye, and M.I.A’s catchy choruses defines Scott’s music. Songs like “That B!tch Crazy” scream 1980’s with slow synthesizers, but compiled with heavy bass lines creates an eerie, gothic tone. Even Scott’s uptempo songs such as “Analogue” sound like 1980s UK pop fused with strong, echoing vocals. Certainly no one expected this powerful (and different) sound to come from a young man from Texas.
New York is where it all started. Where hip hop lyrics were first spoken into the wind as beat breaks bounced off of shell toes and gold chains. With such a deeply rooted relationship between hip hop and New York many rappers choose to stick to rudimentary, uncensored, rhymes categorized by New Yorkers before them. From Busta to 50 Cent and all the way down to Jay-Z East Coast rappers have always kept their flows unedited. A$AP Rocky is no angel when it comes to his rapping abilities, but his take on his content and beat construction have been raising hell. With the release of his single “Purple Swag” listeners couldn’t identify where Rocky was truly from. “Purple Swag” was an ode to the Houston style of music known as chopped and screwed. Aside from flowing over slow, syrup like beats Rocky has gain an abundance of disapproval from fellow New Yorkers not only because of his instrumentals, but because of his lyrical content. Opposed to his Harlem counterparts the 23 year old rapper chooses to talk about gold grills, codeine cough syrup, and “Gold slabs and them 6’s.” All characteristics of Houston’s rap scene (as well as Memphis). In addition to his down south influenced lyrics Rocky repeatedly uses the rapping style of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Even stating “N-ggas ain’t ready for the flow switch. Only Harlem n-gga on his Bone sh-t.” A$AP Rocky embodies the idea that hip hop has lost its regional divisions and hip hop listeners have no problem with that.
Hip hop was meant to bring people together. Whether they were wearing Adidas in New York, riding in 1964 Impalas in California, or chopping blades in Houston, somewhere in-between the music and the politics that unity was lost. Thankfully the youth of the 21st century are pushing aside the stereotypes cast upon them based on their residences and are getting back to the music. Let artist such as A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, and Travi$ Scott inspire new artist to intermingle different cultural aspects into their music. Hip hop is so much more than where you are from. Hip hop is a culture, a save haven for expression and the reason this article was written. Give the pen, pad, and soundboard all the power, not your place of residence.