It never fails: at every juncture in a music genre’s life, there’s someone claiming that it’s ready for the trash pile. It happened with punk rock as early as the 80s; the funny thing is that, while people were calling punk dead, punk bands were flourishing all over the country in local scenes and a lot of them were selling records on mainstream labels. As late as 2007, punk enthusiasts had to prove again in an award-winning documentary (Punk’s Not Dead, of course) that punk rock was alive and well.
Just like with punk rock, people have said for ages that hip hop is no more. Back in 2006, Nas declared right in the title of his album, Hip Hop is Dead. Oddly enough, the genre’s demise didn’t seem to hurt sales much. Hip Hop is Dead debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and eventually went platinum. Seven years later, if hip hop is dead, no one seems to have gotten that message to the people who work hard assemble hip hop beats into stirring music that makes us move, or to the people who listen.
Hip hop, in spite of critics who say it’s over, is showing even more vitality than ever. Jay Z has sold over 50 million albums and scooped up 17 Grammys. Kanye West did zero promotion for Yeezus, but it still debuted at number one in 31 countries.
Plus, hip hop has indelibly engraved itself in the culture at large. It shows up in fashion and in music styles all over the world. Harvard University has even opened a hip hop archive and will, for the next five years, collect hip hop artifacts with a goal of offering classes in hip hop beats, music and culture.
But, maybe you’re one of those folks who feel that mainstream acceptance is the very thing that’s killed the spirit of hip hop. The thing is, hip hop’s independent origins are alive and well in clubs, studios and your neighbor’s apartment.
The most exciting things are happening not in the mainstream, but in the underground. Local scenes in cities from Detroit to New Orleans to beachside town St. Petersburg, Florida are alive with fresh acts and unique sounds.
Best of all, anyone with something to say can pick up the mic. If you’ve got an internet connection, you’ve got access to hundreds of premium and free hip hop beats from some of the best producers around.
At the end of the day, hip hop’s only dead the day people stop making it. Want to keep hip hop alive? Grab some beats, get some time in the studio, and put your tracks out there.