Hip-hop has changed over time dramatically, and there’s no doubt about it. It went from acts with the disco groove of Sugarhill Gang and the lyricism of LL Cool J to the conscious rap of Public Enemy and positive vibes of De La Soul. Then onto the long reign of 90’s rap led by artists like NWA, Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G, which later on transitioned into the gangsta rap and soulful style of the early 2000s — by artists like 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Outkast, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Now the world has transitioned into the age of “mumble rap,” the most talked about and controversial of the lot.
A lot of upcoming artists get criticized for their music not being similar to the last generation of popular rap styles Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Nas and JAY-Z popularized. In other words, if it doesn’t match that style, it’s not “real rap.”
“Rap is dead” and “this sh*t wack” are just a couple of the sentiments being thrown out against the new age of rap. However, this is not the case. Forbes recently published an article saying hip-hop now is the most consumed genre in the United States for the very first time. This just proves that hip-hop is actually growing, despite oldheads’ wish to “bring back the old school.”
So, where does this leave the influential Atlanta music scene? It’s obvious that critics like to cherry pick artists (*cough* Lil Yachty *cough* 21 Savage *cough* Young Thug) to fulfill their statements, but they are looking through one side of the lens. Truth is, those people might need to clean their glasses. There’s talent out there — all you have to do is dig deeper and find it. On the surface we have platinum-selling artists like Future, 2 Chainz and Migos, as well as a plethora of new artists like J.I.D., Jacquees, Dae Dae, 6lack, Madeintyo and more.
We were gifted with the chance to talk to a group of rising young artists (and an older one) from Atlanta about what they think about this new age of hip-hop and where it’ll be in the future.
One artist leading the charge is Kap G, a 2017 XXL Freshman and native of College Park, Georgia. Widely known for his hit single “Girlfriend,” Kap hasn’t experienced as much criticism as some of his peers, but he knows what it’s rooted in.
“I don’t get as much criticism from older people, and I think that’s because there’s facts in my music and I actually talk about things,” Kap G told us over phone while on tour. “That’s where most of the backlash come from with older people; they don’t really like the newer generation because they rap about nothing. That’s what they get mad at.”
Art comes in many different forms and genres, just as music does, too. You’re not necessarily going to like it all, but instead of cutting it off completely, branch out, look for new artists in this time that match the sound you like.
Atlanta recording artist Domani, son of legendary rapper T.I., really said it best when he offered, “All music is art. No matter if we understand it or not, or maybe can’t even hear the words sometimes, but it’s somebody’s art. Somebody out there is going to connect with it, but once again that’s somebody else’s art and we got to let them be.”
You’ll hear old heads constantly say the old hip-hop is dying, it’s garbage, or it just just foolishness, but the younger generation doesn’t have a problem with it. They still bump the music that’s popular right now and say “it’s lit.”
When we asked Kap G if he thought hip-hop is getting better or worse, he said: “I feel like both. It changed for best, it changed with the young crowd, but I feel like the opposite, too, though because I wish it could’ve had a little bit more lyricism and meaning to it.”
He continued, “I feel like [rap] always going to find its place, even if there is some bullsh*t out. I feel like it just take one person to push the culture. I feel like every generation had a few people to push the culture.”
Domani added, “I can see [rap] growing. I see more new artist really putting out real music. I see more, a lot more J. Coles and Kendricks, and I see a lot more artist that make the music that’s going to last.”
Rap music is like a teenager going through puberty, in the sense that it’s always changing. Hip-hop is never going to die out despite what the oldheads say, because of the fact that there’ll always be somebody who will influence the culture and innovate styles. It’ll keep evolving. Flows will become more diverse, styles will be copied and expanded on, and the lyrical output from artists will be different — but it won’t die. If anything, it’ll just multiply.
There will still be artists out there who build on the styles that you like, just make sure you’re willing to do the extra digging that’s needed to find them. With that, it’s important to give credit to rappers you might not like, too. They’re still on the grind to make their art.
Only time will tell what the future of Atlanta’s rap culture going to be like, unless you’re Kodie Shane, who told us she’s already seen the future. But in interviewing some of the future artists of Atlanta’s rap culture, we got a pretty good idea.
Kenneth is a rising senior at Druid Hills High School, Calvin Walden is a rising sophomore at Fredrick Douglas High School and Mack Walker is a rising sophomore at North Atlanta High School. They all like music.