Hip Hop has been the leading genre of popular music for the past couple years. There is no doubt about that. Recently, a lot of people have began to question whether hip-hop is more popular than rock. This post was inspired by a video posted by the YouTube channel Dead End Hip Hop. DEHH is comprised of four panelists that conduct album reviews on classic and current albums, discuss topics that revolve around hip hop artists and also take questions from fans. I’ve been watching their content for quite a while and have thoroughly enjoyed it. This video in particular discusses whether hip hop is more popular than rock. It immediately piqued my interest because I fell in love with rock and metal music far before I started appreciating and loving hip hop. This post is sort of a response to some of their comments, and bringing up some other points as to why hip hop is more popular than rock. I definitely recommend you watch the video they did first so that you can hear all of their points, they bring up some great ones.
One of the first points that was brought up was the fact that hip-hop became a lot more popular in video games. Sports games, in particular, started of with including rock and punk music, but would later go on to include hip hop as well, and now most sports game soundtracks are predominately hip hop oriented. This was a brilliant point, and one I noticed with the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Growing up, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was one of my favorite games to play with friends due to the wacky stunts you could do once you turned on a couple modifiers like slowing time down. The soundtrack for that game included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motorhead, The Ramones, and Alien Ant Farm. Of course, it did feature hip hop artists like KRS-ONE, Del the Funky Homosapien and House of Pain, but it was predominately a punk/rock soundtrack.
Now compare that to Tony Hawk Underground 2, a game that organized the songs by three categories, Rock/Other, Hip-Hop and Punk. The two games were released 3 years apart, 2001 and 2004. That’s a pretty big shift in a small span of time. Football games and basketball games also began to quickly adopt hip-hop into their games as well. 2K6 featured music from Ghostface Killah, Aesop Rock, and Redman, all big hip-hop artists.
A point that was brought up that partially piqued this post as a whole was the fact that reality television shows used to focus on rock and roll artists like Bret Michaels and Ozzy Osbourne. Nowadays, the focus has shifted over to the Kardashians or TI and Tiny. The fact of the matter is, people don’t care about Ozzy as much anymore or Bret Michaels because they’re old and they’re the artists “my dad used to like when he was a kid”. They aren’t hip or cool anymore. It’s cool to not like Ozzy or Bret because if your parents like them and you don’t, then you’re rebelling.
Which leads me to the largest point of why hip hop is popular than rock, the fact that it is still the genre that is not accepted by adults. Take, for instance, the days when the Beatles were the largest band on the planet. Everyone who was young loved the Beatles, but their parents were against their children listening to them. That didn’t stop the kids from hearing the Beatles, but it spurred on a sense of rebellion. History repeated itself as rock and metal progressed with bands like Slayer, Black Sabbath, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses etc. They were the bands your parents didn’t want you listening to, so naturally, you listened to them.
The difference is that as time went on, that younger generation grew up and now bands like Guns N Roses and Black Sabbath are “okay” to like. The same does not exist for hip hop. You could have been a teen when Illmatic came out or Paid In Full, and your contemporary adults who are now in their late 30’s early 40’s haven’t accepted hip hop in that manner. And that right there is why hip hop is so big. Now, that doesn’t mean that once hip hop is accepted, it’ll decline and not be as popular, but the youth that enjoy hip hop are driving it to become more popular than rock.
A point that wasn’t addressed in this video, but I think has a very strong case as to why hip hop is as big as it is due to how young it is. Realistically, it’s a genre that’s around 35 years old, whereas rock is twice that. In my opinion, a lot of the innovation of rock and metal happened in the 70’s and ended around the mid 90’s, and that’s a stretch. Prog rock, thrash, glam rock/metal and grunge are probably four of the more notable genres to spawn out of this era (I know there’s a lot I missed, just bear with me. Hip hop is still innovating, we have new genres that are catching a lot of traction in the modern hip hop scene, and genre crossovers are starting to become more and more normal. Trap music and mumble rap are two that I can think of that have grown a lot in the past five years.
Rock just hasn’t had that growth. There haven’t been innovative rock albums that have pushed the genre forward in the way that some rap albums had. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, B4.DA.$$, Channel Orange, R.A.P. Music, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are all albums that have come out in the past ten years that have changed the landscape of hip hop. As far as rock albums from the past ten years, only two come to mind: Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light and Tame Impala’s Currents. That’s not to say that an innovative rock album isn’t right around the corner, but right now, hip hop is in first.
Support and Fragmentation:
I’d also like to say that the community for hip hop is vastly different than rock, and that indirectly effects the growth of hip hop. In hip hop, it isn’t uncommon to see an OG or someone who has a very established career work with newer artists or sign newer talent to their labels to support their music. Examples include J Cole’s label, Dreamville records, signing JID, and Roc Nation signing Vic Mensa. You don’t really see or hear about too many established rock acts signing new talent to their label if they have any or supporting and promoting them. Personally, I also find the fragmentation of rock to be one of it’s more crippling factors. There are so many offshoots of rock like metal, heavy metal, prog rock, prog metal, sludge, post-hardcore, stoner rock and the such, and each has their own community that can sometimes be elitist. Prog rock fans might say that metal is too derivative or that post-hardcore is too loud whiny. Of course, these are all speculations, but the fragmenting of a base community that is losing popularity certainly helping.
Personally, I see things from both side. On one end of things, this new genre that I love is expanding a lot and exploring new avenues. Regardless if the new music is for me, I’m glad it’s being explored, I can just refuse to listen to it if I’m not a fan. On the other end of things, as a guitar player that started with rock, and loves hearing new artists and new music, it’s sad to see that there aren’t any albums that are really paving the way for new artists.