New York Times’ analysis of Hipster Rap as a growing sub-culture/sub-genre provides some good commentary but also some cheezy assumptions. Stating that “these meta-rappers have become keepers of the flame for the genre’s old guard” or that their music is “feted by old-school loyalists” is a huge leap. The Cool Kids and their ilk don’t walk around claiming to be ambassadors of the old-school to the youth (at least I don’t think they do) but unfortunately we have third-party observers that love to present them as such. And therefore it is important that we as a community clearly present our rejection of that notion. As Spine Magazine correctly points out, these new-to-the-old acts might be linked by aesthetics but lack the attitude and innovativeness of their predecessors. Not to mention there is a large body of work created by a multitude of independent artists that has been available consistently for the past 10 years that, I would argue, is a more authentic continuation of the “golden era” hip-hop music they try to categorize – musically, stylistically and content-wise.

The author goes on to mention how musically this might be the most promising movement in a decade. Musically? Really? If he was referring to commercial viability, that would probably be correct (although the commercial viability of any music is questionable nowadays). But if he really is referring to the quality of music or the impact of its social commentary, give me a break. There have been countless records, just as good if not better, that have been released over the past decade. This article would make it seem as though Hip-Hop went away for a while and then decided to make a comeback via these commercially friendly artists, but that is far from the truth. Dirty drums have never gone out of style, they just ceased to be profitable for labels so they retreated from whence they came.

I love the fact that the homie Eskay touches on the interweb’s influence. The internet has made a lot of the raw shit more accessible and seems to have aided in catapulting it’s influence. These artists seem to, at least partially, owe some of their inspiration to that fact. They appear to be (mostly) young and very likely far removed from the original sub-culture which they emulate. If that is the case then they might end up turning to websites, books, records and magazines for their history. Nothing wrong with that but it’s a bit disconcerting because certain experiences are not easily communicable in those formats. Living in the 80’s and 90’s in NYC, the tri-state and other locales is not easily relatable solely via text, pictures, audio and some video. But the things that are easily presented and consumed – slang, dress, style, color, dance, sound – these things are less difficult to swallow and regurgitate. But what of the purpose of the music? The sense of desparation for expression? The drive, the will. These can be accidentally lost sometimes.

Ultimately though, I’m glad these kids are getting shine. Can’t say I’ve checked for all their music but I have come across a lot of joints I like. And they should definitely get their props for making noise and facilitating discussion on a lot of these topics. And even if they don’t get the commercial success they might be seeking, they should feel somewhat fulfilled with the fact that their music is having an impact, and a meaningful one at that. When Cipha Sounds states that the music is just not mass appeal and goes on to say that he wouldn’t play it on the radio or in the club, these kids should be flattered by his comments. Public Enemy and Immortal Technique might not be poppin’ in the VIP lounges nationwide but they are being added to history books and school curriculums. Link

In a sense these meta-rappers have become keepers of the flame for the genre’s old guard: neo-traditionalists in eccentrics’ clothing. “There’s always nostalgia; it’s a byproduct of capitalism,” said Jayson Musson, 30, the frontman for the Philadelphia rap satirists Plastic Little. “Especially for the kids who weren’t really there, that era becomes hypercool, like the ’50s and the Beats.”