Like it or not, rappers like Iggy Azalea and Drake are topping charts and dominating conversations about hip hop.
For many fans and artists, pop-hop albums, like Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic, represent the genre to mainstream audiences. And many find that disheartening.
The rise of pop-hop has hip hop purists mourning the state of the genre and claiming the end is nigh. Nas’s song “Hip Hop is Dead” seems as relevant today as it did in 2008.But is hip hop really close to death?
Pop-hop isn’t new. Blondie’s Debbie Harry rapped a couple verses in “Rapture” in the 80s, and today we’ve got Beyoncé trying hip hop in “Yonce.” There’s always been a flirtation between the two genres.
There has also been an increase in pop-leaning rappers and rap features on pop songs in the last 10 years.
Big name rappers like Macklemore and Nicki Minaj, as well as artists riding the Internet wave like Kreayshawn and Angel Haze, fall into this category.
Pop-hop is as universal as the music by critically acclaimed rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West.
What’s changed in the past decade and allowed pop-hop to flourish is hip hop’s transition into mainstream culture. Rap music stopped being a young genre and collection of subversive fringe artists almost 30 years ago.
In the same way that punk’s acceptance into wider culture created a short-lived spike in pop-punk music, the more accessible rap became, pop-hop creeped onto the charts. But this is only piece of the pop- hop puzzle.
It takes little effort to see that rap is experiencing a creative boom. This is, in no small part, due to the Internet democratizing musician’s abilities release their work.
YouTube, Soundcloud, and Tumblr have opened the door for innovative hip hop artists like Kitty, Odd Future and Danny Brown.
The image of hip hop as a violent, hedonistic, aggressively masculine genre is changing with the increased presence of female rappers and socially conscious lyrics. These changes have lead to a protest over the ‘feminization’ of rap. Some of the response to female rappers and hip hop artists who present a different message are opposed to these types of artists based on gender, sexuality and content rather than actual quality.
The change in sound blurs lines between genres and is part of the natural evolution all genres go through. The backlash has as much to do with social context as it does musical substance.
The reality is rap, like any other art form, benefits from a diversity of styles and contributors. The pop-hop boost is inseparable from other more respected mixtape rappers. It doesn’t harm the creation and production of hip hop. With Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” being called the number one summer song, pop- hop has a wide audience. It isn’t going away any time soon.