Hip-hop is a vibrant youth culture; trends come and go in the blink of an eye. As a result, said trends can come to define a fleeting moment in time – and often a time we'd like to forget.
So while there was much to like about the last year in music, there were plenty of quirks we hope go the way of the “Party Like a Rock Star” as soon as possible. These are five hip-hop trends we hope end in 2014.
Rappers have long been throwing in stray commentary about how awful politics are, but in this age of shoddily-made YouTube conspiracy videos, they're more common than ever. Plus, they're vague, and don't include so much as a perfunctory, Jesse Ventura-style explanation.
Case in point: On LL Cool J's latest album, his song “We're the Greatest” features the line: “I got a lot of crazy crazy on my mind /Like what's the real reason that the pope resigned?” That's it – he never returns to the subject. It's also hit the battle rap world, in lines like Shotgun Suge's “you both fake like the Boston bombings.”
To which we can only refer him to Snopes.com.
OK, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II was one of the best rap albums of the past five years. But for every Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, there's…every other rap album sequel that's ever been made.
With very few exceptions, rap album sequels are more “promotional stunts” than “inspired successors.” Busta Rhymes's Extinction Level Event album was predicated upon the concept that the world was going to end at midnight on New Year's Day 2000, so why is there a planned sequel 14 years after the world was supposed to end?
Rappers, instead of trying to live-up to your artistic peaks, why not make sequels to your most critically derided albums? That way you might get the increasingly rare compliment: “it's better than the original!”
Skits are not a relic, despite us being well over a decade into the mp3 era. While I admittedly enjoy rap album skits more than most, there was often nothing worse than having to wait through 90 seconds of non-actors acting.
Today, skits often creep up at the end of the track, awkwardly ruining playlists. N.O.R.E.'s landmark 2013 collaboration with Large Professor, “Built Pyramids” was one of the most surprisingly stellar tracks of the year, but imagine our shock when the track's conclusion on the album version included a full minute of Peter Rosenberg gushing.
Keep making skits, gents, but please keep the party in mind and give them their own track.
Calling Yourself Crazy
Ever heard of the literary adage “show, don't tell”? Evidentially, a lot of today's rappers missed that one. There's nothing wrong with being an unhinged eccentric in hip-hop; Kool Keith, Ol' Dirty Bastard and Lil B have made some of the most memorable contributions in the genre's history. The thing is, they never actually had to tell you that they were “insane,” it was something you understood from listening to them.
There's few things as painfully uninteresting as a rapper constantly reminders of how crazy/insane/nuts/psychotic they are, when the most out-there thing they'll do on a record is kill someone else or themselves, which are both fixtures of rap records since the late-'80s.
That also goes for songs like “I'm Not Crazy” where the implied twist (SPOILER ALERT!) is that the artist is crazy.
Being Annoyingly Old
In 2014 we've got plenty of rap veterans – many of whom are described, quite charitably, by some rap sites as “legends.”
And too many of them try to connect with their audience not by making the quality music they were once known for, but by ranting about social issues with the perspective of a bitter out-of-touch shut-in. Ahem.
Along with tarnishing their legacies, it's potentially alienating the new hip-hop generation from understanding what made their original contributions so valuable.