Is hip-hop dead?

Iggy Azalea has been contentiously nominated for several hip-hop awards.

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Contributed Image

Almost exactly eight years ago, New York-based rapper Nas released a cynical album called Hip Hop is Dead.

While the release of this project didn’t actually symbolize the death of hip hop music, it represented a dramatic shift in the type of sound listeners would begin to hear blaring through their speakers.

The commercialization of rap music began decades ago, but with every passing year, more and more distance emerges between passionate and dedicated fans and the mainstream musical institutions.

Recently, Iggy Azalea beat both Drake and Eminem to claim the award for Best Hip Hop Album at the American Music Awards.

For those who don’t know how the AMA’s declare their winners, it’s a process that should immediately eliminate all of their credibility.

Their decisions are based on album sales, radio play and social media buzz. In other words, it comes down to a matter of popularity and nothing else substantial — it’s a contest between marketing teams.

That explains why, despite poor album reviews and severe denunciation from the hip-hop community, she managed to come out with an award.

Moreover, at last year’s Grammy Awards Macklemore managed to beat Kanye West, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Drake to win best rap album.

This was an embarrassment. Not only because his lame, messy spoken-word debut pales in comparison to the competition, but also because Macklemore himself admitted he shouldn’t have won.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which summons up images of elitism based purely on the geography alone, decides the Grammy winners.

This organization is based in the rich part of California, far from areas where actual rappers would emerge.

After Macklemore won, I saw a hilarious image that summed up my argument. The image read, “A look at the voters who gave best rap album to Macklemore,” and it showed the cast of Downton Abbey.

Hip-hop music was born in the South Bronx and has always been infused with the spirit of rebellion.

In an age before social media, it was hip-hop music that helped bring the voices of the black community to the mainstream. But these aforementioned institutions are devaluing it.

Furthermore, the entire music industry, from the record labels to the award shows, are brimming with classism that has taken the musical gifts from the poor and disenfranchised and altered it beyond recognition.

We’re being propagandized into believing rappers such as Iggy Azalea and Macklemore are somehow just like Pusha T, Ghostface and Rakim simply because the latter group of rappers don’t have similar levels of album sales.

So, why are artists the hip-hop community despise winning awards and popularity? It’s because the music industry has realized that marketing to the hip-hop community isn’t as profitable as selling to middle-class white America. Even worse, the rappers that were getting signed were talking about class issues and poverty.

Conscious rap music used to be Public Enemy, 2Pac, Common, Nas and Saigon. But those days are long over. Songs like “Fight The Power” and “Keep Ya Head Up” won’t ever be lead singles again. They’re too politically charged and not relatable.

Joe Budden wrote a 16-minute epic titled “Who Killed Hip Hop?” And while he documents everything that’s wrong with the industry, I disagree with his conclusion.

He says it’s the artists’ fault for selling out, but it’s not their fault the labels won’t give them artistic freedom.

Hip-hop isn’t dead, but its foundations are under attack. What’s made it such a powerful force historically is its ability to both inspire poor youth and tell that story of poverty and hardship to everyone else who otherwise wouldn’t care.

So if you’re going to try and change what has made this music so great and pretend these corny, clichéd new artists are in anyway interesting, then perhaps as Joe Budden says, you shouldn’t be a listener.

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