With half the year now resolved, we face the downhill slope as the last few moments of the 2010s are destined to rush past us. Likewise in rap, it feels like we’re hurtling towards a breaking point. More and more, the industry feels determined to serve up ideas that seem novel or fascinating at the start, but now feel exhausted and overly ‘familiar’. Soon, another generation will become the more prominent ‘young audience’ for the genre, and the next few years are going to signify a broader shift as musical styles and tastes will change—perhaps for the better of the genre, and all of us! It’s hard to predict accurately when any of these propositions will come into vogue with a more general audience, but even the most seemingly inane threads have served as useful genesis for ideas far down the line. For the moment, it’s simply a matter of granting due diligence to as much as possible while rejecting the eager desire to point to some self-appointed ‘zeitgeist’ which almost always fails to include a broader picture. This quarter finds rappers who are echoing the dawn of the decade’s trends through refinements, hint at breaking away from the pack, or have been the ones leading the jump the whole time.
As we begin to close out the decade, 2019 presents a number of daunting issues related to the future, namely those revolving around the internet. Like all music, rap depends on the internet for distribution and circulation as never before, and it’s been extremely apparent these days given rap’s status as the most admired of popular music. That said, all the utopian arguments that the internet would prove to be a boon to the genre and make things easier for artists and audiences alike have proven futile. History and information should be easier to get ahold of, but they’ve instead become easier to disregard. Nearly anyone can guarantee their music gets on the major platforms, but so much stratification for whose music is emphasized makes painfully noticeable the artists who aren’t heard. For all the promise that technology would make rap feel better than ever, it’s somehow managed to make it feel more difficult to explore.
The songs selected below do a great job at demonstrating how strange 2019 feels. It includes multiple generations, rappers from all across the nation, and even some from across the Atlantic. Similarities persist in some of the selections, but the differences are incredibly prominent and create a baffling sense of what can be considered “now.” So much of rap’s past is still impossible to shed, and so much of the so-called future feels illusive to point to with confidence. This isn’t to say that any one thing in particular feels exciting or enjoyable, it’s just difficult to do justice to it all with the endless sprawl of talent that continues to make itself known. For the readers: I hope these selections do their best not only to satisfy, but to confound. One can only imagine what the 2020s hold, but for now we have another year to marvel at and to endure.
To conclude 2018, we acknowledge that this has been one of the more fruitful years for rap this decade. There’s been an immense shift in the genre as we find it now past 40 years of Rap, Hip-Hop or however you’d like to call it, with multiple generations and movements across the nation pushing and expanding the field in as many directions as one can track, perhaps too many. With the 2010s starting to come to a close and a whole new decade of the genre to anticipate, few genres emerging feel on track to achieve the success and seeming universality of rap. For now, rap remains still one of the cutting edges in music, and is destined to do its best to keep that up and even exceed our expectations.
As we revisit the rap climate of the year, we have a summer behind us and more than a number of strange and enticing records. While much of this column is dedicated to the revival of the city that was once hailed as the center of hip-hop culture, a like amount concerns the feeling of unease and confusion emerging from the current capital of the genre. From both coasts, many pockets in between, and even across the ocean, we cover rap that veers from the raw street-oriented material to the more elusive and experimental approaches. Now with the last few months of 2018 to anticipate, let us see where the year’s departure seems to bring us…
With yet another chapter of 2018 seemingly resolved, we’ve seen numerous developments in rap continue to unfold. Whether from the various pockets of the West Coast, mini-scenes of the once-destitute NYC, parts of the country with little national rap history, or even ‘across the pond,’ changes are still underway. Once again we have a number of selections here at Tone Glow to provide you with just a brief hint at the endless possibilities that rap has to offer, and a showcase for why this year has been endlessly intriguing. With only half the year concluded after all, one must wonder just what will stand out among the pack and will continue to linger in our memories for years to come. But for now, here’s just a few choice cuts to illustrate the infinite supply of gems.