Do y’all ever sit around and wonder what happened to hip hop? You know how the saying goes: You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I know I can’t possibly be the only one who misses what hip hop used to be and what it once meant. As we continue to celebrate 50 years of hip hop, I am reminded how lit my childhood was and how much hip hop played a part in that.
I was in the 6th grade when “Yeah” by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris first dropped. I remember riding on the school bus, and my bus driver turns the radio station to Power 99FM, which was one of the hottest stations for hip hop back then. As the bus driver pulls into my neighborhood development, the song comes on and the whole bus goes crazy!Dancing, singing along, practically hanging out the windows—you would’ve thought we produced the record ourselves the way we carried on and lost our minds to that beat.
Back in the day, an artist couldn’t just have a 10-second hook go viral on TikTok and possibly think it was enough to move the culture. Which leads me to my point: with this new-age rap, all we care about is getting money, so we don’t have to make any sense whatsoever in the music. I just can’t get down with that.
I don’t know about y’all, but the vibes with hip hop just don’t hit the same anymore, and I’m kind of depressed about it. The impact hip hop has had on culture—any culture—could never be denied. This music told our stories when they were often left out of many conversations. Hip hop was the voice that empowered us to keep our heads up although this world could be a set up. (Shout out to Tupac Amaru Shakur for putting us on game.)
Hip hop brought us some of the most amazing popular dances that still make everybody and they mamas get up to this day. The Chicken Head, Harlem Shake, Tootsie Roll, Lean Wit It-Rock Wit It, Walk It Out, The Dougie, and even Crank Dat Soulja Boy—these were not just dances, they were a way of life. (If you ain’t know these dances, you were like the orange Starburst that nobody wanted to even be around.)
I remember that part of my after-school routine. The first thing I would do was heat up a bag of popcorn, pour a full cup of diabetes Kool-Aid, and turn on MTV Jams to catch the latest music videos. My friends would come over, and before we would go outside to jump Double Dutch we would make up dances to the best songs. One day when we were watching MTV Jams, Busta Rhymes’ “Touch IT” music video came on. We were so young, but we swore that’s how the club scene was going to be when we got older. Now every time I hear “Touch IT” I smile because my mind immediately goes back to my childhood friendships.
Hip hop was also love, and it tied a lot of souls together. I remember when I first heard LL Cool J’s song “Luv U Better.” (If you never played or heard this song, don’t tell anyone because they will snatch your Black card quicker than your edges on a poorly glued-down lace front.) It was the summer of my 6th grade year, and I was living in Sicklerville, New Jersey. I dedicated this song to my crush—in my mind. He didn’t know he was my crush at the time, but whenever I heard this song, I thought of him. To this day if “Love U Better” comes on, all the butterflies immediately come fluttering back.
That’s how powerful hip hop is. That’s how impactful hip hop used to be. I can tell you exactly where I was, what I was doing, and with whom.
Let’s keep it real, we get a nice banger every now and then, but they seem too few and far between to have any real impact. Artists are not required to acquire real talent. At one point our music was bigger than just a bunch of beats, rhymes, and who can belt a smooth note from the diaphragm. Our music was a language, a culture, and that’s just something this TikTok generation will never get to experience.
I may not be happy with the state of hip hop right now, but I couldn’t abandon it even if I tried. It’s a part of me. So, until hip hop takes its rightful place in the world again, I’m going to keep 50-Cent, Jay-Z, Tupac, and Nas on repeat and in rotation.
What’s your favorite hip hop song and why?Leave a Comment