By Ardain Isma JuniorSpecial to CSMS MagazineHip-hop has seen a massive decline in sales and in quality since 1998—pretty much after the deaths of Tupac Amaru Shakur and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace, along with the disbanding of the Fugees. Hip Hop really took a nosedive after prolific rappers such as Jay-z and Slim Shady took retirements. Then suddenly Nas, one of the greatest rappers of all time, came out with an album that was promptly titled “Hip Hop is Dead …….” Most observers thought his assertion is right. Reason being is because hip-hop just isn’t any fun any more.Critics say that this musical genre that brought so much controversies and love is no longer what it used to be. “There is too much simplicity and laziness, but not enough seriousness going on in rap today—and that’s a shame,” said James Adler, a Miami diehard fan of Tupac.Back in the 1980s, rap was more political and socially conscious with rappers like Public Enemy, N.W.A., Kurtis Blow, Rakim, Krs-one, who rapped about the hardships in the ghetto and the injustice surrounding the legal system against people who live in the lower level of society. These legendary rappers rapped about these things with such an intellectual rhyme scheme that the kids in the hood fell in love with them instantly. In the 1990s, there was a new age in rap entitled the “Golden Age Of rap”. The golden age brought a whole new flood of rappers into the scene. It was the decade of rappers such as Tupac Shakur, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Jay-z and, most importantly, the Fugees.In 1991, a charismatic 19-year-old sophomore in college and former Digital Underground backup dancer and Oakland native Tupac Shakur recorded his criticality acclaimed album “2paclypse Now” and released it later in November of that year. Though it wasn’t a chart topper, critics loved it for its rough edge and highly elevated lyrics on society and hardships black people go through in the ghetto. However, that album did not come without controversy. Many criticized it for having lyrics that took on the legal system and the police.In 1992, while crossing an intersection in Oakland, California, Tupac was stopped and beaten by the local police. Tupac sued the OPD (Oakland Police Department) and won the lawsuit. In the same timeframe “Rap Icon” Ice T released one of the most controversial and most vindictive songs in music period. The song was named “Cop Killer.” Ice T wrote the song in response to the Rodney King verdict. That song had the whole world in a total state of shock. It made Tupac’s references to the police look like nothing.Ice T said that the lyric is from the bottom of his heart. Record sales went overboard once that song came out. Rap was single handedly out selling every music genre in the world by 90%. Later on in 1993 Tupac released his second album simply titled Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z (an acronym for Never. Ignorant. Getting Goals Accomplished). This album did way better on the charts in comparison to his debut album. It scored the hit single “keep ya head up”, “ I Get Around” and “ Holler if you hear me.” The album soon went on to reach Platinum certification, and over one million copies were sold. The album pushed Tupac into one of the elite new stars in rap music genre. In 1994 a young and well talented rapper from Queens, New York City named Nas—short for Nasir Jones—came out with one of the most popular albums in rap entitled “ Illmatic.” That album alone single handedly revolutionized rap. Also 1994 Biggie Smalls released his double Platinum debut “ Ready To Die.” The album also helped put east coast rap back on the forefront.In late 1994, The Fugees released their debut album, which didn’t sell too well, but which received good reviews. Also in 1994 the East coast/West coast hip-hop war got started. It was Death Row versus Bad Boy records. Tupac and Biggie had a very bad falling out after the two were friends for two years. Tupac accused Biggie of having him shot.In late 1995, Tupac’s signing with Death Row Records made the war official. Meanwhile, the Fugees were in the studio making one of the most influential albums in history: “ The Score.” The score was then released, and it was immediately propelled to the top of the charts. To date, the album has sold over 18 million copies, making it one of the most profitable hip-hop albums of all time. The album spawned hit singles such as “ready or not”, “ killing me softly”, and “oh la la la.” They later won album-of-the-year award at the Grammy’s. Hip- Hop was at an all time high until September 13, 1996, when Tupac Shakur died of bullet wounds in Las Vegas, NV and Biggie Smalls suffered the same fate on March 9th, 1997 in Los Angles, CA. Hip hop went at an all time halt after that. The Fugees’ disband in 1999 worked to solidify the halt. By early 2000’s, rap music went on a steady decline. Jay-z and Slim Shady called it quit. Christopher “ Ludacris” Bridges, Clifford “T.I” Harris, Dwayne “Lil Wayne” Carter and most importantly Kanye West are the only rappers occupying the spotlight these days. The deviation from social consciousness to vulgarity has made some of the hip hop songs awful to listen to. Songs like “Lean With It” by the Dem Franchize Boyz And “ Party Like A Rock Star” by The Shop Boys are just utterly disgraceful.Strictly form a lyrical point of view, both of these songs lack-elevating lyrics. “My nine-year-old brother and my two-year-old Godson can rap better then these guys. I’m not being mean or funny. I’m just being brutally honest, and that’s the truth,” said Jennifer Giraldo, a college sophomore from Barry University.“I hate it when garbage rappers like them are saying Biggie, Tupac or the Fugees are their favorite rappers, and how they inspire them. If they really inspired them, why on earth are they so disgraceful?” said another Barry student, who did not want to give his name. Today, the favorite themes for rap artists are money, weed, women, and the common topic: drugs. “Get rich or die trying it,” says rapper Fifty Cents. What position will rap occupy in the next 10 years? No one knows. But observers believe that if this continues, this music genre that so many still love and hold dear will cease to exist. Note: Ardain Isma Junior is a High School student from South Plantation High in Plantation, Florida. He wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.Also see Kanye West: A Unique rapper
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