*** ill o.g. ***
They all sound the same.
Obviously the headline to this article is going to get a lot of people talking, but it had to be said. Most rappers today just suck. I can't believe that I'm actually writing about this topic because I never thought it would get to this point, but Rap music today has gone way off course that everyone needs to regroup, refocus, and start from scratch.
Rap Music Is All About Being Unique
One of the greatest things about Rap music and Hip Hop as a whole, is that anyone can be whatever they want to be. If you're a rapper, you can be funny, political, angry, philosophical, or even walk on stage wearing a clown outfit. Producers can take a beat wherever they want, turning it into a hard-hitting track or a mellow jazzy tune. The world is yours. (Nas, 1994).
However, many rappers today forgot about the unique aspect of Rap music and instead focus on other things such as sounding and looking like a popular rapper, and most of it is because of popularity and money.
It doesn't help that the record labels, music fans, and just the music industry overall are pushing a certain style of Rap upon everyone's ears (think Jay-Z and Kanye West), so of course any up and coming rapper will naturally end up sounding like someone else.
Do you remember a Rap group from the early 90's called the UMC's?
Their first album was really good, and their style was fun and uptempo. They wore colorful clothes and rapped about just regular things, and it was that type of style that made me go out and buy their cassette. Unfortunately, they didn't last. Around 1994 they resurfaced with a brand new look, dressed all in black with hoodies and saying they had a street sound.
That was the last anyone heard of the UMC's.
So what went wrong? They were no longer unique.
When they came out with their happy and fun style, it made them unique and they had a style that fit them. When they switched to a hardcore street style, it felt completely forced and they also looked and sounded like every other hardcore group at the time. Wu Tang, Group Home, and Gangstarr were some of the names that came to mind.
It's All About the Influence
Humans are easily influenced. I think it's actually ingrained in our DNA and we're suckers for a shiny new thing from a big advertisement with gold trim. This is why there have been so many times where I heard a rapper sound like someone else.
For example, back in the 90's I had a friend that was a rapper and loved to freestyle. One day we're freestyling and when it was his turn I had to stop him. He was wondering what was going on and I simply said to him, "you sound like DMX". This is because he was heavily into DMX and was so influenced by his style that he blended it into his own.
Now I completely understand if someone gets influenced enough that it becomes part of their everyday life, but it can't happen in Rap music. There are lots of rappers that sound like Jay Z or Kanye, and they most likely do it because they know that style is what is popular and what will sell. You can be inspired by another artist, but don't try to sound like them just because they're popular.
I'm sure there are record labels that have been searching for unsigned acts that sound like Jay Z, this way the label can have their own version of him at a fraction of the cost. I wouldn't be surprised.
What I Miss the Most in Rap
Years ago, Rap music had it all. There was the political rapper (Public Enemy), the funny rapper (Fresh Prince), the philosopher (KRS-One), with the list going on and on.
Why don't we have that today? The sad part about all of this is that I'm not just referring to the mainstream rappers, this mainly applies to the underground ones.
Underground rappers used to always have a certain style, one where they would brag non stop about dominating other emcees. But because of all the influence surrounding them 24/7, it's no longer about that. Yes, there are some underground rappers that are still true, but there are many others that are on the borderline of being underground and rapping about owning a Bentley. This is influence.
Rappers of all levels need to focus solely on themselves. It's the same with beatmaking. I'm always reviewing beats and the same thing applies there too - be unique. Some beatmakers will say that they make Trap beats or whatever, when in fact they should just be saying that they âmake beats". That's it.
Don't label yourself because the minute you do, you're not being yourself, instead you're automatically putting yourself into a category and you'll sound like everyone else.
Why do you think DMX was so popular? It's because he had a unique look, voice, and style.
Why do you think Rakim is always regarded as one of the best rappers ever? His voice always stood out from the rest.
I can't stress it enough about being yourself and having your own style. There are a million rappers out there today and they're all online trying to be recognized from the rest, so why would you want to sound like someone else? That makes no sense.
Just rap. Do what comes naturally and the rest will fall into place. I guarantee you that if you come out with a style that is different from the rest, you will definitely stand out. Trust me.