Indie labels will save hip hop

We’ve all heard tons of talk of how hip hop is “dying“. It’s not a good thing and I’m going to go ahead and say that reports of hip hop’s death are very, very premature.

Leave it to the Brits to do some responsible music journalism and start discussing why hip hop isn’t dying. Instead of getting the coverage necessary in North American papers, our European brothers and sisters have to report on this once-American phenomena that has truly become global. The Independent’s Music Magazine has run an article titled A hip-hop rescue – how indie labels are giving hip-hop a fresh start.

We’ve already covered the fact that record companies aren’t too happy about hip hop these days. Sales are sliding, even with superstars like Kanye, Lupe and Jay-Z releasing albums. Things aren’t exactly looking great.

But the small, indie hip hop labels offer a ray of hope. My favourite part of this article has to be this statement that has the kind of truth that only an outside perspective can bring:

The music’s current public face meanwhile is that of a bloated, stifled scene, crammed with materialistic MCs decked out in oversized sportswear whose lethargic lyrics have become as flat as last night’s Cristal. In short, things aren’t too sweet.

Materialistic MC’s with lethargic lyrics. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to put it. So much of what is publicly perceived as hip hop these days is exactly that. You see these idiots on MTV cribs showing off their flash and their nasty-ass bling. This article is extremely critical of current rap superstars, accusing them and their colossal egos (*cough* Jay Z *cough*) of hurting hip hop and alienating other acts. Perhaps this explains why The Roots may be having a bit of a tough time over at Def Jam.

The main argument this article makes is that it’s the smaller independent labels that have been and will continue to carry hip hop for the next few years. The scholars among you must remember Rawkus Records back when Mos Def and Talib Kweli were first Black Star, and when Soundbombing was all the rage. Things went downhill quick after Rawkus got bought by a major label. Now we’re looking at mini-labels like Stones Throw where Jay Dilla had his home and where MF Doom was once represented. Definitive Jux, home to artists like Aesop Rock. Lex Records out of the UK which brings you all things Gnarls Barkley. Even your boy Pete Rock is out on indie label Nature Sounds. These are all artists that are bringing fresh hip and creating new things. They’re the ones that represent the hope of this hip hop nation. You won’t see most of these guys in anything shiny (unless you count MF Doom’s facemask) or drinking cristal. You’d be more likely to find them chilling at the Def Poetry Jam.

We here at 4080 Records have been our best to try and rep as many of the underground sensations as we can. Just because someone’s out on a big label doesn’t mean they’re not going to do great things, but there is way more to hip hop than just Roccawear.

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