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Some QuoraAnswers comparing and contrasting RockMusic to HipHop

Quora Answer : Do Millenials prefer rap over rock? If so, why?

Jun 22, 2017

Rap is more innovative than rock.

Basically, the rock formula is already 50 years old. And most of what can be done with it, has been done with it.

People who make avant-rock of some sort tend be sidelined into a niche. And frankly, even there it's hard to do something really new. All the extremes, from chaotic, free improvisation, excessive noise, complexity ... all tried everywhere from Frank Zappa, to Henry Cow to The Boredoms.

Finding a genuinely new variation on the formula is really hard.

Hip-hop on the other hand still seems to have some surprises left. "Mumble rap" for example, inverts what until very recently would have been considered the essence of rap : the verbal dexterity of the rapper. It's an extraordinary development. Sure, a lot of people hate it, but a lot of people hated when punk suddenly blasted onto the scene and negated 70's rock's ever increasing tendency towards virtuosity. (Not many rappers are going to compete with Eminem doing "Rap God", so why make that your goal?)

Punk renewed rock (for a while) by creating space for all kinds of experiments from the noise of hardcore to the intimacy of post-punk / goth / indie / shoegaze / emo etc. But by the 90s, a lot of these experiments were done too. The 90s is a phase of consolidation and wrapping up with grunge and nu-metal bands effectively bringing punk, metal and emotional angst back together again in a single package. After which there hasn't been much more innovation ... some nice desert rock, long jams and people like Sun Araw. A new wave of new-wave style bands like Vampire Weekend. A bunch of cute pasticheists like Gayngs and Tame Impala. Some mainstream ballad pop/rock bands like Coldplay. But none of this is massively shocking or exciting.

(Contrast this with metal for a moment. The reason metal seems to be in better shape than rock is that metal has admitted that it's not a musical form, but a spirit. Metal is all about attitude: today metal encompasses long avant-garde experimental electronica through to heavy aggressive dubstep flavourings, through to mantric spiritual chants and cinematic orchestral arrangements. It's informed, but not constrained, by its instrumental history. Whereas rock can't get too far away from the basic combo of drum, bass, guitar, singer + optional keyboard without stopping being rock.)

Mumble rap is part of a renewal of hip-hop, that has seen it explore greater emotional depth and vulnerability and opened up a lot of potential new avenues of development. It feels to me that this is a moment in rap that's equivalent to "post-punk" for rock. Perhaps its the last great decade for hip-hop, just as the post-punk 80s were the last great decade of the rock tradition. But it's still pretty damned interesting.

Quora Answer : In your opinion which decade had/has the worst hip hop music?

Sep 4, 2018

I don't know about "worst" but I think that hip-hop has kind of recapitulated the history of rock, but somewhat more slowly.


The late 1970s to late 1980s were the equivalent of the 1950s in rock. Hip-hop was fairly simplistic, good time party music that was really only appreciated by "the kids". Serious music lovers looked down on it as something hardly worth bothering about.

Some people started to disapprove of it as immoral. Leading the kids into bad behaviour. It was largely centred on the black community. But a couple of white pioneers (Elvis, Beastie Boys) helped take it to a wider community.

Good hip-hop in the 1980s isn't necessarily great by the standards we've come to associate with hip-hop. But we admire the freshness and innovation of the original founders.

The golden age

The 1990s ( technically late 1980s to early 2000s) were the equivalent of the 1960s for rock. That's when the genre properly establishes itself as a genre. A complete musical art form. The great classic bands and artists of that era became the first superstars. The first artists who could maintain long (20+ year) careers.

This is the golden age. With a lot of innovation. A lot of exploring the boundaries of what hip-hop can be ... from jazzy to gangsta, East and West coast, to rich ostentation to more Southern style electronic. Most of what we consider hip-hop is laid down and defined in this era.

The decadent age

Hip-hop's 2000s to early 2010s are like rock's 1970s. A period of consolidation. The most successful artists get bigger, more widely appreciated. But also older, more formulaic. more self-indulgent. It's all about albums as masterpieces. And stadium shows.

It's not that great and some innovative music isn't still being made. But decadence is setting in. Some of the biggest names from the 90s are falling off. Putting out mediocre albums. Failing to keep up the energy and excitement of their earlier works.

New artists with huge fan-bases arrive. They're bigger than ever. But there's something a little bit empty about them.

Think Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake as the Pink Floyds, ELPs and Fleetwood Macs of this era.

In the 1970s, you also saw the development of more distinct genres of rock developing in particular regions or countries. Reggae is, ultimately, not that dissimilar to rock. But it becomes a very distinctly identifiable other thing.

In the same way, in the 2000s you get stuff like grime in the UK, or Baile funk from Brazil. Again, obviously offshoots of hip-hop but already very distinct, recognisable styles in their own right. Compare as well things like "swamp rock" and some forms of "country" in the US in the 1970s. With the distinctiveness of Houston or Atlanta hip-hop in the 2000s.

Renewal and Fragmentation

I'm now wholly convinced that the 2010s are hip-hop's " punk moment". The moment when a new generation of iconoclasts get fed up with the excessive hierarchy and backward looking nature of the industry and decide to do their own thing.

Nothing illustrates this better for me than to compare these two interviews :

Public Image Ltd. vs Tom Snyder

Lil Yachy vs. Joe Budden

Mumble rap is a "fuck you" to the "eternal verities" of established hip-hop. It rejects verbal dexterity, the highest of rap virtues, in the same way that punks disparaged the cult of guitar virtuosity that had grown in rock and revered the 3-chord song. It doesn't admire the previous generation (compare Johnny Rotten's "I hate Pink Floyd" t-shirt with Lil Xan declaring Tupac "boring".) It even denies its own artistic aspirations. Note how both PiL and Yachty continually downplay the importance of "art" in favour of "being a business" and making money. Explicit idealism is out. Explicit cynicism / pragmatism / careerism is in.

Now of course, punks certainly produced a hell of a lot of art. And good artistic value. But cultivating an "anti-art" stance helped to break the umbilical link with the previous generation.

Plus, notice the coloured hair.

What happened next in rock was fragmentation. Punk didn't kill rock. But it killed the idea of rock as a single unitary thing with common values. After punk you had post-punk, new wave, goth, new romantic, synthpop, metal, indie, grunge, emo, nu-metal, nu-punk etc. But these were increasingly seen not as members of a single rock family. but as estranged and mutually hostile rival genres.

Really, in the early 80s you had the last flowering of greatness in "rock-derived" music. In everything from Talking Heads to The Smiths, The Cure, The Pixies, The Cocteau Twins, B52s etc.

That greatness and innovation was infused by a retromania. These bands all looked back to the 50s and 60s in their own way. So there was both innovation but also reaction.

Finally, in the 80s, "rock" was dethroned as "king of pop music" by a different genre. Soul, funk and disco led to the mega-artists of the 80s ... Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, and to the rise of house / techno and all flavours of EDM. Plus, of course, to hip-hop itself.

The great rock empire's hegemony in popular music was finally broken. And it fell apart with erstwhile "provinces" becoming independent states.

I believe that this trap / mumble moment is going to recapitulate rock's punk moment.

Coming out of it the other side, we will see various fragments of hip-hop going off and becoming their own genres. And these will have very little to do with each other. There'll still be rap. Still be beats. Still be many continuations with hip-hop. (Just as new-wave and metal and goth and indie had many continuations) But these genres will be increasingly open to outside ideas. Note who prevalent "singing" is with the new generation of mumble / trap artists.

By the 1990s, rock was just a bunch of dishes in a much wider buffet of musical options. Some were very popular and enjoyable. Some were embarrassingly reactionary. You still had moments of genius (Radiohead) and a healthy underground rock scene. But rock was no longer the zeitgeist.

That's where hip-hop is going in the 2020s.

So what's the "worst decade" for hip-hop? I think this kind of life-cycle for a genre is inevitable. On the one hand, I'm inclined to say the "decadent" period is the "worst". So the 2000s in hip-hop, like the 1970s in rock. Because the real innovation within the genre has burned out, and the most innovative things are fermenting a little bit outside.

Most people will say it's now. Ie. the "punk moment" when all the eternal verities of hip-hop suddenly seem to be dissolving and disrespected. But the punk moment is also an attempt at renewal. At bringing in new ideas and voices to refresh and clean out the cruft that has grown up in the genre.

Personally I find it far more interesting to pay attention to hip-hop in 2018 compared to 2008.

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