It was 2011 and I had become fully immersed in hip-hop. Street mixtapes were all the rage, with sites like DatPiff, HotNewHipHop, and LiveMixtapes acquiring millions of hits a day. I checked these sites daily, hoping to discover the next new project that would turn my life upside down. It’s hard to explain this period of time without experiencing it as a young adult. For reference: Meek Mill crashed DatPiff with his first mixtape, Dreamchasers. MP3s were shared on blogs via ZShare and Mediafire (Ed. Note: I can definitely vouch for ZShare being great for sharing mixtapes and new stuff) and almost no one used SoundCloud. Drake was hip-hop’s golden child (and could do no wrong). The XXL Freshman list was fair and mostly bought via physical magazine. CDs still had a huge market share. Credibility was earned through the unique skill you could bring to the genre. Albums were bought via iTunes and iPhones were all the rage, albums were anticipated for years, and blogs were used as a discovery platform.
I was just 20 years old and became a mini-A&R, proclaiming said and said rapper as the next-to-blow, predicting such and such mixtape as the next to hit one million downloads. Back then, I had a sixth sense about music, and whenever I was wrong, I took it as a learning experience. There was no doubt in my mind I would love hip-hop for the rest of my life, and that blogs would give me joy as long as I read them.
I was wrong.
SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music overwhelm me to the point of avoidance, lyrical skill is ignored, and abusing drugs such as Xanax, Percocet and the like is celebrated and expected. Blogs have become platforms for manipulation, cash flow, and an incredible amount of backward politics. Music that would never suffice in 2011 breaks records and end up on top 10 lists today.
Last year, I mourned hip-hop and subsequently left it. I went back to consuming 90s hip-hop, and stayed away from rappers who have overdosed, beaten and raped women and laughed about it publicly, Many years ago, I made fun of the old heads who proclaimed hip-hop to “be dead.” Little did they know it would become extinct. I became the very person I mocked, and have connected with them in ways I never thought I would.
Long live the hip-hop I may never hear again.