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In a recent interview I conducted with Tommy Boy Records founder Tom Silverman, he concluded with the following:
“Hip-hop really disrupted the music industry. Now it’s really ripe for disruption itself, it’s unfortunately forgetting it’s most important lesson. Hip-hop now is taking it for granted now they’ve been around for thirty five years they need to reinvent themselves into something new, because they’re gonna become just as luddite as the people who fought them in 1980 to ’85. It’s either gonna reinvent itself or it’s gonna be disrupted by something new and left behind. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, just like old rock & roll is still happening.”

While the idea of ‘something new’ goes against every fibre of what the Conservative Rap Coalition stands for, he makes an interesting point. Will hip-hop ever be usurped?

There’s no doubt that rap is now a permanent part of the fabric of popular music, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s just that the rules have changed for this once exclusive club. Where the keys to the hip-hop kingdom where once zealously guarded by the self-appointed gatekeepers of the time against ‘cultural tourists’ such as Vanilla Ice, we now have guys like Macklemore reaching out to rap legends such as Grandmaster Caz (aka the dude who wrote the best parts of ‘Rapper’s Delight’), Kool Moe Dee (responsible for the first classic ‘ethering’ in rap against Busy Bee) and Melle Mel (most well known for his part on ‘The Message’ with Duke Bootee), who he performed with onstage at this week’s Video Music Awards for that bizarre song about mopeds. Do these three veteran MC’s care that Macklemore’s rapping is akin to scraping a rusty nail on a blackboard and then jamming said tetanus-carrying implement into your ear canal? I doubt it, they’re most likely just appreciative of the chance to appear in a big budget video and perform in front of a huge audience in 2015.

When I questioned Keith Shocklee (of Public Enemy/Bomb Squad fame) over whether his crew produced the Chilly Tee album (the son of Nike founder Phil Knight) for a fat cheque, he responded: ‘We did never do nothing for the check. We was ahead of the game. It’s no different than Brooke Hogan doin’ a record and having Pharrell and all them produce the joint. Or Paris Hilton doing a record! Now we’re taking the children of the celebrity stars, which at this time would be cool. Back then, it wasn’t cool. We was trying to stay away from anything that resembled Nike! Back then, people was so true to the game it was like ‘We ain’t tryin’ to hear this guy come to the table rhyming because he’s the son of the biggest sneaker company on the planet!’ It was about are you true to this game. But nowadays – that works!”

The irrelevance of the authenticity debate was also highlighted by the ease in which Canadian rapper and proud beard owner Drake was able to shrug off accusations of not writing all his own raps when Meek Mill caught feelings over him not retweeting the fact that his album was out or some petty nonsense. Whatever happened to rap beefs because another rapper forgot to put all twenty of your crew on the door list at The Tunnel? The point being, only insufferable purists such as myself are bothered by such details, and in this case I could care less, so what does that tell you?

Now that hip-hop is so easy to appropriate by mainstream pop artists and anyone who wants to sell sugary fizzy drinks, has it lost its relevance? Rap is no longer rebel music in the way that it was when it challenged the status quo and pissed-off rock fans that dismissed it as ‘rap crap’ and assumed it would go the way of disco music after six months. Hip-hop has spawned so many subgenres that a fan of Tumblr-powered Cloud Rap has nothing in common with someone who rides for Brother Ali or the kid who listens to nothing but DS2 all day. Meanwhile, Papoose is still making music for some reason. Add to that the fact that the world has changed so much since hip-hop first emerged in the West Bronx in 1973 that it’s impossible to imagine a new artform being created in such an organic way.

Hip-hop’s greatest lesson was to aggregate the best parts of all kinds of music and re-appropriate it into something to dance to, and later to rap over. That tradition still continues on to this day, as it sprawls into potentially never-ending variations of itself. New styles and strands of music are coined and play themselves out before we have time to properly digest them, such is our hunger for everything quicker and easier to appease our shrinking attention spans. It seems highly unlikely that something as sonically revolutionary will happen again in our lifetime, and even if it does, we might be too busy reading our Twitter timeline to really appreciate it.