I was thinking to myself; ‘all my favourite rap releases in the past 2 years.’ The conclusion? A huge lengthy list. I didn’t struggle at all. In fact, I struggled to keep the list contained. Problem? No. When there are so many great releases across a short time period, what does that mean?
Google defines the ‘golden age’ as 2 definitions:
‘An idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness.’ – We’re sure as hell not in this time period and this definition doesn’t apply.
‘The period when a specified art or activity is at its peak’ – This definition is a lot closer to we are looking to. I don’t see this time frame of successful releases as a peak though because that can only mean the bar can go down rather than the opportunity for the bar to move straight forward or excel up in a rollercoaster fashion.
From the past two years alone, we’ve gotten the following:
Life of Pablo
Big Fish Theory
Run The Jewels 3
Kids See Ghosts
Saturation I, II, III
Pretty Girls Like Trap Music
At What Cost
Year of The Snitch / Bottomless Pit
Sremmlife 2 / S3RMM
Jeffry/Beautiful Thugger Girls
Blank Face LP
KOD / 4 Your Eyez Only?
The Sun’s Tirade
The Divine Feminine / Swimming
That’s 30+ projects alone within the last 2 years (whilst trying to limit that to more mainstream Hip-Hop artists). That’s a high batting average. Each of these projects all sound vastly different to each other. Each of these at least draw from the decade’s sound and fabrics of trap drums but pull from different corners. Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition pulls from the veins of punk rock, psychedelia whereas BROCKHAMPTON’s Saturation trilogy pulls from West Coast rap, funk shoe gaze, Wu-Tang group power with progressive structures and Outkast-esque-experimentalness.
Each of the mentioned projects veer into a wide array of subject matter such as faith, relationships with God, karma, economic inequality/finance building, structural existentialism, nihilism, drugs, self love, empowerment and acceptance. The amount of new life that’s bleeding into the art form is constant. Rap is the genre that truly embraces impermanence, that makes it unique. Rap doesn’t care for your nostalgia; it whirlwinds through it leaving you to make sense and adjust to it. This new wave of creative synergy as a direct succession of the lineage aligned in 1998 with Hip-Hop and R&B’s popularity surge and experimentation reaching commercial heights and success.
A quote from piece on Keryce Chelsi Henry’s piece on ‘1998: The Year Black Artists Changed Music As We Know It’ explains the parallels of today and then stating: “It was undoubtedly the most inventive time in hip-hop since its golden age, with the proliferation of subgenres, and even sub-subgenres: There was Goodie Mob’s southern-twanged G-funk, Cappadonna’s flashy boom-bap, Jay-Z’s aspirational street lore, Busta Rhymes’ apocalyptic horrorcore, Juvenile’s Southern gangsta rap, Will Smith’s kid-tested-mother-approved rhymes—the list goes on. Today’s charting hip-hop is similarly specific and varied.”
It will be a lot more shinier and rose tinted when we look back on this part of the decade’s rap releases (we will forget the rest as we do every decade), that’s a given thanks to nostalgia and memory bias. But what lasts will last till the sun comes down. There’ll be stories of lives changed, lives saved, lives embraced and lives paved. Memories made. And that’s what rap does best. Change.