As part of our London360 journey, the team are required to produce a radio feature for Westside Radio, a local radio station based in Hanwell, West London. Westside specialise in hip hop music and alternate each hour of music from old school tunes to the freshest music out. We were asked to come up with a top line which would encapsulate the entire Westside audience and be hip hop orientated.
I decided to look at conscious rap and many issues within that genre of hip hop: whether it is dead, can be commercially successful, a burden for rappers or even appreciated by fans these days. I think this is an issue which will get hip hop fans talking because there appears to be somewhat of a division between fans of mainstream and conscious rap, which holds stronger ties to the original foundations of hip hop.
Personally, I feel that hip hop is a genre big enough to encompass both types of rap and it is hard to say which type I prefer because that depends on my mood on that given day. However, generally I would say that I find listening to artists such as Nas, Common, Kendrick Lamar, Bashy and Akala more rewarding because I am constantly learning new things about the track each time I listen.
Sometimes I find it hard to conceive that records about going to a club, getting drunk and doing drugs are more celebrated, and obviously sell more, than tracks trying to tackle serious issues in the world and give people guidance in their everyday lives.
This is the world we live in and individual artists cannot be blamed for that and neither can their capitalisation on the situation to become successful be knocked. However, there is sometimes a lack of balance in hip hop as some very talented artists, some of which lack the content or desire to be commercially successful, make a lot less money than less skilful artists, who have a knack of being able to make ‘hits’ without any real meaningful content.
The aim of my feature is to address why this is the case and whether conscious rappers should be celebrated more, in the hip hop world at least. It is always difficult to argue that one type of music should be valued more highly than another; however, I feel that argument is what we have on our hands here.
Does content which aims to enrich the lives of those listening mean more than songs about encouraging you to drink, party and have a good time? The answer to this question lies on your own, subjective playlist.