Before we begin, a reading from the Book of Sean:
Hov’ on that new shit, niggas like “How come?”
Niggas want my old shit, buy my old albums
- Jay Z
It’s always been a competitive culture, Hip Hop. Rappers constantly engaged in battle. Naturally, ego’s run rampant. Other rappers peep game and follow working formula's. It’s survival. Eat or be eaten. Spit fire or get flamed on Twitter.
Drake hears “Superduper”, cue “Forever”. Iggy wants to get the hell out of Australia, cue horrid Tyga impressions. People start cranking that proverbial “Soulja Boy”, cue legions of dance tracks on Myspace. It’s almost a science.
Rappers, like all creators, are charged with a near impossible task, imposed by both Stans and haters alike, to stay relevant, engaging, relatable, and coherent, all under the confines of rhyme and meter. But there ain’t nothin’ new under the sun; with only so many stories to write and/or bars to sling, something will end up being repeated.
But we can’t settle for repetition. Hip Hop, then, devolves to mere recitation of past paradigms...because that’s what everyone is talking about. So, that’s what everybody keeps talking about.
Because that’s what sells.
Conclusions are cute and cathartic. Let’s try this: it is human nature to copy others. In fact, I’d argue the reason we’ve managed not to completely screw up the ball of rock we call home is a result of our remarkable propensity to recognize and emulate both the successes and failures of the homies. In the spirit of this title, however, and as an excuse to quote Picasso, I agree that “good artists copy [and] great artists steal”.
Understanding what makes another artist particularly valuable, and then adapting your art to emulate this value is not inherently problematic; that’s evolution. It is when one decides to repeat pre-existing successes merely because they were successful that art dies and superficial truths, if not outright lies, are proliferated.
I’m just a dude from ‘round the way pushing for some variety. We can’t all be Migos.
“Be you.” - Drake