The Karaoke Effect: Hip-Hop's Oversaturation

Ever since T-Pain popularized auto-tune, even after Jay-Z seemly killed it off, it’s been a thriving force within the Hip-Hop music scene. And not to say that Drake was the first rapper to rap and sing/harmonize, as Biz Markie famously sung, very badly, on his hit “Just A Friend”. But Drake is definitely is one of the main influences of the latest wave of harmonizing emcees. Between auto-tune and the singing/harmonizing takeover the direction of Hip-Hop has taken a change, but would you stay it’s for the better or for the worst?

Future, Rich Homie, Lil Wayne, Kanye, Chief Keef, Lil Durk and just about every new R&B singer that breaks onto the scene seems to be utilizing one of the aforementioned elements in their songs. Personally I'm divided on the usage of auto-tune and singing/harmonizing. I can’t fault someone for taking an already successful idea and building upon it in their own way. And when it’s done correctly it sounds great just take Future’s whole style as an example. True vocalist might tell you he can’t sing a lick (although I jokingly disagree), but everything he does is centered around both auto-tune and singing/harmonizing over trap beats. Seems to be working as he’s making hit after hit.

On the flip side Future has his opponents. I often come across people who say all his music sounds the same, and everyone in the same category as him, all their music sounds the same too. I get where those people are coming from, the rap game is over saturated with this epidemic of auto-tuned singing rappers. Just like anything that seems to be in style in Hip-Hop, it always gets overused and played out. I do have a problem when every time I press play on a new mixtape some grown man is partially singing to me about his girls, cars, trap house, diamonds, and a variety of other "hood rich" items. Where is the originality? Everyone is just going to copy each other instead making their own break through style?

Bring this issue to a local perspective; the DMV is a rising music scene and definitely isn’t short on talent. But one of the criticisms I often hear about local artists is their overuse of auto-tune and singing/harmonizing on songs. I’d have to agree that I don’t like it when local artist use both those elements in their songs because often the auto-tune isn’t smoothly done due to lack of access to top notch production people and equipment to mix the sounds well. That in turn throws off the singing/harmonizing, which probably wasn’t going to be all that to begin with. Also when it comes down to it, why would I listen to local artists to hear the exact same thing I can hear on the radio? Usually you’re looking for a fresh new sound when listening to undiscovered talent. Now that is not to say that I haven’t heard good usage of both auto-tune and singing/harmonizing from local artists, because I have. But as a general over view, I'm more then likely not impressed.

So I stand conflicted on whether I'm a fan of these two elements being used in rap. I have to say that honestly I'm a fan of good music, so if it sounds good then it's a go for me. I’m probably listening to something with auto-tune as you’re reading this, or harmonizing along to whatever current Drake song is stuck in my head. As for as the over saturation of this trend in rap today, trends come and go. Remember when everyone was thug and gangsta rap dominated? We’ll just have to wait and see what the next big thing is when it comes. And nothing goes away completely, so expect auto-tune and singing/harmonizing to stick around in some form basically forever. I'm interested in what we will think of this era of music when look back ten years from now.