Modern hip-hop: a constantly evolving artform" />
Artists like Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti, and Tyler, The Creator have kept the hip-hop scene alive
Artists like Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti, and Tyler, The Creator have kept the hip-hop scene alive

Modern hip-hop: a constantly evolving artform

The hip-hop scene has changed overtime and artists like Kid Cudi, Kanye West and Tyler, the Creator are keeping it alive.

The current state of hip hop seems to be one that has bored die hard fans for years now. 

It’s not necessarily that the product fans are being given is bad, rather the fact that we’ve heard it before. Few artists have the creative ability to deliver something new with every album, leaving the community with a lackluster product and a desire for new sound. 

However, when executed properly, the genre offers a kaleidoscope of invigorating sounds for listeners to feast on. 

Artists such as Kanye West were among the first to show people that there’s other sides to rap and hip hop. Ye introduced many to the soulful side of the genre, including samples and uplifting beats into his music, something that was new for the 2000’s. Songs like “All Falls Down” include catchy and soulful vocals that stick with listeners beyond a first listen, the reason why I still find it bumping in my house 20 years later from people like my mother. 

Not only did West popularize the use of soulful samples, but he also brought to light the idea of rapping about something other than drugs and violence. This type of rap inspired many and drew a whole new demographic to the genre.

Ye influenced Kid Cudi, another pillar in what turned out to be modern hip hop. Drawing inspiration from Kanye’s success in exploring different topics, Cudi would go on to be a pioneer in the emo-rap scene. 

He was the first rapper to openly talk and make music about his struggles with mental health. His hit song “Pursuit of Happiness” was not meant to be the party anthem that some have turned it into. Rather, it is a song with a worrisome undertone in which Cudi talks about driving drunk, not giving a care about life in the search for his happiness. These themes are prevalent through his music. 

Many fans attribute Cudi’s personal and vulnerable lyrics to saving their life, and many modern-day rappers can attribute their success to this trailblazer. 

It’s impossible to talk about the modern era of hip hop without mentioning the colossal impact of Soundcloud. As a free streaming platform, what separates the app from its competitors is the fact that anybody can post their music on it. 

This feature allowed for up-and-coming artists to jump into the rap scene and gain traction fast. The platform has given us some of the most relevant names in hip hop to this day. Rappers like Playboi Carti, Juice WRLD, XXXtentacion and Lil Uzi Vert all emerged from the Soundcloud Era.

These new artists came with their own style and perspective to the genre, most of them resorting to mumbled-rap to deliver their flows, gaining success in the process. The stylistic approach to the genre rubbed some fans the wrong way, with some claiming that the mumble-style approach disrespected the culture. However, a quick glance over their charting numbers tells a different story. 

Autotune soon oversaturated the genre as new artists found interest in experimenting with their voice. Autotuned voices over energetically produced beats intrigue the younger demographic. Yet, nobody has perfected autotune quite like Travis Scott.

After releasing his second mixtape “Days Before Rodeo,” it was clear Scott was going to be something special. His dark vocal performances over ominous beats on songs like “Skyfall” with Young Thug were a refreshing sound for the time. 

However, it wasn’t until his first studio release “Rodeo” that he started to gain mainstream attention. His hit single off the album “Antidote” was able to chart as number 16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, springing him to stardome. 

In 2018 he proceeded to drop what some fans regard as one of the best rap albums of all time: “ASTROWORLD.” The psychedelic beats and synthetic vocals transport listeners to a dystopic amusement park. Outros on songs like “WAKE UP” support the idea of modern rappers prioritizing their artistic vision for the album, rather than the accompanying lyrics.

Old school hip hop artists like Eminem, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan conveyed their messages through aggressive poeticism, emphasizing their impacts through their lyricism. 

Nowadays, rappers use visual and auditory ambience to strike emotion in their audiences. 

Looking through the discography of Tyler, the Creator, it is difficult to find two albums that sound alike. Utilizing sonic wavelengths and visual presentation, he creates a new persona for himself through every album, bringing characters to life in his live performances and music videos. 

For instance, in his 2019 album “Igor,” Tyler plays a character dealing with the ups and downs of a harsh love life. As a real-life Frankenstein, he expresses the concept of just wanting to be loved and treated well. Two years later, he reinvented himself as Tyler Baudelaire, a man much more content with his place in life on “Call Me If You Get Lost.”

With rappers straying further and further away from the origins of the genre, many OG fans are left looking for the lyrical storytelling that was so prevalent once upon a time ago. However, artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole have been successful in maintaining the sound that once was in this respect.

Hop hop has become vastly experimental and unconventional. However, at the root of it all, rappers today strive to recognize the beauty that comes with struggle. Tackling topics like socio-economic adversity and mental health, artists have showcased vulnerability that magnetically draws people into the genre, establishing a more raw and real hip hop scene.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 print edition.

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About the Contributor
Michael Arredondo
Since I was a kid my family has always known me to be a sort of wildcard when it comes to doing anything at all. I have changed hobbies throughout my life more times than I can count and my passions have changed numerous times. However my attitude and work ethic has remained the same through it all. At the moment I am interested in producing any sort of media as I look forward to holding a position in the entertainment industry. I am currently employed at Trader Joe’s and have found it to help my social skills and abilities drastically, building my confidence inside, as well as outside of work. In my spare time, which is hard to come by, I enjoy watching movies and dissecting the individual shots and their composition, trying to find the true meaning behind the director's motive. This helps me to expand my creative freedom and draw inspiration from other creators whilst trying to push the boundaries of what was thought to be impossible to capture on a film camera.
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