Counterculture : A culture, especially of young people, with values or lifestyles in opposition to those of the established culture.
Hip Hop is now a multi-faceted genre with sub-genres that cater to various audiences & demographics.
Hip Hop has to be counterculture in my opinion - image wise & sonically – it gives the artist an edge over the homogenous pop or hip pop acts such as Ke$ha, Flo Rida and like it or not, B.O.B is now in that lane.
This is nothing new to hip hop.
For example, in the early 90′s you had Deathrow Records – the content was about guns, weed, bitches. This was a perfect exapmle of counterculture and its ability to attract an audience, as their artists moved in & out of jail. However, the sound of G-Funk was very clean & polished in comparison to the rugged and dim sound of previous years.
Then there was Bad Boy Records who also dominated the airwaves with radio ready records about wealth, partying and women – again a very polished sound at times.
But Wu Tang came completely leftfield with a sound and image labelled as hardcore, helping to spawn 2 sub genres in Horrorcore & Coke Rap. They carved a niche not just on talent alone but also through image.
To me they came across as a group of rebels who didn’t care what the mainstream thought of them & it made perfect sense when they went on tour with Rage Against The Machine in 1996/97.
In 2010, we have:
Lil Wayne – a rapper with long dreads, tattoos on his face, spoke of recent drug addiction
Eminem – released 2 albums in 2009 & 2010 with content about beating drug addiciton & personal demons
Kid Cudi – subject matter on most recent album included hard drug addiction, beating inner demons et al
And as breakthrough acts:
Nicki Minaj – technically the 1st openly bisexual rapper -(the LGBT Community has been described as countercultural movement)
Wiz Khalifa – a weed smoking, heavily tattooed rapper
Hip Hop has lost some of it’s edge but it is still counterculture to a certain extent. It seems like the rebelliousness that was once afrocentric, militant & hardcore has now been converted to countercultural content about hard drug consumption.
I believe it’s more reliant on image than ever.
The most rebellious cover of the year
It’s naive to think that having good music is all that matters. In a perfect world that would be the case, but controversy sells and counterculture is controversial.
Even with Contemporary Rnb – the acts were a complete opposite in terms of image from the Rnb acts pre 1990.
Rnb pre hip hop soul was mostly straight edges who were smartly dressed and always smiling.
However, Hip Hop soul artists dressed like rappers, sometimes frowning, fairly mysterious.
I feel Contemporary Rnb is losing its image and sound – but I’ll save that for another post.