In the wake of trap music’s mushrooming influence on pop-culture, Hip Hop has prioritized production over lyricism. During Hip Hop’s genesis, production was a distant silver to lyricism’s gold medal; its purpose was more utility than paramount. The beat kept the rhythm, the spitters kept the fans’ attention.
Through years of genre cross-pollination, Hip Hop’s primitive sounding confines have injected more distant, varied elements to increase production intricacies. These more inclusive instrumentals have grown to the point of cannibalizing lyricism, stripping Hip Hop’s gold medal from lyricists, and placing it upon producers. The pendulum of focus has greatly swung.
Social media’s rise has aided and abetted the dwindling of our attention spans to the point where watching a three-minute mobile video seems blasphemous. For proper content absorption, our senses must be fully aroused and entertained—or we need to deeply care about the material. That’s why trap’s composition is exploding in popularity. Ironically, the sensory overloading sounds facilitate multi-tasking by reducing the need for cognition. No need to pay attention directly to the content; it’s easy to miss the mumbled lyrics muffled by the booming production. Shorter attention spans undoubtedly play a contributing factor to lyricism’s demise, but fundamentally, the best trap music can be coke-like addicting.
If you’re a Hip Hop purist, I understand that this is upsetting and aggravating. The erosion of Hip Hop’s lyrical foundation is frustrating and slightly melancholic. While there are still present rappers who are dedicated to constructing complex rhyme schemes and rewind-worthy verses, the majority pale in comparison to the greats.
Let’s take this throwback Thursday to check out some of Hip Hop’s greatest lyricists, and some of their best lyrics. *Note: These aren’t necessarily the top lyricists of all-time, just some incredibly dope ones.*
MS. LAURYN HILL