When compared to the hundreds of genres out there, rap is relatively young and has only been around for half a century. Right now, rap is in its golden age as it controls most of the mainstream music. It is extremely hard for many to see this changing anytime soon. However, rock was in the same spot before in the 90s, but by the 2000s, it became irrelevant to the masses.
Will rap have an everlasting shelf life? Here are some reasons why the genre may become slowly irrelavant:
Law enforcement has never mixed well with the hip-hop community. There have been multiple incidents causing rappers and police to clash. One crucial reason is the already frail relationship between the Black community and law enforcement. This has led to many artists speaking out against the government, which at times was met with retaliation.
Some notable examples of this include songs from N.W.A, Public Enemy, Lauryn Hill, and Kendrick Lamar. Other cases include some rap stars being ignorant and continually getting into trouble.
Currently, DaBaby is most infamous for his constant altercations.
Another daunting factor is the high death toll of popular rap artists. Excluding natural or extremely random causes, there has always appeared to be a correlation between young rappers and early deaths. The most common causes within the genre's history has been high drug use, gang affiliation, and crime that is associated with some of the artists' lifestyle.
In the 20th century, artists like Tupac, Biggie, and Big L met an early death due to violence. Recently, it seems the death toll has escalated with rappers like XXXTentacion, King Von, Pop Smoke, and Young Dolph dying by a bullet, with other artists overdosing including Juice Wrld, Mac Miller, and Lil Peep.
One of the biggest decision makers for the continuance of rap is, of course, the labels and the industry. If they believe this genre is no longer profitable, they will toss it away as fast as they caught hold of it. The genre is as mainstream as it is partly due to the music industry finally accepting it and making it their own. This can be seen with artists such as Travis Scott and Drake being the face of commercial rap. While there are plenty of negatives to labels taking control of the genre, it was great for many to see the world finally accepting rap. Yet, it is only a matter of time before some of the world shifts their attention to another genre.
Not every one of these reasons is a problem. There is obvious evidence of this genre evolving and transcending the title that many try to place it in. Though a few key components of hip-hop are there, many rap songs that are released nowadays can barely be called rap. This will continue to happen, but it will be interesting to see how fast this happens and what direction it will go in. If you don’t trust me, listen to a popular rap song of today, then compare it to another rap song that was made 20 years ago.
“Pushin P” by Gunna ft. Future & Young Thug, 2022
"Where You At" by Lil Wayne, 2002
Yes, this genre is young, vibrant, and extremely fluid which has led to its popularity. However, there will come a time when it will meet its end. How drastic that change is and when it will happen is unknown and can only be answered when the time comes. That, of course, doesn't mean you should stop listening to rap and its abundance of subgenres.
Rap is in its golden age right now, and there is no better way to appreciate that besides enjoying it while it's happening.