Legendary rap artist Nasir Jones released his eighth album in 2006 titled “Hip-Hop is Dead.”
Seven years later, the hip-hop community still struggles with this monumental statement, leading some listeners to frequently ask, is it back yet?
According to Billboard, over 140 albums and mix tapes were released, or are set to be released this year from well known artist such as Jay Z, Eminem and J. Cole, to up-and-coming artists such as Dom Kennedy, Nipsey Hussle and Hopsin, some of whom featured singles that made the top 10 list on Billboard.
Many listeners may consider this to be the year hip-hop artists are getting back to the roots of the genre; from the gritty, poetic wordplay that gave rise to this form of music, to the influential position it rests in today.
“I think lyrics are trying to come back a little bit,” said Chris Cannon, photography major. “But I still have to give it some more time to see if it’s just a wave, or a full on comeback.”
Lyrics are considered to be the hands that molded hip-hop to its present state. The lyrical substance married to a beat is what started the revolutionary movement according to Afrika Bambatta, the grandfather of hip-hop.
The loss of lyrics beginning in the early 2000s is one of the reasons Nasir Jones said he was led to create the album “Hip-Hop is Dead.”
“I think artists like J. Cole and Wale are bringing back (strong) lyrics,” said Cannon. “They spoke the truth in both of their albums (J. Cole’s “Born Sinner” and Wale’s ‘The Gifted”) this year. They really tried to get out something positive.”
“When Kendrick Lamar called out everybody on (“Control” by Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica), it was like the resurrection of hip-hop,” said American River College student Latrel Swain.
Whether Lamar calling out several artists on “Control” was a resurrection of hip-hop or not, the fact that a young artist recognized the need for a lyrical renaissance can be seen as evidence that something is brewing in the world of hip-hop.
“Tupac’s ‘Me Against the World’ was when it was real, stuff like Jay Z’s ‘Blue Print 1’ was real hip-hop, said Cannon. “I see glimpses of it coming back this year. We’re just going to have to wait and see, but this has definitely been a memorable year in hip-hop by far.”