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Has any music genre had a more corrupting effect on society than hip-hop? From glorifying senseless violence, awful English, sheer stupidity, terrible clothing sense, and criminality, it’s hard to find anything more damaging to the black community and, regrettably, the rest of us as well. For decades, hip-hop maintained a chokehold on our lives, pushing its influence in various ways. The 90s had some of the most intense years of hip-hop violence. It’s hard to forget the infamous feud between Biggie Smalls and Tupac, a rivalry that tragically ended with their deaths. This New York Times article from 2005 discusses how rap record labels actually manufactured and used violence (and death) to sell records.
This dangerous narrowing of hip-hop music would be reason for concern in any case. But it is especially troubling against the backdrop of the 1990’s, when rappers provoked a real-world gang war by using recordings and music videos to insult and threaten rivals. Two of the music’s biggest stars — Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. — were eventually shot to death.
People who pay only minimal attention to the rap world may have thought the killings would sober up the rap community. Not quite. The May cover of the hip-hop magazine Vibe was on the mark when it depicted fallen rappers standing among tombstones under the headline: “Hip-Hop Murders: Why Haven’t We Learned Anything?”
The cover may have been prompted in part by a rivalry between two rappers that culminated in a shootout at a New York radio station, Hot 97, earlier this spring. The events that led up to the shooting show how recording labels now exploit violence to make and sell recordings.
In addition, this is a very interesting dive into how hip-hop and rap music has negatively influenced our culture, sometimes in ways we don’t even realize until years down the road.
However, the good news is that the tides are finally turning; hip-hop now finds itself on the decline.
Lil Uzi Vert and their new album Pink Tape could finally bring hip-hop its first Billboard Number One album of 2023 next week — a rare delay for the genre, which has gone more than half the year without topping the chart. The streak has been one of the bigger talking points among hip-hop heads and industry onlookers this year as they ponder what’s going on.
While much of the discourse has been around topping the Albums chart, hip-hop’s drought goes deeper than Number Ones. Based on chart data on the most consumed albums for the first half of 2023, new hip-hop overall is having a harder time competing with other genres, as well as older rap records.
According to data from Luminate, just three hip-hop albums released this year — Metro Boomin’s Heroes & Villains, Lil Durk’s Almost Healed, and NF’s Hope — are in the top 25 most consumed hip-hop albums of 2023, easily the fewest over the past six years. (Rolling Stone reviewed year-to-date data available on Luminate for the 26th week/midyear point of the years 2018 through 2023.)
The decline in popularity has been ongoing for over 10 years and shown no signs of letting up.
That figure has been on a steady slide over the past half decade: By this time in 2018, 13 rap albums released that year comprised the genre’s top 25, a 76 percent drop compared to now. In 2019, there were just eight new rap albums in the top 25, though that was partly due to the significant number of popular hip-hop records released in the final two months of the year (like Meek Mill’s Championships and 21 Savage’s I Am > I Was). The number did rebound to 12 albums in 2020, before dropping back down to eight in 2021 and 2022.
That brings us to 2023, a year where catalog albums are taking up more chart space. In 2018, nearly all of the 25 most popular hip-hop albums at the mid-year mark had come out within the past year. By 2021, Eminem’s 2005 greatest hits compilation Curtain Call had risen to number 25; and at mid-year 2022, Tupac’s Greatest Hits from 1998 had arrived on the chart, too. Halfway through 2023, those are the two oldest albums in this year’s top 25 for rap, landing numbers 13 and 20, respectively.
The aforementioned rapper “Lil Uzi Vert”, who apparently uses weird pronouns, looks straight-up demonic.
Lil Uzi Vert's 'Pink Tape' could finally bring hip-hop its first Billboard Number One album of 2023 next week — a rare delay for the genre, which has gone more than half the year without topping the chart. https://t.co/xo8XcteyXD
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) July 8, 2023
What’s particularly intriguing is that many of these hip-hop artists, such as 50 Cent, are phonies when it comes to their supposed “street credibility.” The bottles of “bub” they boast about in their songs aren’t filled with champagne, but rather ginger ale. Furthermore, it’s some of these artists don’t even smoke weed, yet they persistently promote this lifestyle in their music. And by doing so, they negatively influence countless young people, enticing them to adopt this fabricated lifestyle that holds no truth in reality and only serves to line the music moguls pockets.
Honestly, there’s nothing more phony and insidious than that.