It’s going to take more than guts to be a J. Cole or a Kendrick Lamar today, though.
Veteran producer Mannie Fresh was a guest this week on The Come Up Show podcast, where he spoke with host Chedo about, among other things, meeting Juvenile at a bus stop outside the Cash Money offices, inking a deal with Universal Music Group based on Big Tymers’ Soundscan numbers and coming up with “Bling Bling” while he was “half asleep at 3 a.m.”
As it pertains to the infamous “Bling Bling,” which went from being a Cash Money song title to an official word entry in Merriam-Webster, Chedo asked Fresh if the larger hip-hop community felt like “bling bling” wasn’t hip-hop. “Yeah they said that, but if you have an answer for everything that you do, somebody can’t really say that it’s not real,” said Fresh.
Not unlike Lil Yachty, who is currently facing the wrath of hip-hop nation for his role in supposedly ruining the genre and embarrassing the culture, Fresh was adamant that despite the negative commentary, not only did Cash Money not play a role in “ruining hip-hop,” but the reason people feel that way today is because artists lack intestinal fortitude.
“I don’t think it ruined hip-hop, I just think that nobody has the guts to be a J. Cole, or a Kendrick Lamar. We need more of them…. I think everybody wants to go the easy route, we need more people to go left. On top of that, hip-hop was a form of education. It’s not that no more. Even though you had the Bling Bling era, now all of the songs are about the same thing. In the 90s, we had somebody making a song that was rocking the party, we got somebody else that was on some politics, we got some other dude that’s saying be a father to your child. Everything had a different message and you could play all of them and everybody would jam to it.”
Mannie’s right, it’s much easier to simply follow the crowd and craft easily disposable songs in under 10 minutes. But his assessment of today’s hip-hop landscape versus that of the ’90s—without turning this into a new generation versus old generation think-piece—isn’t exactly accurate. As much as things have changed—gone are the days when a label can charge $20 for an album with three semi-decent tracks—they have also stayed the same.
As a result of the industry undergoing a dramatic shift from albums to singles to playlists, a large majority of artists have become increasingly more attracted to making a certain type of record (turn up, trap bangers) that not only can sell but also drives social media conversation, births memes and social media-inspired challenges, blows up on YouTube, garners radio spins and, most importantly, is added to the most popular playlists on every major streaming service. But that doesn’t mean artists aren’t still making party music (Drake) and political music (Run The Jewels) and “be a father to your child” music (Chance The Rapper).
The album isn’t completely dead but in a singles-driven marketplace, it’s going to take more than guts to be like Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole.
It’s going to take real talent.