Hip-Hop Is Changing Whether You Like It or Not

The music’s transformation isn’t neglecting its roots but merely a reflection of how millennials view the world. 

Childish Gambino; Danny Brown; Iggy Azalea
Childish Gambino; Danny Brown; Iggy Azalea Taylor Hill/Getty Images; Andrew Benge/Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/Getty Images

Every so often in hip-hop, we’re introduced to a new kid on the block who happens to be white; this new face gets loads of media mentions and a group of the genre’s fans wild out on the blogs—they usually call themselves “true hip-hop heads.”

The latest to get the wrath is Iggy Azalea. Before her, it was Macklemore.

Plenty of white rappers have had to deal with the closed-mindedness of a group of hip-hop-goers that can’t get past the prehistoric idea that hip-hop is purely a black experience. This is far from the truth. Over time, the Beastie Boys, 3rd Base, House of Pain, Kid Rock, Eminem and even Vanilla Ice have left their imprints on the culture.

To be totally clear, by no means is Iggy Azalea the rap game’s Australian messiah (nice try, Forbes), and her “rap accent” is questionable in comparison with her normal voice, but it’s 2014 and she’s welcome to experiment.

What the so-called true hip-hop fans fail to realize is that those black hip-hop artists they love are doing the same as these white artists. They’re exploring genres that would traditionally seem taboo and infusing them into hip-hop. They are moving into music that is normally considered “white” and embracing the genre.

Just in case you’ve been sleep for the past few decades, I’m here to let you know this isn’t a new phenomenon. De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising or Run-DMC’s King of Rock are prime examples of expanding music’s horizons. Hell, Rick Rubin alone has godfathered a bridge between rock and rap, but it feels more prominent than ever as more and more black artists blur musical lines and redefine the culture in a unique manner.

Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino, SZA, Odd Future and Danny Brown are just a few of the growing number of artists incorporating techno, electronic, metal and pop into their music.

“Hip-hop is a worldview, a disposition, a way of being in and seeing the world,” said S. Craig Watkins, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and author of Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. “That continues to change as each generation of hip-hop experiences the world in different and complex ways.  

“Hip-hoppers today are growing up in a world in which the flow of ideas, art, expressive culture, etc. happen in curious and complex ways,” Watkins continued. “Their musical tastes and creative practices may be [a] reflection of those shifts.”

The artists didn’t solely create this musical paradigm shift, the millennials who listen to and embrace their experimentation have aided in this musical symbiosis, as they don’t carry the same worldview as the generations before them.