10 Ways the Internet Changed the Rap Game
Like so many other parts of our world, the Internet pushed hip-hop through its fastest period of progression in history. Artists, label executives, critics, and fans alike have a wide range of opinions on the ways the World Wide Web transformed the culture. From the sound, to the business, style, and reach of hip-hop, we came up with ten ways the Internet changed the rap game. For better or worse, nothing was the same.
1. The Rise of the Internet Rap Star
Before the Internet, artists had to rely on dexterity, determination, and a bit of style to get noticed. Unless they were signed to a major label, having a nine-to-five back-up used to be essential. Today anyone can become the hottest thing since S. Carter with a funky beat and a catchy hook to back them up. Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” are blueprints of the Internet rap star hit.
2. The Hip-Hop Blog Era
Adjacent to the rise of the web is the upsurge of the hip-hop blog. Never before have there been so many voices commenting on the state of the rap world. Although gaining sizable recognition and authority within the space is tough, anyone with an adequate Wi-Fi connection can have a blog up and running within a matter of minutes. As a result, hip-hop is getting more exposure, and more people are taking notice of the culture.
3. Music, Music, and More Music
“As quantity increases, quality decreases.”
The aforementioned hypothesis will certainly resonate with hip-hop purists. There are more rappers today than ever before, mostly because we live in a time when artists can rise to superstardom and fall back down in a heartbeat. This forces emcees to continually release material to stay relevant. That might mean more music, but more music isn’t always a good thing. In a desperate attempt to keep their names appearing in headlines, emcees tend to flood the Internet with an abundance of lackluster songs and bland mixtapes. Sifting through everything becomes a chore for listeners.
4. Propelled Hip-Hop to the Mainstream
It’s unquestionable that the Internet helped thrust hip-hop into the mainstream and take the culture worldwide. Before the days of the web, enthusiasts had to be within relative distance of a hip-hop hub to keep in touch with the latest news. Nowadays fans across the globe can stay up to date on the movements of the industry, from Arkansas to Antarctica.
5. Upswing of the Album Leak
Before the Internet, it was virtually impossible to hear music before its official release date. Months of excitement and anticipation for a new album preceded the drop. That was a good thing! Today it’s virtually impossible not to hear an album before it hits the shelves. It takes a conscious effort to avoid the thousands of streams and download links available online.
6. Cross-Genre Collaborations
Rapid communication has affected all walks of life, hip-hop included. Geographical barriers no longer prevent people from connecting the way they once did, leading to some unlikely collaborations. From P. Diddy and British grime artist Skepta to The Game and Ed Sheeran, unexpected collabs result in hip-hop like we’ve never heard it before.
7. An Ever-Moving and Innovative Culture
We live in a time when hip-hop as a genre has been stretched, and is being stretched, to painstaking degrees. Despite the opinions you might have, contemporary adaptations—including trap and the DJ Mustard-backed ratchet movement—act as examples of fresh, avant-garde subgenres that are proving popular on the charts.
8. Increased Interactions Between Artists and Fans
Before the days of Facebook and Twitter, dialogue between artist and admirer was tricky to come by. You had to be close enough to sneak in a word at concerts, otherwise the chances of getting any interaction were slim. Today every rapper and their favorite rapper has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. These channels of communication are examples of how hip-hop has become more streamlined and efficient thanks to the web. Artists can share album titles, release dates, concert venues, and even offer free music all within 140 characters.
9. The Keyboard Warrior
As hip-hop’s relationship with the online world has evolved, channels for self-expression have opened up. The competitive nature of emceeing has declined. Rappers used to voice their frustrations on wax—today they do it on timelines. A rapper can start beef, run with it, and subsequently squash it without hindering balance sheets for studio time. Despite Kendrick Lamar’s “Control,” providing the hip-hop landscape with a shaky reminder of the sport’s competitive roots in 2013, it’s hard to visualize hip-hop ever going back to the days of Busy Bee Starski and Kool Moe Dee, or MC Shan and KRS-One.
10. The Decline of Radio
Circa 1990, the radio was the go-to place for hip-hop connoisseurs to get their dose of jams, both old and new. Airwaves are still active and people still regularly tune in across the country, but the radio has unquestionably given way to online alternatives. The latter, unlike the former, does not force the listener to sit through long-winded advertisements or countless records they don’t want to hear. The Internet is simply another ruthless, more efficient option for the consumer. We’ve gone from a time when artists who weren’t on the radio weren’t artists, to a time when artists who aren’t on the radio don’t necessarily care about being on the radio.
February 20, 2015 via Pepsi