I grew up with a double societal influence. On the one hand, the stronger hand, was the rock and pop influence on the other was hip hop. I didn’t particularly engage in hip hop, I found it very commercial and monotonous. The lack of substance is what spurred on my oath to saw off my left leg if I heard one more song about hoes from different area codes or even an 8 line rap piece that accompanied the latest pop hit. Movie soundtracks were the other medium where I passively received this kind of music. One that still resounds in my ears is Sugarhill gang’s one hit wonder “rapper’s delight” sung by the frail granny in The Wedding Singer. Entertaining lyric but not life changing. That was the extent of my hip hop knowledge and listenership.

From then on I approached the genre with caution, although I didn’t dismiss it entirely. My refusal to listen to the commercial counted in my favour; it led me tosift until I found the good wheat.  It was at this point that I could draw the distinction between the diluted and the concentrated rap. I pin the watering down on the fact that rap has fused with other genres to, amongst other reasons, broaden its audience. In this process, sadly, many miss out on the true essence of rap. What is launched off the platform is a genre drowning in commercialism and worldly lyric. When considering the origins of rap, this is made clear.

Rap is a 40 year old man who grew up in the South Bronx in a community riddled with strife and poverty. Instead of taking up a gun to channel his emotion his weapon was his words. He has had a trying life trying to hold his own in a sea of faces but with aging, as one would expect, evolution has taken place. This wouldn’t be altogether negative had he not compromised himself in the progression.

Rap was regarded as a fad when it first became known; it was born out of the circumstances at the time making it vulnerable and subject to being replaced. However it has stood the test of time. Its approach of sustainability, however, could be seen as a betrayal to the genre. Hanging onto the last thread it has changed and adopted to accommodate the masses, allowing, on the one hand, for exposure and greater accessibility. In an attempt to ensure longevity rap has fused with other genres broadening its audience but losing itself in the process.

The choice for fusion would see rap being poured into the ears of more listeners but at the expense of diluting the original form. A shift of focus occurred as rap moved away from its original purpose of formation being a channel to express the struggle the youth experienced. It has to be noted that rap is generation specific catering for and meeting the needs of the youth in a certain age bracket in every generation. This can be seen in the content change as well as the prevalence of fusions. But, and this is a big one, this cannot be used as an excuse for poor music with unsubstantial lyric.

I can testify that fusing rap with other genres is to showcase it to those that wouldn’t instinctively listen to it. It would be easing them into the genre by mixing it with their kind of music, be it jazz, pop, rock or folk. But listeners are being cut short in being presented to rap in this way; just scratching the surface of what rap is really about. They are not seeing the man for what he has to offer, on the contrary, they are merely seeing his shadow. Yes, more people are exposed to rap while more rappers get money but I have to stress that the form is being compromised to complement other genres to point where, as many have claimed, rap is dead.

There has been a definite shift in content. A game of give and take. Lyrics aren’t entirely about struggling communities anymore, the more serious rap is about relationships and social issues. In that way they have broadened the audience without being entirely disloyal to the genre. But there are always exceptions to the rule. In too many cases rap is either unsubstantial or crass. There is almost a deliberate attempt to avoid talking about real problems, and in these cases the stereotype of rap is being encouraged. It is a world romanticizing the “I”, praising hoes, money and cars.

What is important thing to remember is that quality is more important than quantity. If rap artists kept this on the tip of their tongues a deviation from the genre, in its true sense, would be minimalized. I cannot rule out fusions completely because there are a few occasions where artists have pulled it off. The difference is that personality of rap is enhanced by the accompanying genre. It relationship does not allow for compromise or deviating attention from the one or the other. The fusion of rap and rock, in the case of Linkin Park and JayZ exemplifies this as well a local example of the fusion of rap and folk seen with Jeremy Loops and M.O. Leko. If these examples of fusion were used as a bar to be reached rap would include a broader audience as well as maintain its intention.

Maybe I should take up the position where I shouldn’t lament the old. I should jump on the bandwagon and just go with it, but having compared pure rap with fused rap I cannot get myself to do so. I appreciate most, if not all, kinds of music but get irked when something of worth gets worn out to the point where the original form is no longer recognizable. The intention of rap shouldn’t be to have the most listeners, if that happens it’s a bonus, the focus should be on its original intent: to be used as a platform to address issues facing local or global communities.