1. The Record Industry
The current record industry is the #1 thing wrong with rap. This is mainly because it can correct the four problems below. Labels show up after the A&R production, funding and development has already taken place and this serves to produce poor results. Pop, rock and even urban artists get deals based upon talent and demos; however rap artists have to do everything before they can even get close to a deal. OutKast, Snoop, T.I., and Biggie were signed based upon talent and demos, but today the talent pool has weakened because labels take chances on unproven, raw talent and proceed to attempt to craft and develop the next generation of superstars. Def Jam, Interscope, WEA and Universal, step up!
2. The Explicit & Criminal Element
Rap has been taken over by images and ideas associated with crime, sex and drugs. Most every popular song is driven by content about strippers, selling dope, shooting guns and using drugs. There’s barely any content about love, life and maturity. No more “I Need Love” (LL Cool J); just “pop a molly” and “bust it open for a real nigga.” Ironically, cleaner actually sells: just ask Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye, Lupe and B.O.B.
3. Free Music & Mixtapes
The main issue here is the loss of publishing income by giving away free music. Mixtapes must be marketed and promoted just like music you would buy on iTunes. You have to spend money pressing CDs, flyers, shooting videos and taking over mixtape sites … just to give it all away for free. So why not sell your music? Mixtapes benefit already established rappers with label money or “people” that have $100k to throw at a project and not lose a wink of sleep over it, but most are throwing away millions in publishing hoping a record catches on so they can get a “deal” (see number one). Rap music has been branded as something expendable, cheap and less valuable as other forms of music. No other genre of music gives their music away for free. No Taylor Swift mixtapes. No Maroon 5 mixtapes. Even Macklemore sold “Thrift Shop” and people bought it.
4. Too Many Collaborations
There are way too many features and collaborations. A feature used to be done for the sake of creating an interesting song with two artists that may not have ever worked together. “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z and UGK was special and unique. Nowadays, these unions are a lazy method used by record companies to get radio spins and attract new sales and fans from the featured artists’ fan base. The problem with this is that it’s the same rappers featured on most songs. The features are expensive and the main artist doesn’t standout.
5. Rap is Impaired by Technology
Rap music is technologically stagnant. With computer software as the main tool of production, there’s far less musicality. A lack of live instruments and everyone using Fruity Loops and Logic has the majority of songs and producers sounding the same. The Neptunes, Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, and Justblaze all utilized live instruments on top of samples, keyboards and drums. The use of the MPC and Modules had producers creating unique styles, defining drums and signature sounds that separated them from one another. Now, everything is Snare Rolls and Synth Fanfares. Rock, pop, R&B and country still use live instruments to create hit records.