The above Sonali Aggarwal directed documentary with the self-explanatory title What Ever Happened to Hip Hop? poses that eternal question among diehard hip-hop followers about however did hip-hop get from point A (IE the more conscious, thought-provoking and lyrically loaded music of decades bygone) to point B (today's more hook driven popular rap). Even though the little viewed documentary was made a few years ago and on a limited budget it is well worth watching and raises some important points especially on the topic of the commodification of the music by major corporations. Most intriguing are the revelation about the artist no-play list that exists at BET, and the points raised about the consumption of popular rap via exposure to airplay with the theory that what we think we like is what is familiar and recognizable - something repetitive airplay will result in.
Also impressive with this documentary is its list of interviewees including KRS-One, Jean Grae, MC Lyte, Afrika Bambaataa, Busy Bee, Slick Rick, and Kool Keith who jokes about coming up with the basis of a pop rap hit. Although, as with many interviews with well-meaning longtime hip-hop fans on their beloved subject, the conversation sometimes takes on an elitist tone with some old school heads dismissing everything new as "shit-hop" or "hip-pop." I hear where they are coming from but cannot fully agree as the state of hip-hop - now or anytime before in its 40 year history - is not just black and white issue. It's a lot more complex than that with a lot of grey in between with hip-hop continually evolving and incorporating new elements and nuances.
Even though this doc was released in 2009 a lot has changed since then. No doubt if it were released today it would tackle such things as the influence of trap music on popular rap, plus spend time on how much social networking influences taste in popular hip-hop. Regardless What Ever Happened To Hip-Hop? is still well worth viewing as it explores that always relevant question contained in its title, all the while offering a nice historical overview of the genre it clearly cares for.
In next week's Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog I will interview Money B (Digital Underground/Raw Fusion) on his Goin' Way Back Productions radio show and production and what key developments he has noticed in hip-hop from when he first got involved in the late 80's.