THE CEREMONY FOR the 60th Grammy Awards is still two weeks away, but already music’s biggest TV night has made history.
For the first time, hip-hop artists dominate the majority of nominees chosen in the academy’s top categories, including record, album and song of the year.
But that sound you’re hearing isn’t champagne corks popping in celebration. It’s exasperated sighs that the Recording Academy only just discovered what the rest of the entertainment industry noticed back in the flip-phone era: Hip-hop, once an outlier, is now the status quo.
FOR HIS FALL2017 women’s fashion show, designer Marc Jacobs sent models down a stripped-down runway at New York’s Park Avenue Armory last February wearing tracksuits topped with thick gold chains, retro-style coats and eccentric headwear, a hat tip to hip-hop’s early days in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
Jacobs’ collection was inspired, he said, by two things: the 2016 Netflix documentary “Hip-Hop Evolution,” which chronicles the music genre’s rise from the ’70s through the 1990s, as well as memories from his own New York childhood.
“This collection is my representation of the well-studied dressing up of casual sportswear,” the designer explained in a statement. “It is an acknowledgment and gesture of my respect for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style.”
Since the late 1970s, hip-hop has made its way from insurgent music genre to the defining cultural movement of our times. But it hasn’t been entirely about the music.
To look at fashion today is to understand that hip-hop has been an undeniable influence on the way we dress. From Run-DMC’s endorsement of Adidas and Sean Combs’ launching his own fashion label to Kanye West and Pharrell embracing the world of high-end European fashion, here’s a look at the players who led the way.
LIKE THE FICTIONAL Yoknapatawpha County where writer William Faulkner set many of his stories, the rapper and lyricist Kendrick Lamar, who is nominated for seven Grammy Awards including album of the year, has populated his hometown of Compton with stories, plots, images and recollections that map the contours of his city.
Mixing fact and fiction with rhythm and sound, Lamar since his debut mixtape in 2009 has become South L.A.'s most crucial storyteller, and he's harnessed the area's most notable corridor, Rosecrans Avenue, in service of those narratives.
Whether on tracks including "Backseat Freestyle," "Keisha's Song (Her Pain)" or "Money Trees" or in the videos for his tracks "Compton State of Mind" (a riff on Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind), "King Kunta" and "i," Lamar locates his creative world in the area in which he was raised.
AS JAHSEH ONFROY TURNED 19 early last year, his rap career hit a new peak.
The Florida native’s homespun brand of hip-hop had already attracted a fierce cult following and the attention of major labels as his single “Look at Me” blew up. The lo-fi track with blistering (and unprintable) lyrics had clocked Soundcloud and Spotify plays by the millions, sending it up the Top 40 based almost entirely on its number of streams.
When a spat with superstar Drake, who was accused of co-opting the rhythm of “Look at Me,” put the single on mainstream radars, Onfroy — who performs as XXXTentacion (that’s “X -X -X -Ten -Tah -See -Ohn ”) — found himself the face of a movement of Soundcloud rappers disrupting hip-hop.
Jay-Z had big hits before "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)," his playful 2000 single that pleads with a woman for "that funk, that sweet, that nasty, that gushy stuff."
There was "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," which sampled the musical "Annie" and reached No. 15 on Billboard's Hot 100. And there was the sleek "Can I Get A…," which drove 1998's "Rush Hour" soundtrack to platinum sales.
But it was arguably "I Just Wanna Love U," with its danceable groove and its chorus sung in a goofy yet cool falsetto, that turned the once-gruff Jay-Z into a cuddly mainstream pop star. And behind that transition was Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known then as the Neptunes, the production duo who over the next decade would go on to help redefine hip-hop's sound — and propel its reach into R&B and pop.
A GUST OF RED confetti dusted thousands of bodies lost in the feverish bounce that was Migos' set on opening night of the Rolling Loud Festival in San Bernardino on Dec. 16.
The Atlanta trio's barrage of brain-rattling trap anthems capped a day that had already seen impressive sets from Lil Yachty, Jaden Smith, Playboy Carti, Ski Mask the Slump God and Gucci Mane in the hours before.
Arriving in Southern California for the first time since debuting in Miami two years ago, the two-day blowout underscored hip-hop's position as the most dominant force in pop music with a deeply stacked lineup of chart-toppers, underground rap talent and buzzy acts percolating on the internet.
HEAVING MOSH PITS. Vocalists with candy-colored hair and gender-bending jewelry, who stage-dive into crowds of shrieking young fans. Lyrics about chemical indulgences and all-night partying, with guitar-streaked ballads of regret, lost love and nihilism.
Welcome to the new hip-hop festival.
“Rappers are the new rock stars. If you want high-energy concerts with crazy mosh pits, you find that at rap shows today,” says Tariq Cherif, co-founder of the roving Miami-based hip-hop festival Rolling Loud.
OF THE MANY BIG BANGS that have transformed rap over the decades, N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” is one of the loudest.
It was a sonic Molotov cocktail that ignited a firestorm when it debuted in the summer of 1988. Steered by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s dark production and Ice Cube and MC Ren’s striking rhymes, then brought to life by Eazy-E’s wicked charm, the record fused the bombastic sonics of Public Enemy’s production with vicious lyrics that were revolutionary or perverse, depending on whom you asked.
The world hadn’t heard anything like it before. Radio stations and MTV refused to add the title song to their playlists. Critics didn’t get it, couldn’t see past the language, or, worse, refused to acknowledge it as music. Politicians even launched attacks, going to great lengths to condemn the music and its creators.