I was digging in the blaugs in the early AM hours the other night and stumbled upon this entry by a guy who goes by the name SOULMAN. I think he was pretty on point about the industry and also what happened to HipHop culture especially during the transition into the 90's.
This is gonna be painful for some of you to understand or accept but this is a necessary read.
THE MUSIC BUSINESS HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH MUSIC
There is so much written on the internet (and elsewhere) by people who pose as Hip Hop experts but really don't know their azz from a bucket that it's always great to see somebody who really gets it. So I gotta give a shout out to the world famous DJ Julian Bevan who dropped some truth nuggets in the bio on his site. His Wu-Tang in-the-studio story is a classic (I thought ODB pissed on the LL Cool J plaques, though, not spat on them). But I personally loved some of my man's views on the music biz. A few of my favorite excerpts:
"Working at Chung King, I learned a great deal about the music industry. Most important of which was just how awful and ruthless it is. I watched group after group pour their hearts into their entire album, only to have it shelved, and their careers forever frozen in contract limbo. For so many of these kids, rapping or singing was pretty much their one shot at a a decent life. Their one ticket out of poverty. And to see their dreams built up so high and then smashed to bits, simply for some record label's tax break, was really heartbreaking. This happened more times than I can count. It really made me realize that the record label career I had been considering for a moment was definitely the wrong path. The music business has very little to do with music, and everything to do with business."
"Towards the end of the 90s, the music began to shift, at least from my perspective. Hip Hop, that was once something cool and underground and shunned by the big clubs, became WAY too popular. The parties that were once filled with people you'd actually want to hang out with were now getting over-run with outer-borough thugs, low-level gangsters, knucklehead bridge and tunnel types, fake-ass promoters, and cheesy fucking celebrities. I'll never forget DJing at The Tunnel and watching some stupid suburban kid standing on a speaker, with his crew of Jersey white boys, miming the lyrics to Tupac's "Hail Mary" like he was some kind of gansta. It was embarrassing. The genie was definitely out of the bottle. Hip Hop was now main stream, and the new Hip Hop generation was pretty fucking scary from where I stood."
"To add insult to injury, even the music started to suck. From the late 80s thru the mid-90s, being a Hip Hop DJ was great, because you never had to play a bad song. There was so much great music. And since Hip Hop was still not quite mainstream American pop culture, your crowd still had relatively good taste. They weren't in to top 40, they were hip hop heads. Once Hip Hop became top 40, everything changed. Everything changed because the masses, in general, have lousy fucking taste. Yet it was the masses that were now dictating what hip hop song was popular, and you only have to tunr on the radio to see what kind of results that has yielded us. There was another factor worth mentioning, and that is the great schism between mainstream Hip Hop and indie Hip Hop, also known as "underground Hip Hop" or "backpacker Hip Hop". Prior to the late 90s, indie Hip Hop was not really even a separate genre. Indie Hip Hop was simply Hip Hop on an independent label that hadn't quite hit it big yet. Yet it always had that potential. And it had potential for club airplay because it was still dance music as Hip Hop had always been. Then along came Wu Tang Clan. I blame Wu Tang as the root cause of the great schism for two reasons: 1) They made totally weird, original music; with unorthodox flows that bordered on freeform conspiracy rants. 2) They really wore the term "underground" as a badge of honor. They bragged about it constantly. None of those things are a bad thing, mind you, but it was their legions of inspired white boy followers that took those two elements to heart, whilst disregarding one of the founding principles of Hip Hop: IT'S PARTY MUSIC. At least it used to be. Wu-Tang, however, struck the perfect balance. They made banging fucking tracks that were truly like nothing anyone had ever heard before. On the other hand, the kids that followed in their footsteps seemingly didn't care if anyone ever danced again. It seemed like their successors just wanted to find the craziest sample they could, and cram as many fucking words in to a sentence as possible, while bragging about being underground. My #1 example of this would be Company Flow. Maybe the schism is really their fault. They made some interesting shit, no doubt, but did anyone want to hear that shit in a club? Hells no! And from there, it was all downhill. If you wanted to stay in the bigger clubs, where women actually danced and DJs made decent money, you left the indie shit at home and you put the top 40 shit in your crate and you called your cab. And thanks to Hip Hop now being top 40, what was left in your crate was Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z and DMX and the sleeping giant known as "dirty south" music. It didn't help that Swizz Beats and Master P were determined to bring the tempos back down to 72 bpm either. This is right about the time I said "Fuck this, I'm done". I had a good run, but once I stopped enjoying the music and the people, I figured the writing was on the wall."