An Open Letter to the Hip-Hop Purist

Dear Hip-Hop Purist,

Every few years, when a generation that was raised on hip-hop gets older and begins to have kids of their own, the “this new music sucks” narrative rears its ugly head. We heard it when Hammer blew up, we experienced it again when Eminem dominated mainstream media and we also heard it when Em’s artist 50 Cent took over the charts. And there are many more examples throughout hip-hop’s relatively short history.

For the last couple years the complaints have resurfaced thanks primarily to the success of Macklemore and Iggy Azalea and the unintelligible ramblings of Young Thug and a few other less popular rappers.

It is expected for outsiders to lament an entire generation of artists and their music, but for those who were once a part of the culture to do so is completely unacceptable. Who really cares that a right (or left) wing pundit hates hip-hop? Who truly gives credence to said pundits rants? They are generally speaking from a place of ignorance and/or malice mixed in with not so transparent agenda? So be it.

However, former hip-hop head, what is your excuse? You bucked to Hitman Sammy Sam at 559, you tucked your chain when the DJ played “Set it Off” in Latin Quarter, you bought Dr. Dre’s Roadium mixtapes, hell, you might have even bought a Too $hort tape on an AC Transit bus. Not all of the music that was the soundtrack to your life was uplifting, conscious or—lets keep it real—that good. Misogyny, drug addiction content, drug selling content, wack rappers, wack beats and gasp—even white rappers existed well before Macklemore beat out Kendrick at the Grammy’s.

So what is the real issue with how you feel about current hip-hop? It can’t be that you don’t understand Young Thug. As T.I. pointed out on NPR’s Microphone Check, we didn’t understand everything Bone Thugs said and our parents didn’t understand everything James Brown sang.

It can’t be that you’re offended by Iggy Azalea’s faux-southern accent and borderline minstrel show antics. There are countless examples of rappers taking on fictional personas (Rick Ross) and unoriginal accents (50 Cent) to sell records.

Maybe it’s the lack of lyricism in today’s music. The Migos or Rich Homie Quan’s ATL lingo, just doesn’t do it for you? OG Maco’s disjointed flow a little to off kilter for your tastes? That’s understandable on the surface, but it would be hypocritical to lambast those guys (who for the record have made good songs) and ignore their contemporaries. You know the lyrical guys, Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, CyHi, Erk Tha Jerk, J. Cole, etc.

I think I get it. You, Mr. and Mrs. Hip-hop purist, are a subscriber to revisionist history. You only remember Only Built for Cuban Linx, not Immobalarity. You love MC Lyte, but have forgotten that HWA existed. You believe that Rakim is the best to ever touch the microphone but you lost track after Don’t Sweat the Technique.

Contrary to your belief that there is no good rap anymore, there is a plethora of dope music by young and established artists. It just isn’t played on mainstream radio. If you want to hear it, you will actually need to listen to other forms of media, Spotify, Internet radio, Satellite radio or God forbid, you might actually have to buy an album or two.

I’ll even help you out a bit, go and buy J. Cole’s last album, buy Run the Jewels 1 and 2 and buy PHryme (yes, DJ Premier is still making beats). Those suggestions should get you started on your journey to no longer being a hater.

In closing, just know that when you speak negatively against the future of hip-hop culture you are not uplifting its storied past, you are damaging it in its entirety.


A non-jaded 30 plus-year-old that still loves hip-hop and not just the music I grew up on.

'An Open Letter to the Hip-Hop Purist' have 2 comments

  1. March 18, 2015 @ 6:21 pm Roy

    “If I don’t like it, I don’t like it, that doesn’t mean that I’m hatin'” – Common

    I grew up on hip hop, and yes not all of of the rappers during the 80’s & 90’s were lyrical geniuses. But the difference between now and then is that those rappers were the minority, not the majority. For every one wack rapper, we had a Rakim, KRS1, Chuck D, Kane, etc, etc.. Now for every Kendrick or J Cole, you have a Yung (fill in the blank), a Trinidad James, or 20 mush mouth Chi-town Drill rappers. Technology has made it easy for anyone to make a song, and because of this we a plethora of wack rappers. Hip Hip is not dead, but it is suffering from high cholesterol.


    • March 19, 2015 @ 9:37 am Danny Chung

      You’re not hating. Everyone is allowed to like what they like but if someone likes Trinidad James (personally, I don’t) or Yung Lean or Young Thug (personally, I’m big fans of both) doesn’t mean they have a lesser understanding of Hiphop, just a DIFFERENT understanding of Hiphop. I’m actually fans of so-called ‘backpack’ rappers as well, like Aesop Rock and Sage Francis and the like, which may be considered TOO Hiphop for many. ‘Wack’ rappers aren’t even relative, it’s a matter of absolute opinion and personal taste. I’d even go as far to say that post-internet rap (such as the Lean’s and Thug’s) is an evolved form of the art. The responsibility is on the culture to keep up or get left behind.


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