Artwork by Alex Corbin
By Sebastian De Lasa
Many things over human history have come and gone. One thing becomes popular, then something new gains popularity, until it is fully accepted by the main consumers of trendy things, the youth. A never-ending cycle forms, with trends and fads brightening and fading. The presence of music has never left, but popular music sounds unbelievably different every year. Things come and go. The ’60s are looked upon as one of the best decades for music, which is a fine claim to make. The British Invasion, psychedelic music, folk rock and alternative/indie rock all have their roots in the ’60s. In the decades to come, there were peaks and valleys in music. It’s not as if all music was bad between 1970- 1990. Rap and Electronic music effectively started, as with Punk and New Wave. But on the other hand, this was an era where Hair Metal was extremely popular, and the differences between artists were quite minimal to say the least. But in the ’90s, people started changing. Rap and jazz could coexist, thus creating the east coast hip hop movement. And in the west, rap and funk provided a lethal sound that sold millions of records. It’s not as if the new generation was effectively more creative than the previous one, it’s just that they used many different genres of music in their work, making new and fresh sounds. From 1990-2015, music has been an evolved culmination in all previous influences, thus music is at it’s highest quality since the ’60s.
The biggest evolution in music is in rap music. Rap started in the Bronx, during one of the most dangerous periods in New York history. People living in the crime and poverty of the South Bronx at that time needed a voice, and rap provided that. Rappers and DJs used what they had to make beats to rap over, which at that time was basically limited to funk music. When producers such as Rick Rubin came along using rock beats for Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, rap finally became considered legitimate by the mainstream. Rap then went into a stage where there was a fair amount of quality artists, but there were no major changes in the style of the music. It was either rap with a rock beat, or rap with some James Brown sample. The music was good, but it sounded stale by the end of the era. With the rise of NWA, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions and the subsequent explosion of rap on both coasts, rap expanded and started improving in countless ways. The underground rap scene on the East Coast grew with some of their most artistic and creative artists gaining popularity, such as A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan and The Notorious B.I.G. From the West Coast came Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and Tupac, and Outkast basically jump-started Southern Rap. But rap just grew bigger and bigger. Jay-Z grew to be a superstar, and Kanye West took over the world with a string of the most consistent albums ever made. Rap today is considered one of the most diverse and critically acclaimed genres in music. From Kendrick Lamar to Run the Jewels, Chance the Rapper and Drake, rap has an extremely high quality of new artists. Rap has reached a diverse creative peak, with every year new, influential albums being dropped.
Electronic music has reached an excellent peak. From the invention of the synthesizer, drum machine, and sampler, electronic music has been slowly growing since the 1970s. Electronic music was solely an underground genre. But during the ’90s, house music, and artists such as Daft Punk and Fatboy Slim became immensely popular. Since then, the genre has experienced a similar breakout to hip-hop. The artists are extremely diverse in styles, and the creativity is completely unchecked. There are many quality artists, but my personal favorites are Jamie XX, Disclosure, Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke and SBTRKT. Although the aforementioned artists are technically independent artists, they have gotten hugely popular, and maintained a very high quality of music through their career.
It’s a genre plagued with stereotypes, for example that it’s just people pressing play on a laptop, or that it’s completely reliant on bass-drops and nothing more, but these couldn’t be farther from the truth. It takes many hours in the studio, and making your own, original song out of samples of drum machines and sequencers, is not something easy. So when Electronic music is critiqued over a certain small group of artists that don’t really have much original content, the basis of that argument is largely incorrect.
Genres in music are no longer nearly as defined as they were in the past, because music has become a culmination of all the different styles and genres that have influenced modern music. Rap music is no longer confined to the restraints of only funk and rock beats, and the possibilities of electronic music is as close to infinite as possible. Good music isn’t dead, and it isn’t even on the decline. In fact, it’s thriving