That’s a question, not a statement: why is 2014 the “worst year of rap,” according to comments made by A$AP Yams. I can easily refute the claims made by the A$AP Mob member, but I’d rather prove some things first. Let’s get it out of the way that 2008 was the worst year for hip-hop ever, period (here’s a good breakdown of why). Knowing this, we can use that as our reference.
To discuss this topic, we should know that this is being brought up because the remarks by Mr. Yams have struck a nerve over at HipHopDX HQ, as well as among other hip-hop circles and social media. Now, it’s safe to say that this polarized the hip-hop community, some strongly disagreeing and others reluctantly seeing where the rapper’s coming from. Yet, what A$AP Yams declared was followed up by “It wasn’t any trends; musically it was a lot of dry-ass shit.”
This claim states that the entire genre of hip-hop music failed to produce any substantial material during the course of an entire year. Upon recent news that 2014 is set to be the first year ever to not have a platinum record, it seems hip-hop isn’t the only one following this trend of “dry-ass shit.”
What’s important to realize here is that Yams seems to be referring to very specific events in hip-hop as of late, that of trends. Bobby Shmurda blew up the Internet with his hit single and other rappers seemed to create the illusion that hip-hop is a very easy industry to break into.
But what we should recognize here is the culture of the music industry today. A few years ago, digital downloads started taking over and dominating the music industry, changing the way artists and labels look at music sales. A decade or two ago, CDs were the mainstay in music distribution and the concept of an album was strong; full, comprehensive musical works meant to be experienced in their entirety. Go back forty, fifty years and vinyl records were the dominant medium for music publishing and this was probably the first instance of full albums being the centerpiece of the music industry’s means for publishing music. Go back just a few more years and we arrive at the dominance of singles: one track meant to be played over and over and over again.
“I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles/
Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael.”
– From “Excursions” by A Tribe Called Quest
The industry is changing, that is something we all can agree on, but it is how it is changing that is troubling and bewildering to many. Specifically in hip-hop, if we can all take a moment to reflect on its several decades, we can take note that there have been many instances of A) dry spells, B) one-hit wonders, and C) times when fans throw their hands up proclaiming that they give up on the music. Is it not possible to be in such an instance now?
Here’s what I think. I think that A$AP Yams means to say what I noted in a previous article about one-hit wonders in hip-hop nowadays. How it came off was that hip-hop in 2014 is dead, gone and done (until next year, folks!). What Yams may seem to neglect is the fact that quality music has been pushed this year, albeit not in the form of good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012, or Yeezus, Born Sinner, Nothing Was The Same, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, and so many others in 2013. However, it’s impossible to brush off the many mixtapes that dropped this year in what is arguably the best year for hip-hop mixtapes in a long time (Mick Jenkins: The Water[s], Saba: ComfortZone, GoldLink: The God Complex, and many others).
Additionally, there have been nominal releases throughout 2014 such as Dilated People‘s new album, TDE‘s output (mostly by way of SZA‘s Z and Isaiah Rashad‘s Cilvia Demo), and others that have been quality releases. Yes, there have been many upsets this year (Grieves‘ album, Atmosphere, and others), but there have been years’ past where releases have been dry. The thing is, we can’t judge a years’ worth of musical output based upon one thing. We can’t judge 2014’s output of quality hip-hop on albums alone; the internet age has dawned a new spell of mixtapes, “singles” and videos that have added to the volume of music able to be produced in a single year. Albums may have suffered this year, but can we forget the songs Big Sean dropped overnight? Or the songs Drake dropped with no official word on album singles (tell me you haven’t been playing “0 to 100“)? Or the numerous mixtapes that take the top of the charts across the board on hip-hop sites like HotNewHipHop and DJ Booth?
2014 is not the worst year for rap. It’s just not. It was a good year. Sure it is probably the first decline in quality output after the mind-swirling years of releases that were 2011-2013, but the industry is changing and we need to recognize that. It pales in comparison to previous years, that’s what the fuss is about. 2014 was not as good a year for hip-hop as 2013 was. 2013 was huge, monumental even for hip-hop; 2014 falls way short in comparison. There, plain and simple. Likewise, HHSE writer Marc noted as long as we are comparing things, that if every time people said the NFL was dead because the draft class sucked that year, well, the NFL would be dead a lot. So what makes hip-hop any different?
Instead of training our attention on album sales, trends and hot songs, and putting years side by side and pointing out all the pros and cons of each year, we need to focus on the fact that quality music is being put out, even if not right under our noses. Get to Google and do some searches, I’m sure with the right guidance you can find some amazing hip-hop released in 2014; just don’t go hollering “wolf” when you’re lack of discovery leads your music library dusty.