Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
12/28/2003 4:59:36 PM
Tags and topics realted to this article include Q-Tip, Outkast, Kanye West, Mos Def, Ludacris, Freeway and Jay-Z.
Downloading and downsizing. Mergers and layoffs.
Those unsettling words describe the principal actions and concerns of the music industry these days. In just the last year, we've seen five major controlling corporations contract to four - or 3 1/2 , considering the weak pull of EMI.
Internet theft is blamed. But whatever the reason, sales keep heading south.
What has been ruinous for the big companies, however, may be the best possible news for the music itself.
Bracingly new sounds and ideas thrive in the face of economic disaster. And if the business plan for how music is made and received needs to be rethought - as even the most cautious gatekeepers of the industry believe - that means 2004 could witness the biggest sonic revolution in pop since the breakthrough of grunge and the mass embrace of hip hop, in the early '90s.
Okay, that may be overly optimistic.
Maybe it won't happen until 2005. Or 2006. But it has to happen. And the stars are aligned to bring it about sooner rather than later.
Consider this: We live in the most musically conservative pop era since the early '60s, a time when the milky likes of Pat Boone pushed out the wild types like Jerry Lee Lewis.
Some of the biggest debuts of last year came from "American Idol" nerds Clay, Ruben and Kelly. All of them appeal to a crowd that doesn't normally buy records, an audience that's unlikely to keep ruling things once the industry finds a way to lure back those underserved millions who passionately want to lead music's next revolution.
At the same time, we have a resurgence of popularity in music that appeals to older folks, like the smash cover records from artists like Rod Stewart and Michael McDonald.
That demographic also excludes the kind of forward-thinking young people who, for more than 40 years, have been the strongest creative spur to popular music. Eventually, the turgid conservatism of the charts will create a revolutionary movement.
Already, we're seeing some of music's most progressive stars expressing a new, and potentially, fruitful fidgetiness in their work - hinting at what may satisfy the coming need.
Hip-hop pioneers Q-Tip, Andre 3000 of OutKast, and Cee-lo have gotten bored with rap's normal tropes. So they've taken hammers to the genre's old mold. Andre's efforts have gotten enough notice lately to earn nominations in all the top Grammy categories. If OutKast takes them in February, it would be a bellwether moment in the growth of this entire musical form.
Likewise, both Q-Tip and Cee-lo have new albums coming early next year, which they hope will telegraph hip hop's future.
RAP & REGGAE ROMANCE
At the same time, hip hop has been drawing fresh inspiration from the world outside the U.S. The past year, rap benefited by absorbing sounds from the Indian subcontinent, resulting in hits for Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Timbaland.
Next up could be a broader breakthrough of the music known as "reggaeton" - a Puerto Rican melding of Jamaican dance hall and rap. Its stars - including Tego Calderon - drew enough fans this fall to fill Madison Square Garden.
Simultaneously, the U.K. has spawned a promising pioneer of what we might call post-hip-hop. Dizzee Rascal has already taken Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize for his efforts to redefine rap through his own British experience. His American debut arrives in late January.
A precursor to Rascal - Mike Skinner, otherwise known as the Streets - will release his second U.S. album in April, following up a debut, "Original Pirate Material," that wowed cutting-edge hip-hop and rock fans in 2002.
Rock also has real impetus to change. Some of its biggest bands, including Korn and Limp Bizkit, aren't selling like they used to. And other than the creatively tired Linkin Park and Evanescence, no rock band has broken throu
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