Hip-hop is hip again

Rap has been a rapidly evolving medium since The Beastie Boys hit the scene in the early ‘80s. Our generation’s master rapper Eminem surfaced in the late ’90s, and since then, there have been plenty of other hip-hop artists breaking the delicate mold thought of as rap.

More recently, Tyler the Creator, Sam Adams, Mac Miller and Kid Cudi have paved the way for more experimental hip-hop music to surface from its underground roots. The transformation from traditional rap to alternative hip-hop has been an arduous one. Up until recently, rap and alternative music have stayed in their respective corners. However, the once cut-and-dry industry is rapidly shifting gears, allowing artists the freedom to play around with language, add electro undertones and focus on topics that promote change.

While indie hip-hop is growing more popular by the second, hipster culture has infiltrated the rap scene resulting in popular artist Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and others on the cusp of stardom, like Theophilus London and Kids These Days.

 

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are the black sheep of the hip-hop family. Rejecting the lifestyle, attitude and narrow views of hip hop culture, Macklmore & Ryan Lewis spew positivity with no trace of drugs, sex or violence — and somehow its songs are still wildly popular. By producing its debut album “The Heist completely independently, the band broke boundaries for alternative artists everywhere, reaching No. 1 and No. 2 on U.S. iTunes albums and No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100 charts, respectively.

Macklemore dons the undercut hairstyle worn by the avant-garde hipsters of Portland, but as soon as he opens his mouth, he’s pure hip-hop. Most widely known for “Thrift Shop,” he creates a funky beat using unexpected elements such as the violin and trumpet. Macklemore fuses indie style with rap culture spouting, “I’ma take your grandpa’s style / I’ma take your grandpa’s style / No for real, ask your grandpa, can I have his hand-me-downs?”

Macklemore’s single “Same Love” is a prime example of his passion for human rights and his frustration that traditional hip-hop ignores the issue: “Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board / A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it.”

The unique duo of Maclemore & Ryan Lewis is something the music industry hasn’t seen before: rap that inspires.

 

Theophilus London

His name evokes images of a stately Greek philosopher intently overlooking the goings-on of grungy city life. And in a way, his name is how he raps.

London’s first full-length album “Timez Are Weird These Days highlights his pensive yet honest sound. An ’80s vibe radiates from London’s album; synth beats add a twist to his modern vocals. “Flying Overseas” has an ethereal element with a chorus that’s light, airy and heavy on keyboard. The simple, briefly a cappella hook in “I stand Alone” quickly escalates into an upbeat, electronic number. “Wine and Chocolates” speaks to London’s fascination with modern times and perhaps how he may have been born in the wrong era.

London has worked with blockbuster names like Rihanna, Ellie Goulding and A$AP Rocky, proving his versatility as both a rapper and songwriter. He performed at the 2011 Cannes film festival and will perform at the Coachella Music Festival in April.

 

Kids These Days

With big names like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Mario C. of Beck producing and mixing the album, it’s hard not to sound good. Kids These Days released its first full-length album “Traphouse Rock in October of 2012, but it has been making bluesy powerhouse funk-soul hip-hop since 2009.

Composed of six members including a rapper, a trombonist and a drummer, Kids These Days fuses a variety of different genres seamlessly through a methodic formula. Each track begins with a unique hook starring lead vocalist Liam Cunningham and flows into an instrumental solo (keyboard, trumpet, trombone) then segues into rap.The song descends in the exact same order, creating a rhythm to the madness of the band’s method without ever getting old.

 

Reach the reporter at lily.lieberman@asu.edu.