By Angela Buckner
JA Contributing Writer
Ask a person from the East Coast, West Coast, or Down South for their opinion of hip hop and the answers will vary. However, one thing they will all be able to agree on is the fact that hip hop originated in the Boogie Down Bronx in New York.
What is hip hop? According to Britannica Online, “Hip hop is a cultural movement that attained widespread popularity in the 1980’s and 1990’s and also the backing music for rap, the musical style incorporating rhythmic and/or rhyming speech that became the movement’s most lasting and influential art form.” In other words, there is an expected persona that embodies hip hop which includes, but not limited to, a disc jockey aka DJ on the turntables, a rapper aka MC, graffiti, gold chains, Jheri curls, and African American cultural dance moves.
Mississippi is the birthplace of music as we know it, and there are many major contributors from various genres who have snagged Grammy awards from Mississippi. Aside from the Grammy Museum headquarters located in California, there is a Grammy Museum in the Mississippi Delta, in Cleveland.
When it comes to hip hop in the Magnolia State, nobody knows the genre better than Brad Franklin, aka, Kamikaze, a Mississippi native/hip hop artist who assists others in developing their talents and business aspect of music business. He is no stranger to the struggle and all elements that make up the music many have grown to love over the course of fifty (50) years. Although the general public has become accustomed to freely listening to hip hop over the airways, it comes at a price. Kamikaze attributes credit to Dr. Frank McCune for funding hip hop for artists from Mississippi. “Dr. McCune was instrumental in bringing hip hop to the national audience.
“Dr. McCune, along with Representative Jim Evans, was instrumental in putting funding behind the Wildliffe Society. They were the first artists from Mississippi to ever get a major deal.” When the two older gentlemen stepped in, they were able to secure a record deal for the Wildliffe Society with Interscope in the late 90’s. Kamikaze further stated, “Dr. McCune was instrumental because he was somebody at the time who saw the future in hip hop and was doing it on the basis of being a mentor to the young people in the community and he saw the opportunity to give back to help these artists…that’s how things started off here for the State of Mississippi. He is definitely responsible for kicking things off. We are all indebted to him for having the foresight because, at the time, you didn’t have a lot of people of his status who would even deal with hip hop or rappers…”
There were skeptics who did not believe that hip hop would last as long as fifty years, but it has. However, the future of hip hop could possibly be threatened by the now popular Afrobeats. According to Kamikaze, “The job of DJ’s is to move crowds and entertain people. DJ’s have a job to do, even the DJ’s on the radio. I tell people all the time, radio does not exist to play music. Radio exists to sell advertising. Music is a means for radio stations to play advertising if they are playing all the top music that means that people will be tuned in which means they can get people to pay for advertising spots. I tell people that all the time you got to understand how business works.” He reiterated, “Afrobeats is going to be the new demands. Right now, I tell people that Bad Bunny is the biggest Afrobeats’ artist in the world, not just the nation, and he does world music and Latin music and Afrobeats are going to eclipse hip hop now because people are looking for something new. It’s not going to help hip hop; it’s going to replace it (among younger generations).”
Kamikaze went on to talk about several other artists who have become more popular than hip hop artists. Of late, executives in the music industry have expressed the turn off with the redundant message of money, sex, drugs, and violence. However, Kamikaze took an opportunity to encourage the Mississippian hip hop lovers to hold on because in his opinion, there will never be death to hip hop. “I’ve never suggested to producers to just produce based on what is popular. Afrobeats producers are doing what is coming naturally to them and it’s working. Everybody has a time. Things go in cycles. Everybody has its turn and if hip hop doesn’t adjust soon, it will be eclipsed by Afrobeats. But, of course, hip hop will come back around again because somebody is going to do something new and innovated because that’s just the way the cycle works. It’s going to be a minute now because it has gotten stale, the music is trash, a lot of it is redundant and the consumer is now voicing their opinion by their dollar.” In other words, the consumers are requiring the better bang for their buck. The current hip hop artists have been accused of rapping over their music and not providing quality performances while in concert or on tour. As with everything else down through the years, history repeats itself. Hopefully, the next fifty (50) years will be more appreciated by artists in the years to come, whether in Mississippi or somewhere across the world.