In 2006, rap icon Nas declared Hip Hop is dead. It had seemed as though the culture had extended beyond its underground roots and become nothing more than a tool for marketing and commercials. Hip Hop reached its apex in the late 90’s when artist such as Jay-Z and Eminem were selling CDs by the millions. It was not unlike the phenomenon Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book the “Tipping Point” Rap music had become so easily accessible to corporate America it tipped and the money started to flow. Artists like 50 Cent were signing million dollar contracts. Hip Hop music had become a virus of sorts that was infecting all areas of American culture. Unfortunately every epidemic comes to an end. The society becomes immune to it and after experiencing pink shirts, baggy pants and air force one there was a sudden shift in popular culture. Declining music sales, internet bootlegging(which seems to be a norm for those in the culture) and the lack of originality were key factors as to why Hip Hop seemed to be dying.
Four years after Nas’ declaration there is a sense that Hip Hop is once again on the rise. The same factors that lead to it’s decline seem to be helping the struggling genre regain a foothold in popular culture. The bootleggers no longer had to steal hot tracks as artist spread their music via the internet in downloadable files called mixtapes. The sense of obtaining something that isn’t accessible to the mainstream is what made Hip Hop so fascinating in its infancy. Artist began using the technology that was now available to anyone with internet and/or cell phone access. The music landscape has changed dramatically and up and coming artist such as Drake and Soulja Boy have used the internet to make money in an economy that is in a recession. The internet has made it possible for an artist that lives in Toronto to become a mainstream star without releasing a traditional album. In the Inland Empire there are several Hip Hop artist using technology to spread their music and bring the Inland Empire into the focus on the rest of the nation.
The internet is the new record store and for those true Hip Hop aficionados looking for the latest and greatest in new Hip Hop there’s no place better than the Inland Empire. The reason the Inland Empire is a hot bed for Hip Hop is perhaps the same factor that helped Southern based music take the forefront between 2005 and 2009. The Inland Empire has been influenced by all types of music. The Inland Empire has a bevy of talented artist that are taking a hold of the newest trend in spreading Hip Hop to the masses. Here are five artist to look at in 2010:
Producer/Rapper Curtiss King is one the Inland Empire’s brightest artist. He’s always growing and willing to take risk most emcees are afraid of. Perhaps because he’s his own producer. His mixtape “Snick at Nite” is a clever take on the Nickelodeon era he grew up in. Curtiss uses samples from shows such as “Are you Afraid of the Dark” and “All That” and puts his futuristic production skill on display. Curtiss King is a visionary and its only a matter of time before people see what he sees. Download “Snick at Night” on myspace.
The Moreno Valley native Pheo has been running wild in the I.E. scene for several years now. His swagger and bravado while on stage often overtakes his sincere flow and style. His lyrical content sits somewhere between the High School cafeteria and Political uprising. A surprisingly intelligent emcee who’s not afraid to face the contradictions of life. A crowd pleaser and a great listen for any one looking to add a new artist to their I Tunes library. Download his latest effort “Word to your Blogger” on myspace.
This 6’9 storyteller has a movement called “Mask On” that is known from Riverside to Seattle. The Crookie Monster has a 90’s style that seemed to be forgotten in the midst of the jiggy rappers that have taken the forefront in the last decade. His Can’t Stop the Crooks mixtape will probably be held as a classic as he echoes Biggie Smalls by spitting over classic material such as “I used to love H.E.R.” His latest mixtape Diamonds and Guns has garnered critical acclaim both available for download at steviecrooks.com
The enigmatic Speak is arguably one of the greatest performers in the Inland Empire in any genre of music. A man willing to traverse pool tables while being chased by security and still maintaing a coherent flow on the mic. Speak is the self proclaimed 34th best rapper in the world. His satirical view on Hip Hop is a fresh take on the genre and his on stage antics are worth the price of admission. His new album due out later this year promises to be worthy of a few spins. Look for him on myspace and download The Kyte Flyr EP.
The Intelligent Elegant Elephant is the abbot of the Hip Hop scene in Inland Empire. For the past few years he’s been hosting The Common Ground at the Vibe in Riverside a breeding ground for Hip Hop artist that happens every other sunday. Noa is the vet of the game and has been able to put his latest CD Beautiful Darkness is now on selves at Best Buy. Noa’s huge physical frame is matched by his vocal ferocity. Noa hopes that his latest opus will help catapult him into the mainstream. Find his album on I Tunes available for download now.