The decline of creativity in the music industry


Corey, you realize this all started as a very simple statement that “common music brings people together” with my reference to Silent Night. And a mention that Rap is Red altitude expression.
All I was pointing out is that, as an example, Christmas Carolling BRINGS COMMUNITIES TOGETHER. And that propagating Red Expressions is likely divisive.

But here’s the concern.

You shifted my frame from, as you stated, one of the most beautiful songs (Silent Night) to your Woke/#metoo example of “Baby it’s cold outside”.
You also looked to shift Rap to highly spiritual Hip-hop examples.

I did a very non scientific survey on YouTube Top 50 Hip-hop songs and read the lyrics where available for the first 10.
Lots of ethnocentric language, lots of Red situations, basically gang stuff music. Even Blackalicious would be hard to see as having a “spiritual Cosmic Address”.

Dude, I never said what you’re working on isn’t Innovative, or that there aren’t people “left out”.
But is that any different today than when I was playing gigs for $40 and contemplating a musical career looking at a substance living?
There are Millions of musicians that are good, not great. Good makes $40/gig, Mariah Carey with her 7 octave rang makes $1M/gig.

What I can say is that as a listener, I have a shocking array of music to listen. From Mongolian throat chanting to Italian operas to industrial to ancient Roman songs sung in native Latin to Finlandish folk music. Whatever you want is there!
And ANYONE can publish and monetize to the entire world, and just maybe make it big.
Thanks for the topic. I just stumbled across this. Different genre that Hip-hop, but wow amazing.




I had simply noticed your conservative vs. progressive framing, which you arbitrarily introduced into the discussion, and tried to escape that frame by pointing out that there is “conservative” music that can be coarse, and “progressive” music that can be soulful/spiritual as your silent night example.

Neither of which I would actually frame as being “conservative” or “liberal”, by the way. There are an enormous amount of people on the left who are a) religious/Christian, b) at the amber stage and later, c) deeply moved by songs like Silent Night. And if we want to be super accurate, the sorts of rap lyrics you describe would actually be pre-modern in nature, and therefore pre-partisan. So I wanted to make it clear that those sorts of lyrics absolutely do not define hip hop as a genre, especially since, as you said, hip hop is a genre you never really connected with, and therefore had little familiarity with. I know there are a lot of “conservative” stereotypes about rap/hip hop, just like there are a lot of “progressive” stereotypes about, say, country music. And just like any other genre, both of those have a lot of terrible shit in them, but also plenty of diamonds.

Which is exactly why I spent so much time enthusiastically writing about one of my own favorite hip artists, by the way! I wanted to show you a side of hip hop you may not have experienced before, and see how elevated the art can be.

I also HIGHLY recommend you check out Endtroducing by DJ Shadow. It’s an all-instrumental album, and another of my all-time favorite albums. It was a real taste-maker for me, the album that first made me “understand” hip hop when it came out way back in 1996. Which is interesting, because there’s no actual rapping on the album (you may already know this, but “rap” and “hip hop” actually mean somewhat different things.)

So all I did was mention Baby It’s Cold Outside as an obvious example of a Christmas carol that many find to be coarse. I mentioned it, and Blackalicious, because it felt to like your conservative/progressive frame was purposely skewed and unfair. And then it appeared to be the only thing you wanted to talk about was BICO, and every comment of yours from that point was an effort to disparage my worldview because I was critical of that song.

And here’s the funny thing — I think that song is in some ways the 1940s equivalent of the Top 50 hip hop songs on YouTube! Those rappers would say they are also being “playful” in their lyrics about getting laid. They are just allowed to use much more colorful language to get the point across, due to shifting cultural permissions over time :wink:

As for the YouTube Top 50, that is basically making my original point for me. Due to all the technological, electronic, cultural, and creative pressures I described, we now have a music industry that creates far more incentive for “lowest common denominator” art. And that lowest common denominator is usually going to select for our lowest stages and drives — sex and violence, in this case — because 100% of us have those drives within us.

And gangsta rap is an interesting subgenre. Here’s the story as I see it:

In the beginning, it was basically a 1st-person documentary of what it’s like to grow up in a ghetto. There was an immediacy and authenticity to it — it wasn’t celebrating violence as much as simply describing violence first-hand from the 1st-person, as well as the ways the artist had to adapt to and even perpetuate that violence in order to survive. There was almost a desperation in many of those lyrics, and a resentment that they could see no way to transform their environment, or to escape it. Hell, that was often the primary reason they were making the music in the first place — to be successful enough to escape their environment. It was music being made by some of the most economically challenged people in the country, describing the many social evils associated with poverty and the lowest rungs of the needs hierarchy, wherever we find it.

But then after a few years, a funny thing happened. Dr. Dre released The Chronic, and on that album mainstream America was introduced to Snoop Dogg. And white people flipped their shit :slight_smile: Suddenly white people were increasingly becoming a primary audience for gangsta rap. Which, in turn, made the artists flip their shit. For some of them, their own ethnocentricity made them resentful, and they wanted to make music by black people, for black people. For others, they were suddenly making millions out of nowhere, and becoming household names. So they kept giving their audience what they wanted — the lyrics and narratives started to become more exaggerated, until the music almost became a caricature of black culture, produced for white audiences. At worst, it became almost something like black artists wearing blackface for white audiences.

For awhile, gangsta rap dominated the hip hop mainstream. What is kinda funny here, though, is that it was bookended by two other subgeneres. Before gangsta rap, from the mid 80s to the mid 90s, the hip hop mainstream was going through what is now known as the genre’s “golden age”, with artists like Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development, De La Soul, and many, many others. These artists tended to be very jazz-influenced, and had a major emphasis on positive Afro-centric identities and themes. Positive “ethnocentric” stuff — let’s support each other, support and improve our communities, improve ourselves as human beings, facing challenges out there by becoming better people in here, etc.

And then, on the other side of gangsta rap, from the late 90s to the mid-00’s, we had the next major phase — what’s now sometimes known as “conscious hip hop”, or sometimes called “backpacker” hip hop, based on the fashion styles of the predominantly-hipster audience who loved collecting underground hip hop albums in their backpacks. These artists themselves often came out of the afro-centric “golden age” era (see: Blackalicious), and many of their lyrics were actively pushing against the violent themes of gangsta rap (listen to Shallow Days in the videos I posted above, which both directly criticizes gangsta culture and reminisces about the now-faded golden age era). However, while these artists embraced their afro-centric (ethnocentric) roots, they also fully embraced their white audiences, and began to deliver more socially conscious, worldcentric, and even kosmocentric (in some rare cases) lyricism. Their audiences rewarded them not for appealing to the lowest common denominator, but to our higher nature.

So it’s interesting to me, that we saw a shift from healthy ethnocentric “golden age” era, to egocentric “gangsta rap” era, to worldcentric “conscious hip hop” era.

However, over the last two decades, we haven’t really seen these sorts of “eras” emerging and passing. Which, again, I think is due to the many pressures I described in my original posts above — but mostly a) changing means of distribution, which b) diminishes the local-to-global creative flow generated by various regional scenes, and c) the shifting financial incentives away from “album” and toward “single”.

Anyway, I find all this endlessly fascinating, and love how hip hop gives us something like a cultural archeology to help us better understand where we as a people have been, where we are, and where we’re going.


I really love this video, absolutely fascinating. It’s like watching the soul of global culture unfolding over time.

Most popular genres over time, in terms of global sales:

Some of this was surprising to me, until I realized it was global sales, not just American (which is why “house” music was so dominant from the 90s into the 00s, whereas it made a significantly smaller impact here in America).

But I loved watching the oscillations of the global mainstream, often shifting back and forth between predominantly white-produced genres, and predominantly black-produced genres. Watching it shift from country, to jazz, back to country, to R&B, to Rock and Roll to Soul was absolutely fascinating to watch.

And again, particularly fascinating considering that these are reflecting global sales. The black-produced genres of music were being produced by African Americans who at this time only represented 9-11% of the American population, and yet they had such a massive impact on global culture. Even Rock and Roll grew directly out of R&B before it.

And of course, hip hop is just a continuation of that story – it’s just rock and roll put on its side, after all. Rock and roll moves side by side, hip hop moves up and down. Same basic musical structure, 4/4 timing, verse chorus verse, etc., with an emphasis on rhythm instead of on melody (but obviously including both).


Well, opinions vary. Hard to dissect music. To me Rock was. Americans are great but the bards are english. We keep The Doors and Pink Floyd, as an example of each, but we all and always bow to the Beatles, and Soul is now in deep eletronic, truly the first world music. Do not forget Billie Elish and above all, if you are into beauty, try Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Seven Days Walking’


Yes, beautiful. I did have to point the VPN to UK to play :slight_smile:

I think the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are different than Corey’s thread here on “decline of creativity”. I think Corey’s really focused more on adoption and monetization in the industry, specifically on Hip Hop, as opposed to lack of creativity in musical artistry itself. But of course might be off here.

Samuel Andreyev might bridge some classical and creative. Worth a go. His analyses and interviews are also very enlightening.


Hey Luis, I agree that there is still a ton of beautiful art being made. I really enjoy Billie Eilish, and I will check out Seven Days Walking!

That’s a decent summary, yeah, though certainly not limited to hip hop.

I was being a bit provocative with my title, but I’m basically talking about the diminished impact and value our creativity has in the LL mainstream culture, and how the music industry in the LR has restructured itself in ways that often perpetuates an overall “cheapening” of mainstream music culture. And then, of course, how that in turn influences our own appreciation and experience of music in the UL.

If anything, I think we are probably a more creative species today than ever before, both in terms of depth and span. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of musical geniuses on SoundCloud, with only a few hundred listens. The issue, I think, is that creativity is now being channeled and distributed through a social network that rewards “span” over “depth”, which incentivizes the music industry to push lowest-common-denominator products.

But really, I started this thread just as an opportunity to talk about music, which I greatly enjoy doing :slight_smile:


@corey-devos Speaking of span, how about some commentary on the Super Bowl Half-time Show? For educational purposes.

@luis_costa I did check out some of “Seven Days Walking.” I like piano pieces, so this was nice; particularly “The Path of the Fossils.” Thanks! I’m sure I’ll listen to the whole thing soon.

@FermentedAgave Some unusual sounds in the Andreyev piece, like it could be the score/soundtrack for a Dracula-type silent movie!


I didn’t watch this when it was on, just watched for the first time :slight_smile:

Holy shit that was a flawless performance, technically speaking. Unbelievable production, everything was mixed so well, everyone sounded great. Was awesome to see all these old schoolers (plus Kendrick) on stage together.

Blow by blow:

  • The Chronic really was an incredible album, just dripping with style. That goes both for Dre’s production, and of course for Snoop, who I think remains one of the smoothest, most talented rappers, with very little to say. A dramatic imbalance of style and substance :wink:

  • 50 Cent looking like a house, good god. He comes from one of the eras of hip hop I was always least interested in – sort of this ghetto-glam late 90s period period that I associate with 50, Puff Daddy, and others. Kinda like a hip hop disco period. But that song was a banger on the dance floor, no denying that.

  • Mary J Blige — damn, she’s still got it. She really descends from that pre-gangsta “golden age” period, which is why she’s often so uplifting.

  • And then Kendrick comes out. In terms of pure depth and substance, this guy blows everyone else off the stage. Kendrick is the real deal, a once in a generation artist. It’s a bit odd seeing him grouped with the rest, as everything else is really a tribute to the mid-to-late nineties, but I’m here for it.

  • And then Eminem, another genuine virtuoso. He’s one of those artists who transformed the genre. He, along with the Beastie Boys 10 years before him, helped prove hip hop to be a genuine post-racial artform, one that can simultaneously include its afrocentric (and sometimes egocentric!) roots, while also making space to transcend those roots.

All together, a dope performance.

One thing I did think was missing — which I think is one of the things that made me so disinterested in some of these subgenres back in the day — was an emphasis on the DJ.

I notice that most of the hip hop artists I love the most emphasize the DJ. Turntables and mixers sit at the very center of hip hop’s emergence (which is itself due to a number of interesting socioeconomic factors I won’t get into right now, but begin with a 1977 power outage in New York City).

And then, as hip hop began to really break into the mainstream in the 1990s, the emphasis shifted away from the DJ (also for socioeconomic reasons, which can be summarized as “it’s cheaper to pay one person than two”.) But plenty of DJ-backed artists still remained in the underground, until that scene emerged into prominence in the 99-mid 00’s (though without nearly the span as the mainstream hip hop at the time, with some exceptions). At which point, the lineage of the largely afro-centric “golden age” era evolved into a worldcentric “conscious hip hop” era.

And DJ’s had quite a moment back then of their own, particularly scratch DJs, which influenced me in a huge way back when I got my first two turntables back in the day. This is my favorite documentary on the scene, highly recommended. I wish I could find a higher quality, I will replace this link if I do.


Thanks! I haven’t watched the documentary yet, but want to and here are a few comments. I basically saw this as paying homage to the hip hop and rap veterans, so to speak, in the first half-time show fully dedicated to the genre, with Lamar being a nod to the future, perhaps. At the beginning, wasn’t Dre at a mixer? or a faux mixer, but yes, no nod to the DJ. And I wonder if that isn’t in line with the point you were making in previous posts, that there is little or no bottom-up movement in music, so naturally, seems like aspects of “roots” being lost or ignored or given less significance.

I think Snoop Dogg is magnetic in the sense that he has flow and ease, or smoothness as you say, even if he’s mostly small-talk. He sort of undulates across the stage, like a slithering snake, which is fascinating to watch.

Is “ghetto-glam” the same as “bling hip hop”? (Learning my terms :slightly_smiling_face:)

Also, is the “uh” and “huh” and “uh huh” in rap kind of similar to the “millennial whoop”? Used for different reasons, of course, but still a repetitive thing song to song? Maybe overused?

While there was plenty of dance in the performance, I didn’t see anything particularly stand-out, and that to me was something missing. But I suppose they didn’t want to distract too much from the musical performances.

I don’t watch football, but I do like the Super Bowl entertainment spectacles, and this one was not disappointing. Add to that a little context of the NFL’s history with these half-time shows and the current affairs around race issues in the NFL, and that’s another layer of cultural interest.

Appreciate your comments and perspectives, very much!