Is Hip Hop dead? Nas certainly thinks so but for the rest of us, it's not so clear. I believe the diverse range of responses to such a question stems from our lack of a uniform definition for both Hip Hop and dead.
What exactly is Hip Hop? Are we talking the culture or the music genre? If we are talking culture the case for it's death seems stronger. The days of well-balanced crews of b-boys, emcees, and DJs is far gone. Instead, Hip Hop has been fragmented by businessmen who saw the lucrative potential of commercialized hip hop music and isolated it, leaving behind the other art forms which they understood to be dead weight.
If, however, the Hip Hop in question is the genre of music, my answer gets a bit murkier. After all, what exactly is hip hop music? Is Watsky hip hop music? Is modern day trap hip hop? Or is "real" hip hop music only that which aligns with what it was at its start? If so, then hip hop music is something along the lines of sample-based boom bap focused on celebrating Black culture and critiquing the imposed negatives of the Black experience. With that definition in mind, hip hop, if not dead, has been exiled to such a far flung place it may as well be dead and gone.
That being said, I like to think hip hop music, if dead, dies in the fashion of a phoenix, reborn anew after every passing. I suppose another way to conceptualize that is through evolution. Hip hop music in its original form may be gone, but hip hop, while drastically different, is not dead, it's merely evolved. In using such a word, however, one must keep in mind that an evolution is not necessarily progressive, but merely adaptive. Point being, one can see that answering the question begins with first defining hip hop and then defining dead.
All this talk of hip hop and its well-being and I have yet to introduce the star of today's interview: King Shampz. An interesting hip hopper, King Shampz seems to reside in that far off place I referenced earlier, the place "real" hip hop has been relegated to. He holds tight to boom bap beats and dense lyricism, cringing as those crooners who get radio play are labelled hip hoppers. Even so, he believes hip hop is still very much alive and in fact well, citing the music his label Dead Wrong Records propagates as proof.
His latest single, "Autobahn," finds him doing all he can to herald in a New Golden Era. I can't say if he'll succeed in fostering a reprisal of the sound, but I like what I'm hearing so far. Press play and read on to get a taste for King Shampz and his thoughts on hip hop's health.
What do you think of the current state of Hip Hop?
Is Hip Hop dead? If not, where does it live?
Hip Hop is not dead. Of course, it has been to the operating table more than once but it is very much alive. Do you need proof? Check out Dead Wrong Records Soundcloud page, it will restore your faith in the genre.
Describe the path that led to your decision to become a hip hopper.
Just my love for the artform and my admiration of the legends that put it down before me. I'm just trying to do my part in keeping the culture relevant.
What are your top five albums?
Well, that's a hard one. There are so many great albums. You can say Illmatic, Ready to Die, The Low End Theory, It Takes a Nation of Millions, Paid in Full, 36 Chambers, All Eyez On Me, The Infamous, Reasonable Doubt lol... I can go on for days with this. There's really no way to narrow it down with all these game-changing albums. There's too many classics to list.
Who are your inspirations both within and without hip hop?
My inspiration is of course Hip Hop's value to me as an individual and the legends inspiring me to create my best work as well as the everyday situations I encounter as a young Black man living in this society and me being able to see both the good and bad parts of it.
In other genres of music, artists self-identify their sub-genre. For example, within Rock there is soft and hard rock. In hip hop, no one seems to be willing to classify themselves. Why do you think that is?
Well in hip hop there is an overall lack of respect for the culture that is presented by many of the newer artists. Hip hop has to be the only genre of music where everything goes. A lot of these newer artists come into the game and only use hip hop as a way in the door. Some don't even identify themselves as being rappers. I feel that no other genre of music allows that kind of stuff because the people that do that particular genre whether it be Rock, Country, Jazz or whatever, all have a level of respect for the genre's culture, sound, as well as it's legends.
If a kid grows up playing Jazz he usually idolizes Miles and Coltrane but an upcoming rapper does not even bother to listen to B.I.G or Nas lyrics and appreciate and respect those that came before them. Me and my brother are both in our early 20's and we respect the genre to the fullest. We know and respect the genre that we're in. We don't want to be rock stars nor pop stars and anything that we do as artists (not businessmen) moving forward will be hip hop related and respected by all walks of the culture. Even our radio songs will still show that hip hop is something that we value. We just want to continue on the greatness started by the legends before us and try to take it to the next level. That is the goal.
What is the most specific classification you are willing to place on your music?
Dope hip hop with dope lyrics and dope production as well as the occasional gem dropped. Something rarely heard in today's game and something that is very unique. Something that is rooted in classic hip hop but jumpstarting what I believe can turn into the new Golden Era of Hip Hop. That is a good way to describe me and my label's music.
It seems like these days the closest thing to stratification we get it trap on one side and boom bap on the other. How do you think that will impact those outside those genres?
Well I mean boom bap is usually buried in the underground while trap is more visible to casual fans.To a casual fan, it could give conflicting ideas about what hip hop "really" is, but I believe that most casual fans only hear what the radio plays and right now that is trap related hip hop. Therefore, the views of outsiders more than likely would be that either they enjoy that style or they don't. If they don't they can always surf the internet and find dope new music. But, honestly, it's to each his own.
What about today’s hip hop made it clear to you that it's time for lyrical boom bap to make its return?
I don't necessarily believe "boom bap" hip hop has to make a return, but I do believe that hip hop that tells a story and has a cohesive sound needs to make a comeback. Boom Bap is a great style of production but I feel that if I hear a dope record that is lyrically engaging and has a form melodic quality I can respect it regardless if it's "Dj Premier" or not. Of course, you need fun songs for the club and radio but like I said before balance is necessary in order for hip hop to stay afloat. And having records that are formulated correctly bring that balance.
Tell me more about the work you are doing with Dead Wrong Records.
Dead Wrong Records is the label me and my brother Azzan founded together about 5 years ago and so far we have been doing pretty good. The artists we have Caution, Blak and Frio are all dope artists with their own unique styles. We currently are working on my new mixtape that should be dropping late this year/early next year as well as mixtapes for our artists all dropping next year. We currently are developing more talent that will be coming out sooner than you think. Our plan for Dead Wrong Records is to become the next game-changing music label. So far our plan is unfolding well.
When your children’s children are recounting your greatness to their children, how do you want them to describe you?
Well, I would want them to describe me as a man that tried to do the best he could and a man that dreamed big even when things weren't looking so good. I would want to be described as an overall good person who, like everyone, had his faults but still remained positive. That would be a great way to be remembered.