TikTok One-Hit-Wonders Are Ruining the Hip-Hop Trade
Pete Davidson and Timothee Chalamet starred in a sketch called “Rap Roundtable” on “Saturday Night Live,” which aimed to criticize modern rappers. The sketch also featured well-known artists such as Queen Latifah and Questlove to discuss the current state of the hip hop industry. One thing that becomes obvious from the get-go is the two sides of the industry: artists who are interested in storytelling and rappers who are interested in parties.
Storytellers have a long history in the industry while the parties are SoundCloud success stories. The two sides try to exist together but the storytellers are mad at the parties for having no respect and no knowledge of anything rap. Questlove says hip-hop is “America’s lyrical tradition,” while Davidson’s character says, “No, for me it’s about this year.”
The sketch went viral on social media, gaining 6.6 million views on Youtube for the comedic performance of the ad-lib-filled song “Yeet” by Davidson and Chalamet. Although it makes for a good laugh, the truth cannot be overlooked in the sketch. One-hit wonders are slowly killing the music industry due to their lack of ingenuity and persistence.
The evolution of hip hop
The worldwide phenomenon of hip hop has its roots in the Bronx, New York neighborhoods in the 1970s. Influenced by pre-existing genres such as reggae and funk, and played in clubs and parties across New York City, hip-hop inspired a whole new generation. Hip-hop created a youth movement that soon spread to North America in the 1980s and became mainstream. For the first time in 1989, the Grammy Awards created another category for Best Rap Performance, which was given to DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith).
Rap exceeded all expectations in the 1990s. The Atlantic claims 1991 was a particularly important year in rap history as it was the first time a rap album hit number one on the Billboard 200. NWA’s album “N * ggaz4life” made history and sold almost a million copies in the first week. The article cites a British study which cites the increasing popularity of rap and hip-hop culture as “the most important event that shaped the musical structure of the American charts”.
The 2000s were shaped by hip-hop and rap artists who had long careers. Household rap artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, and Diddy rose to be bigger than just rappers and soon became cultural icons. They started dipping their toes into other profitable industries like clothing, clubbing, and music production. Hip hop has not only changed pop culture in North America, but around the world as well.
The hard lyrics and beats appealed to younger generations in Europe, Africa and East Asia. It wasn’t long before young people from different countries were combining texts in their respective languages with traditional hip-hop styles. The creativity of these people paved the way for other popular music genres such as K-pop and C-pop.
TikTok has become a breeding ground for new artists
When ByteDance first bought the video sharing app Music.ly and changed its name to TikTok, no one could predict the impact the app would have on the music industry. There’s a lot more to the app than just posting lip-sync videos. It has become a hub for content ranging from dance videos to comedic accounts.
One of TikTok’s early successes was Lil Nas X, known for his record breaking song “Old Town Road”. His song accompanied a TikTok viral challenge that resulted in viewers streaming it on other platforms. Since his viral hit, he has released other music and worked with artists like Cardi B. He’s one of the few examples of TikTok artists who have built steady careers after their viral success.
However, this does not apply to other so-called “TikTok rappers” who were discovered on the platform. The app has evolved from a place where artists take their big breaks to an environment of one-hit wonder, the sole purpose of which is to accompany a viral dance trend.
Davidson and Chalamets’ characters in the “SNL” sketch mention that they were not influenced by other well-known rappers but became interested in making music because of TikTok. Chalamet even says, “What? Should we have other songs? “
Some prime examples of one-hit wonders in the app are Roddy Ricch, a rapper whose song “The Box” topped the Spotify charts in 2019 and 2020. However, he has not released any new music since his viral success. K Camp’s song “Lottery” became a hit after Jalaiah Harmon created the popular “Renegade” dance to accompany it. But after he gained popularity, none of his songs had the same impact.
The future of the industry is at stake
Hip-hop and rap are supposed to be a reflection of today’s culture, but the focus has shifted from influencing a generation like the artists of the 2000s to making a buck. Not only does this confuse the sound of the genre, but it also makes its future very unpredictable.
Hip hop and rap enthusiasts must now rely on the established artists of the 90s and 2000s to shape the future of the industry and steer the genre in a new direction. These older artists have to keep reinventing themselves while newer rappers don’t have to grapple with such endeavors. If we want rap and hip-hop to have a stable future and make an impact, we cannot continue to rely on “TikTok rappers” to be the future of the industry.