As hip hop continues to reinvent itself with each passing decade, it has become a fixture in American pop culture and has become an identity that many have adopted. The idea that hip hop could one day become ‘classical music’ is a notion that many might dismiss but it wouldn’t be entirely impossible to believe that this is a possibility.
For example, classical music is built around the canonization of works by names such as Beethoven and Bach, each with unique stories to tell, unique compositions, and unique characteristics to their music. That same type of established canon of artists has already been built in hip hop around highly influential names such as Dre, Jay Z, and A Tribe Called Quest among an array of others. Hip hop is not as young as some may think it to be and the towers of hip hop such as the names mentioned have influenced a new generation of creators in hip hop. In essence, hip hop has shown to be just as much ‘establishment’ as any
other music genre.
If one examines hip hop, we also see it having a variety of inter-genres that exist depending on the decade and the region of the United States or the world to which a given artist belongs. Much like comparisons between periods such as ‘Baroque’ in the classical music world, hip hop has a number of regional scenes in the eastern, midwest, southern, and western part of the United States; divisions among decades; and further regional genres worldwide including in parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa.
Classical music also has compositions that are uniquely ‘classical’ and that have shown to be highly influential such as Beethoven’s 5 th . Hip hop has those same sort of key compositions that have proven to be among the most influential records of the last fifty years. These include Run DMC’s debut album and follow-up in Raising Hell in 1986, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory in 1991, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in 1994, and Jay-Z’s The Blueprint in 2001. While not necessarily from the viewpoint of melody, the ways in which these albums have structured their compositions have had a major influence – and as ‘composers’, these names are shown to be just as relevant in the present tense as any classical composer.
There is a fourth point to be made in that the way that classical compositions targeted the high-class culture of its time, hip hop has shown to represent the same thing. As influential and important as classical music was to its time period, hip hop has been shown to mean just as much to the current time period. Therefore one can easily make the connection that perhaps a hundred years from now, looking back at the predominantly influential music of today, that hip hop will stand up as the period’s classical music. Hip hop has been around since its invention in the early 1970s and has come to influence every genre of music since then from rock to country to jazz to everything in between. The world we know today has been fundamentally influenced by hip hop, a form of decade-defining music that is akin to a modern version of classical music – an interesting idea to say the least.