Authenticity in Hip Hop has been a bit of a talking point amongst fans for a long time now. In life, we feel like we want to associate with real people and for the most part, I personally want to listen to artists that I feel are as authentic as possible.
Just to clarify what I mean by Authenticity in artists – Relatable. I feel like I really know the artists on a personal level. Their story, what they like, dislike, their motivation etc. They don’t feel like they’re playing up to a character or perception, they’re just being themselves. You can’t mistake them for anyone else because there’s something about them that naturally makes them stand out. You just know when you’re listening to an artist who means what they say and puts their real personality into their music. You can tell when it’s real. They make music for themselves rather than for anybody else. If they’re a gangster then they are, if they’re just regular people then they are. But they’re just themselves.
It’s hard to fake it when it’s really you. Action Bronson is really him, I doubt there’s many chefs turned rappers out there. You look at Wale and he doesn’t hide his love for wrestling or poetry. You look at JME and you just know that’s really him. There are many countless others who put their real personalities and identities into their music.
Does authenticity really matter in the rap game though? Does it matter that you’re really being yourself or not, if the music is good? You look at Rick Ross and even though we know his past as a correctional officer, he still gets a pass because he makes good music. Countless artists have claimed gangs even though they’re not in the streets like that. Yet, they still rap like they’re in the streets heavily even though we know they’re not.
Now we have all kinds of rappers in the game now. As the game changed and expanded, we saw a change from a lot of artists doing storytelling and realistic accounts of street life and everyday life into more of the heavily club friendly music talking about women, cars and money. Now there’s artists emerging worldwide and having success rather than just select areas. There’s more and more diverse types of artists so different viewpoints, perspectives and personalities.
People slated Iggy Azalea for lack of authenticity in her music and personality so the signs are there that it’s still important but this same criticism should be given out to many others as well. Underneath all the facade, who are you REALLY as an artist?
In my opinion, authenticity does matter if you really want to be successful in music. It’s more than just about the music. For all the good music that Rick Ross makes, why does he never make great album sales? Because why should I buy his album when I know nothing about him? What is going to be new in his album than EVERY other club banger he makes? No connection.
People buy albums because they want to hear about the Artists story or unique perspective on life. If I don’t feel like I can relate or connect to your personality or story enough I won’t buy your albums simple as that.
It’s hard for me to feel like supporting artists that I have no connection to. Especially with my money. Music is a people’s game. The reason that Drake is so successful is because he talks about himself deeply enough that people connect to that. I like Kendrick Lamar because he does music from a perspective that I relate to, growing up in a crazy world. I like Schoolboy Q mainly because I find his persona really entertaining. I like Kano because he just seems like he wants to just rap his ass off, none of the funny business and I like that.
I celebrate every artist out there being themselves and authentic. The game will be in much better shape if no-one was afraid to put their true characters out there. There’s still many artists playing up to characters to the point they’re almost caricatures. Just because actors aren’t playing themselves in movies doesn’t mean that artists have to follow suit.
Just be yourself. The people that connect with that will support you more and for a long time. Believe that.
Words by @TonteBoDouglas
Does authenticity matter? Who are the most authentic rappers? Let us know exactly what you think in the comments section below!
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