EXPLORING MUMBLE-RAP AND ITS RISE TO SUCCESS
It’s no secret that hip hop is constantly changing and evolving; it’s been doing it since its birth. From the electric party rap of the 70’s , gangsta rap of the 80’s, the breakthrough of the 90’s to the club-focused rap of the noughties, the genre has never maintained a constantly popular sound throughout history. Tracing this evolution up to 2010, it seems now is perhaps the decade where trap is dominating most characteristics that hip hop holds today. With this popularity comes the ties that trap brings with it, the double time hi-hat ridden beats, the aggressive lyrics and of course – the slurring. But this is a trend that rap has never really seen before, such little emphasis on delivery. If the genre was born out of the idea of free speech and a passionate message, why is this frequently misinterpreted style so prominent?
I mean think about it; the genre with some of the most famous lines and lyrics in music history, and this what the contemporary format has to show for it. Hip hop legends like Tupac, Jay Z and Eminem always gained attention because of what they were saying (regardless of its good or bad reception). So how did we get here? With the likes of Future stringing their words together like a nervous child at a public speaking convention, the listener is barely able to decipher what they’re saying. While it’s an entirely different discussion about how producers are the real stars of most mixtapes today, you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that these ‘slurring’ rappers very much depend on their instrumentals to carry them. And that’s not a diss to them, it just seems that the most substance is found in the beat itself and the sound of the rapper’s voice.
The majority of artists who express this way are of course from the south of the USA, really embracing their accents while dabbling with drugs like lean, pills and marijuana. This combination (sometimes paired with auto tune) makes for a cadence that is pretty unique to artists from that area. It’s not like this hasn’t been around before, because it has, it’s just the growing trend of contemporary trap music has allowed said artists to pin their flow more easily on a beat that compliments their delivery better. On a stripped-back, slower beat, someone like Rich Homie Quan would sound less comfortable and more out of place, as this kind of instrumentation would require a more clear and distinct conveyance. Give the same guy something composed by producers like Metro Boomin or London on da Track and you get a different outcome. Whether their tracks are moody or energetic, this more grandiose, layered production is important as it becomes just as prominent as the rapper’s voice. In fact, some might say that for a track like ‘March Madness‘ that Future’s voice becomes part of the instrumental, serving as just another layer to the various components that make up the atmosphere of the beat. In that sense, the addition of a slurring rapper doused in auto tune is not to give the track any substance; but to boost the feel of it.
This is where the controversy and the disgruntlement of so many hip hop heads comes in too. Those that have always believed that hip hop is about the message and the rapper themselves have come to hate this sub genre due to its emphasis on the exact opposite. I’m sure it hasn’t helped their mood with the rise of so many artists adopting this style; the masses of Lil Yachtys and the Kodak Blacks have all taken up this approach to making hip hop music in today’s industry. You only need to look at one of the biggest-selling/most-streamed singles of the year; ‘Panda‘ to see how the masses appear to disregard their care for insightful lyrics and replace it with a trap-flavoured, banger beat. Be honest with yourself; you don’t know what the hell Desiigner is saying on this track, and frankly you don’t care. It’s just a track so full of energy that the importance of the bars are forgotten and in place you only hear the monstrous sub bass and rattling hi-hats that (again, be honest) gets you pumped.
It’s what attracts people to dance music, whether it be electronic or drum n’ bass. Hell, it’s why certain people still listen to classical music. Composers like Beethoven and Mozart were so successful because of how their music made listeners feel and what they experienced when they heard each note. Yes, it’s a strange comparison, but essentially it’s the same thing. Take a listen to Young Thug’s ‘Memo‘; you can’t clearly make out every word the guy is saying in both the verses or the hook, but that’s not the point. You’re meant to enjoy it as a piece of music, losing yourself in its energy and appreciating the craftsmanship of the beat rather than the obscure lines such as “Man I’m so high I think I just seen a UFO with them troops“.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are plenty of successful lyricists still out there continuing the legacy that hip hop has procured, embodying the same characteristics of powerful messages and spoken word into well-produced music. But at the same time, there are also slur rappers doing their own thing, taking the ever-expanding genre in a new direction with their style. It’s a trend that is at the forefront of much of what you hear in the urban charts today, but like with every trend, it will go. It will leave its mark, but trap music and the artists that compliment it so well will die out and another trend will set in. For now though, appreciate the sound of slur and the experience you have with it.