Are Rappers the New Rock Stars?

February 28, 2011  |  

How do we currently define a “rock star”? The term “rock star” used to refer to a member of a popular Rock & Roll band or a Rock recording-artist whose celebrity was more renown than the rock music genre. But rock music has clearly taken a back seat to rap music and so have our traditional “rock stars.” Although many debate over whether today’s rap artists should adopt the famed title of “rock star” and the lifestyle that the term connotes—the current use of the term undoubtedly indicates a shift in the American music scene. Like the “rock stars” of the 1980’s, rappers are the dominant force in the music industry—the headline makers, the trendsetters, and the mega moguls.

However, many tried-and-true old-school Hip-Hop artists, fans, and followers view the term “rock star” as an anti-Rap word that has no place in the Hip-Hop world because it diminishes the authenticity of the genre. Old-school rappers have openly opposed new-school rappers who define themselves as “rock stars” and adhere to the stereotypical characteristics that the word represents as a crossover tactic to sell records. Popular rap songs like the Shop Boyz’ “Party Like A Rock Star,” for example, is a bold testimony of the Hip-Hop culture’s oneness with the “rock star” image. And let’s not ignore the blatant changes in Hip-Hop fashion—the super tight skinny jeans and T-shirts, Mohawks, the full-sleeve and full-body tattoos—all popularized by top-selling artists like Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West. The look is a far cry from Adidas tracksuits, shell toe kicks, and bucket hats.

Rap music has also become more rock influenced. Hip-Hop tracks rarely garner widespread recognition if they aren’t made with an auto-tune, synch, or metal beat. Rap/Rock collabos have become an increasingly bankable trend in Hip-Hop as well, such as Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s “Numb/Encore” single and Kanye West and Iver on his “Lost in the World” track. A few rap artist, including Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne, have also used electric guitars during performances.

However, record sells seemingly have a bigger place in this discussion than the authenticity of the Hip-Hop music genre. The belief amongst many is that, low-selling rap artists, like 50 cent, who maintain a hard-core street image/style are unable to transition into the alternative “rock star” movement—therefore—they reject it. Rappers who continue to abide by traditional rap styles view those who don’t as sell-outs to the craft.

But Hip-Hop is more than a music genre; it is a flourishing and evolving culture. The fashion, the sound, and the influences are ever-changing. Those who are able to evolve as the culture does—are likely to maintain the larger-than-life personas that we see in Hip-Hop today. When we compare “rock stars” of the past to our current Hip-Hop stars, I think that it is safe to say that rap artists are the music industry’s new “rock stars” and they have found a solid spot in the industry because of it.

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  • Gargoyleq123

    hip-hop/rap will never be on the same level as rock…EVER!

  • I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your blog.

  • Jackie

    I agree, rock and roll was created by blacks. I don't understand why old school rappers would have a problem with hip hop artists embracing rock and roll when old school rappers like Run DMC clearly embraced it…remember King of Rock? They are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is a good thing. Music is losing its segregation. Rock and roll and hip hop are now being enjoyed by all races. Celebrate diversity and open-mindedness.

  • Prissy

    YOU do know that Rock & Roll was created by BLACK people??? Little Richard, Big Mama Thorton….. to name a few….

    • testifyoverthewall

      not entirely so. rock and roll owes its creation and evolution to both the black n white influences. I’m not downplaying the role of the blacks, most of them were innovators and its true that a lot of the early white acts took a page from the blues, Rhythm n blues and even gospel acts of the time ,but it would be unfair to strike out the early rockabilly, western swing influence. It’s a music that spoke to and was contributed to both cultures and was one of the elements that helped in bringing the people together at that time. Richie Valens came with his Mexican style and helped give birth to Chicano Rock. Its a style of music formed from American culture, especially that of the south. and no Rap is not the new rock. Its just very popular with the kids today. Its the superficial wheel of pop culture, in today out tomorrow. rock music is still very much alive and has not been replaced yet. when kids stop rocking out in their parents garages and everybody throws away their flying vs and les pauls for turn tables and platinum teeth then you can say rap is the new rock.

  • Asha

    I actually think its a good thing. This shows that hip hop can be accepted and is a force to reckon with. People are actually starting to buy albums now a days and its hip hop artists that are at the top of the charts with their pop peers. Yes hip hop has evolved from its roots and sometimes we don’t like what we see but now our beloved genre is getting the attention it deserves. Whatever let’s hip hop have its shine while staying true to itself will always be an amazing thing in my book.

  • God I hope not … so black men can continue their public campaign against all things BLACK and woman.


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