Classic, the most overused regularly abused and consistently out of context word in hip-hop culture. There isn’t an 8-12 hour span that goes by when words and phrases like “Classic” and “Instant Classic” don’t hit my timeline and I began to feel physically disgusted. I will never understand or respect it, and I refuse to make it part of my “facts” for the day.
Virtually every month since 2012 we have been told a classic rap album has dropped. Why is that? Does the moment hold that much weight? Has the culture truly been impacted that many times? I have some theories and will close with some clarity, so we can start appreciating the word Classic instead of depreciating it.
From an artist standpoint, maybe using classic is the “Muhammad Ali Approach.” Even when Ali was Cassius Clay, he was telling the world, “I’m the best!” “I’m the greatest of all time. Yes, he was undefeated, but he wasn’t the champion. He spoke it into existence. He put the work in and made it happen. There is no denying that he was what he said he was. Are artist telling us “My album is a classic”to make us listen and cosign? Are they truly living up to that if you find another project where the production, lyrics or structure are better?
Kanye West took this approach for his first two albums. He even went as far as to say if publications didn’t give him perfect scores or superior ratings that they weren’t credible media outlets. For a brand new artist to have that kind of bravado in real time was seemingly unheard of before then. Before Kanye and The College Dropout, the people and the outlets were the first to say “This album is classic,” not the guy dropping his official 2nd single for the album.
Is it the “Hype beast fans” that are dying to be first? I think this weighs the heaviest because this voice is the loudest. An album could drop at midnight, and by 12:15 am you will see a post on social media calling that album a classic. Never mind that it’s no way you got through all 13 tracks in 15 minutes. You know you were the first to say it’s a classic. The reverse is people can’t wait to call album trash, and hearsay than the superior rating influences more of that. People call albums trash and never heard them. They are the same people that listen to songs with the stars by them on iTunes and call the whole album classic based off their love for those songs. Then it’s the people that go extraordinarily positive or negative because they like the brand that is releasing the project.
The reality is music doesn’t run “hot or cold” it runs in a bell-shaped curve. It would be impossible for music to survive if the only possible ratings were “Classic” and “Trash. The reality is 80% of the music we hear each year is just “Good.” It’s 3 out of 5. That is 60%. Yep, it’s some hot joints. Yeah the production had great moments, and that verse on track 8 was fire, but replay value of the whole project will be less than ten times for the rest of the year. That’s ok. Some artists have never dropped a certified classic album, and they are legends in hip-hop culture. If you get ten years and three projects people love and remember, you won!
I know music is art and art is subjective. However, music is the only art to capture everyone feelings. You can see a sculpture or a painting and can want to know more or want to know nothing. You may feel, or you can feel it’s in the way. With music, the moment is being created. You either love or loathe instantly. If you think it’s “ok” it becomes white noise until something grabs you. Music also can be heard, identified and understood at a later time. Sometimes your life catches up with the music you heard as a teenager. Sometimes it’s on time with what happened to you last week. Both of those feelings can determine a classic rating, but your core emotions wouldn’t tell you that instantly, primarily if the situation was negative.
Do you know the last time you heard a classic album? When you watch hip-hop culture change since the previous time, it changed. When you can tie it to a national media moment. When all of a sudden there is a boom of women and teenage fans. When the standard of “a hot beat” switches up. When aspiring artist chases or copies the new sound. When the content and cadences are different, and you can pin it to one particular project.
Marketing and promotion can only do so much, so I won’t equate sales as the bottom line. One thing that will always be constant with classics albums is time. Classics don’t come without time. You don’t hear a classic. You watch a classic. Society will tell you what’s indeed a classic. The subconscious mind is at it’s loudest when you watch a classic album in play. Cause even if you don’t want to, you are moving differently because everything around you is.
So for real, tell me. When’s the last time you heard a classic?