The Divisive Rise of Mumble Rap

Since hip-hop’s conception several decades ago, there’s no doubting the culture and musical genre itself have gone through a lot of changes. All throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s, and now the 10s, the sound, the image and the message behind it have constantly evolved. Despite this continuing evolution, many, be they fans or artists, still hang onto the music of their time and treat new sounds and trends quite often with disdain.

Take legendary 90s producer Pete Rock ,who came out last week saying that this breed of emcees “don’t match the world that we live in, making this kinda nonsense or not reppin’ the culture right.” Going on to say that the rappers are “breeding these stupid ass fans with no fucking brains. So we gonna have a world full of that?? Really???”

Targeting the group who are branded as so called ‘mumble rappers’, a term which blew up seemingly overnight, Pete represents one of many who criticise this latest craze. Yet, whether you like it or not, G.O.O.D. Music signee Desiigner and the more cheerful Lil Yachty among others are taking over global airways with their infectious mix of auto-tuned vocals and booming trap beats.

The aforementioned Lil Yachty is at the forefront of this mumble-rapping craze, the 19-year-old bearing a large amount of criticism. His reaction to this beef is simple though, “hip-hop isn’t the same anymore” he explained in an interview with The Breakfast Club people “just don’t like me because I’m not lyrical enough. If you ever read comments and click on their profile, they’re like super old.”

What stands out in Yachty’s response is his attitude towards those who paved the path for hip-hop. It’s not the first time he’s come under fire for perceived disrespect to his forebears, infamously admitting that he “honestly couldn’t name five songs’ by Tupac & Biggie.” Lil Uzi Vert, another artist on his way up, was slightly blunter, flat out stating “If you put on one of them old beats, I’m not rapping on it.” Do comments like this justify Pete Rock’s and others’ outrage when it comes to these mumblers and their attitude towards the culture?

At the end of the day, maybe it’s not the sound that’s the problem, but the apparent disrespect that these artists seem to have for the culture. Whilst everyone has their musical heroes, these artists are solely looking at the 2000s, the Kanye Wests, Lil Waynes and Soulja Boys of the time, which is fine, but it’s when they rashly insult the culture’s history that there’s a problem.

Anderson .Paak spoke up about the craze, sending for Yachty in a Twitter message, “Don’t be cocky in the fact that you don’t know anything about hip-hop history.” But it’s Lil Yachty’s reply that makes you understand his perspective, “I think it’s funny how people feel like you HAVE to like something just cause everybody else does,” Yachty explained, “Where in the handbook of hip-hop does it say u must know this list of songs to make music.”

Khal, editor for Pigeons and Planes, puts it perfectly in his article, “The genre has grown to a point where someone’s point of reference doesn’t have to be the four pillars of hip-hop, or Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.”

It’s not just the so-called-mumblers who speak out against the Golden Era which lingers over them. Critically acclaimed Long Beach rapper Vince Staples is constantly branded as the saviour of hip-hop, yet even he feels the 90s were overrated. This controversial statement sparked a fair amount of outcry from his older supporters, but his rebuttal once again shines light on the differences each generation faces. “Urban and aggressive, is that what we mean by real? Someone saying they want to go to a party is real, they probably just want to have a good time. Your music is about your outlook on life.” He continues, “You’ll find someone who hates Jay-Z but loves Lil Boosie…then find someone with the same IQ who feels the opposite because it’s more relative to their lifestyle.”

Something which is often failed to be mentioned is that the audience of hip-hop has diversified so hugely in the last ten years alone. From it’s early days where it represented solely urban youth, it has now expanded into every nook and cranny of 21st century life, something which explains the rapid expansion of that easily accessible party sound.

So sure, it’s not the most lyrical, and with lines like “Aye aye, and my bitch ass fat, I told that bitch never to stop eating bacon” it’s pretty hard to take them seriously. But at the end of the day, these rappers-who-don’t-want-to-be-rappers are just creating the music that they like, which applies to their lives, and funnily enough there are people who like that too.

Whether you are for or against the mumblers, and whether you think this is a fad or not, there’s no doubt that this is going to live out it’s time in hip-hop, and will continue to inspire the next generation to come. Just remember, there’s plenty of room for both of these styles to run side by side, just because one is becoming more prevalent with the teens, it doesn’t mean that the audience for the lyrically minded isn’t there. Let’s not forget that the biggest artist in hip-hop right now is Kendrick Lamar, a man whose lyrics are among the best of all time.

Times are simply changing and hip-hop is evolving with them in some ways, as it has always done. Just because you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean the culture is dead, you just have to dig deeper.

Image: Highsnobiety