Each generation of American youth culture has looked upon the previous rebel generation for that inspiration. Punkers looked back at the 50’s, Hippies looked at the Beats, B-boys looked back at Funk, and so forth. Now we have a generation of kids looking back at the 80’s and becoming inspirited by MJ, dance movies, bright clothes, and electro styles. Those eras of inspiration felt worlds apart, yet attainable. It felt like we opened a Pandora’s box that our older generation totally forgot as they have became the stiff and stuffed shirts that we wanted to rebel against. We felt devious!
But have we slowed this natural selection down to a crawl? I’m wondering if the accessibility of music due to the internet and MP3’s, plus the lack of any new significantly different storage formats since digital music, has made it easier for 18-20 year olds to connect with earlier music and culture? Furthermore, with the leveling off of musical format (the MP3) are we at a plateau where youngers can look deeper and further and access a wider range of sound and sources in ways we never could before, thus leveling off generational shifts?
In my day, my house had an eight-track, a record player, a tape deck with a radio… and a CD player, requiring crate digging and some learning to navigate and pull music. The musical jump from Rock and Soul to Hip Hop felt significant where instrumentals and source material became easily choppable on turnbables, people stopped singing and started rhyming, and kids started buying turntables instead of guitars. As we’re reaching 2010, the CD has been in most homes for a while, and the only big difference in storage is that digital music is downloadable versus just being confined to CD’s. Musically, what new genre has emerged in American music since Hip Hop? It’s been 30 years since its birth and any other music to emerge have been hybrids or variations of older formulas. And when supposedly progressive Soul music is prefaced with the word ‘neo’, is that really progress? But maybe I’m just talking like an old fart.
The other thing about digital and MP3’s is that all sounds have now become electronic, choppable, and we now live in a world where the complete is now mosaic. Back in the day, to make a sample took time and equipment. You can now sample using iTunes. The music industry now complains that ‘we can’t sell entire albums anymore’ and the ‘era of the artist album is dead’. Now you see club nights that tell of DJ’s spinning mashups and programs like Serato and Abelton allow you to mix just about any track of any BPM smoothly and effectively.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change. Purists that say software is killing true Hip Hop can bite one. I also think this leveling of music and the giant accessibility can spawn a diverse range of expressions and music that will be hyper enjoyable. Mind you, people still play guitars and drums. But now I can download some Edith Pilaf, Gregorian Chant, and some Spiritual field songs and use them on my latest Dubstep tune. What do you think?