In the early days of Hip Hop, most notably around the last fifteen years of the 20th century, there had always been an underlying, but often vocal, opposition to popular American music, or "pop" music. The idea was always that, by surrendering the people's music, designed for the downtrodden inner-city, to corporate America, Hip Hop contradicted everything it stood for. However, that which the soothsayers of rap feared has come true, and those cunning profiteers, who take control of every potential cash-crop they detect, have commandeered the music so seamlessly that the glory days of yesteryear and the code under which they operated, are all but forgotten.
Back then, the unwritten code implied that an artist must "pay dues", such as battling other MC's in the streets or hosting parties held in city parks or apartments, before they can be respected as a true rap artist. This code was enforced musically and collectively by those already anointed, rather effectively destroying the fragile careers of artists who had bypassed these rites of passage and crossed over into the mainstream by way of a marketing strategy.
The two most notable causalities were MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice, both of whom won Grammy Awards, at a time when such honors was considered a scarlet letter in the music's culture. Such brutal attacks proved that the music was, indeed, larger than any man, and no feelings would be spared to safeguard the musical frontier which had refused to join the empire
Today, we see events like the annual Hip Hop Honors, which decided to commemorate The Dirty South for their “dominance” in rap music over the last decade, a dominance measured by sales, not talent, and is clearly a result of the over-exposure that comes from squeezing a successful product for everything it's worth. The landscape has been mangled. Artists that were previously banished are now celebrated, like the actor-turned-rapper and exemplar of pop star, Drake, who has shrewdly conformed to the south's unique interpretation of rap music and has seamlessly integrated with its clique, despite the fact that he hails from Canada, thousands of miles away.
In 2010, Drake, the canuck, who has outrun a sure exile by about fifteen years, wears his mainstream accolades with pride and is adored by fans, which are appearing more and more like the crowd at the Mickey Mouse Club and less like a classic "park jam". Just like Ice, who was harshly vilified and torn from grace, he has bypassed the code and has been inserted into the chain-wearing, campaign-popping world of dancing floozies and big rims. Most certainly under a team of business advisers, he masquerades as a tried and true member of the Dirty South and whistles "Dixie" all the way to the Canadian bank.
It is truly a sad state of affairs, and the real victims are the abandoned artists who are still out there. Much like the Samurai of the far east, whose ideals were smothered by their countries' desire to join the industrial surge of the west in the 19th century, they remain on the fringe and never receive what's rightfully theirs. These forgotten souls, remnants of the original colonies and second-generation frontiersman, like Slum Village, Guilty Simpson, Aesop Rock, Madlib, Oh-No, MF Doom, Kool Keith and Del the Funky Homosapien press on, following the original commandments of hip hop, equipped with the technology of the day and a skill set that's 30 years evolved.
They receive no support from major radio stations, which are in the pocket of the evil syndicate and only serve as a promotional tool for the mainstream acts, and they certainly are not honored with an award show honoring their "dominance". They aren't even invited. Their fan base consists of hip hop romantics, and their work fits the description of cult classic. Like most of our distorted perceptions of history, the present time period will be remembered as the era of the Dirty South and artists such as Drake, while those who has taken the art where it should be melt into obscurity.