Back To The Basics.
You can still be true to your roots while embracing change.
It's been a very long time since I've written a blog post. The world has become even more chaotic than it was before, as COVID-19 not only put the world on hold, but has sadly sparked debates about public safety throughout the world as well. Not only that, but we've experienced a political shift here in the United States, as Trump lost the race to Joe Biden. With this shift, we also currently see that most politicians don't keep their promises, no matter what kind they make, as students everywhere have hoped for a student debt cancellation that doesn't seem to be in sight anytime soon. The world is a completely different place from the last time I spoke to everyone on this platform, describing the best songs of 2019 and looking so positively into 2020. Obviously, to make it short, 2020 was a terrible year in general. We've learned a lot about people, and learned a lot about celebrities, and society as well.
What does this have to do with music or culture? Everything. Music was one of the few highlights of last year, and it being a new decade meant that a lot of A-list acts were supposed to bring things in for the industry. With 2020 being the nightmare that it was, the artists understandably lengthened their hiatuses. Some artists made their awaited debuts, such as Megan Thee Stallion, and other artists stayed consistent with their drops, such as Polo G and Freddie Gibbs. I feel like the main A-lister that made a huge drop in 2020 was Lil Uzi Vert, with Eternal Atake finally coming out after such a long wait. If anything, Uzi had the album of the year for hip-hop to me, because he returned to his roots. Getting back to the basics and to what's important almost always works, because if you forget about your core audience, you'll forget who you are.
While staying true to your core is important, it's also important to grow as an artist and as a person. During my writing hiatus, I was able to be a part of an amazing podcast, with 93 episodes and a lot of hard work put in that would lead me away from writing as often. It wasn't an issue, because my opinions would be heard through streams and my voice, not written words, but something about writing will always sit close to my heart. The podcast has entered a new era, as the three of us as co-hosts have gone our separate ways, but it's far from over. A short hiatus was needed on my end to rebrand, refocus, and get the equipment I need. This podcast hiatus though, reminded me about the beauty of writing. I can let my thoughts flow on a page again, and after speaking them for 2 years on the podcast, it's become even easier to write them down. To tie this back to music, I can say that getting back to the basics myself, coming back to this blog, reminds me why I began this brand in the first place.
In December of 2016, I had a full day with my uncle, who was an artist in the 1980s, and a DJ until he passed away the following year. We talked about starting something together, about our shared love of music. Sadly he wasn't able to see what came of this, but I began this brand not only to honor him, but to share my love for music with others like us, those who value our culture and cherish it. People who take music seriously are rare in the industry, at least in the mainstream, and I want to do what I can to try and bring a change to that. Getting back to my original reason for what I do was important after all of this time, because I love it. Music is what connects us all as people, especially as black people. Music has kept us going through all of the hardships that we've faced in this country and this world for hundreds of years, and for that reason alone, it will always be sacred to me.
The importance of music makes hip-hop in particular very special. With it becoming so mainstream, those who only look at the surface don't always see the messages that we hear or misinterpret what people who embody the culture actually hear. Kendrick Lamar is the perfect example of this. To Pimp A Butterfly is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, not only for the production and the wordplay, but for its message to Black America. K. Dot's DAMN. album perfected his storytelling, and after such a long hiatus, he's back. His new single, "Family Ties" with Baby Keem, not only uses the GKMC era art that helped launch him to superstardom, but it came with a message.
Lamar's upcoming album will be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment, as he will most likely begin his new journey at his label, pgLang. He signed his cousin Baby Keem to the label last year, and will become the head of a group instead of being a part of a group after 17 years. It's bittersweet as a fan, as I've listened to Kendrick since I was about 11-12 years old. But growth is something we all strive for in our respective fields, whether or not we've reached perceived perfection. While being a sentimental closing of a door, this upcoming album will be a glimpse into the future as well. The new record showcases hard hitting production, Keem's unique vocals, beat changes, and of course nothing less than flawless bars from Lamar himself. There's a message in Dot's cadence and his words, one that we all hear very clearly. He's hungry again, and after 4 years since a solo project, he's been pushed to the side in a fast paced world and media that's always moving so quickly. Kendrick made sure that people would be reminded quickly though, as the bars matched the video as well. Kendrick has almost two decades of experience at an exceptional label, so I have no choice but to believe that what he builds at pgLang will be special. To speak on Baby Keem's rise in the industry, it's inspiring to see, as yes he's related to an icon in the genre, but it's not something that was necessarily flexed until this moment. Keem is his own person, and that's all we ever want to be. Family is important, and having family in the same field as you is very tricky, given how the public can perceive it. Keem has found the perfect balance as he's made his march toward stardom.
Music can teach us a lot if we let it, and depending on the artist, they can teach us as well. Kendrick Lamar has just about perfected how to move in this industry, that being his way. He doesn't always do big interviews, he stays away from social media for the most part, and he stays true to himself in his artform. Anyone who wants to be successful in their respective field should follow that formula, staying true to yourself. If social media is a way to stay true to yourself, use it, but don't lose yourself to it. If avoiding social media is a way to stay true to yourself, avoid it, but don't lose yourself in your own thoughts with self-doubt or overthinking. Always look for growth, but never stray from your core values or anything that makes you the person you truly are. If you ever get to a place where things don't feel right to you, just get back to the basics.
Enjoy the music, and enjoy the message.