Point/Counterpoint: Is there any originality in Rap music today?

Hip Hop’s not dead

By Aaron Light & Silvano Purpura-Pontoniere

Staff Writers

When NaS named his 2006 album Hip Hop Is Dead, many wondered if he was right. Although it is true that there has been a steady decline in the quality and originality of the minds of rappers since the genre’s heyday in the early 1990s, we feel that is far too hasty a conclusion to infer that rap music has lost all the originality that it once had and is in fact dead.

One of the driving forces behind the creative spirit of rap music in this current day and age is the still-thriving Bay Area rap scene.

Arguably the best Bay Area rapper is The Fillmore’s own Andre Nickatina, whose raps emphasize real-life aspects of the ghetto and city life, and who can deliver a riveting story within the space of a three-minute rap song. Nickatina is responsible for some of rap’s best-ever synonyms and metaphors, working with words in such an original manner that he can legitimately be called a poet.

Outside of the Bay Area, rap’s spirit is kept alive by Minneapolis’ indie-rap group Atmosphere, whose MC, Slug, often raps out scenarios detailing the darker aspects of relationships and situations one encounters just trying to get by.

From across the pond, Dizzee Rascal, of London’s grime movement, uses a gritty and vulgar style (not to mention a close-to-impossible to understand accent) to chronicle the hood-life of East London.

While pessimists like NaS may try to exploit the uncertainty in hip hop’s integrity today by using it to sell records, there are still rappers, such as Andre Nickatina, and Dizzee Rascal, whose art is exemplifying the limitless possibilities for rap with their originality and distinctive approaches to the genre that show there is hope yet.


Good music? Yes. Original? Absolutely not!

By Graham Henderson

Staff Writer

Dictionary.com defines originality as “freshness or novelty, as of an idea, method, or performance.”

If you are a student at City College, or any college for that matter, and claim someone else’s work as your own, it is plagiarism.

You fail the assignment, risk failing the class and getting expelled.

Unless, of course, you are Kanye West. In that case, you win a Grammy.

Many songs on West’s Grammy winning album Late Registration use samples, or small snippets of music, taken from other artist’s work.

West likely had permission to use samples from songs by Ray Charles and the James Bond theme Diamonds are Forever, but it is still unoriginal to use somebody else’s music in a song.

It could be argued that, compared to the original songs, West samples in a fresh and novel way.

Fact is, however, the sampled music has already been written by someone else, which makes it unoriginal.

This is not to say that rap, as a genre, is entirely unoriginal. Even if most songs have the same general topics, the lyrics of a song are often original.

Some songs feature sample lyrics, but the majority of samples are from drums, guitar or other instruments.

Both hit singles of Kanye West’s album rely on samples from other songs.

The album won a Grammy for Best Rap Album which shows the music industry not only tolerates, but condones the use of samples.

Good music? Yes. Original? Absolutely not!

MICHAEL MORGAN / GUARDSMAN
MICHAEL MORGAN / GUARDSMAN