If you have ever walked along Venice Beach in California, an aspiring Rapper would have undoubtedly approached you. Armed with a CD player in one hand and a pair of headphones in the other, his first aim is to get you to listen to his music, right there on the beachfront; his second is to secure a sale. This microcosmic corner of the music industry is why currently Rap music succeeds and Rock music falters.
HUSTLE AND FLOW
If you want to succeed in music today you have to hustle. Not social media hustle, meaning randomly friend requesting and spamming your way through facebook and twitter. This is an unchallenging and ineffective roadmap for acquiring new fans. It quite simply reeks of desperation, or far worse, entitlement. Succeeding in music is about hustling because if you don’t, you wont survive.
Rock music has quite simply lost its balls, not sonically, but emotionally. It has become about rich kids playing at being fucked up, because they having nothing better to do than bash out mimicked guitar riffs on the brand new, latest edition, Les Paul, that Mommy and Daddy bought them at Guitar Center.
Working hard to achieve success, because Rock and Roll is the only thing that will save you from oblivion, has slowly been replaced with buying the right clothes, the right songs, and the right hairstyle.
And those in the record selling business encourage this because they see Rap artists partaking in the same activity and equate this to a strategy for success. However they don’t understand that for a Rap artist who has hustled their way to the top, buying the best beats and showing their worth on their wrist, is a Rock and Roll, “fuck you” to the environment that kept them down. It remains strangely real and oddly in keeping with their rise to the forefront.
When Rock artists buy songs and overtly commercialize themselves, wearing carefully stylized threads, or use money and excess as a disproportionate means to exposure, it just doesn’t hold that same credibility. The audience is responding by not buying it.
Rock music has moved from the streets to the suburbs, it has lost its edge. The pursuit of fame used to be about the have-nots risking everything to achieve the goal. Now it is about entitled kids believing they embody Rock and Roll because their parent’s credit card enables their coke habit. True emotion has been lost en route through whiney Emo, shallow Hipster quirks and self-centered acoustic drones.
The cost of being a Rock Musician is high, it is a risk it all business. It can either be achieved by living in the gutter to make ends meet, or have someone finance it for you - invariably this is done in an attempt to vicariously recapture the investors never fully realized youth. Sadly it seems the latter has become the norm. Rock has become music’s spoiled child, and cry as it might, people have their own real problems to deal with and are gravitating towards what makes sense to them in the here and now.
Mimicry, expense accounts, entitlement, and faux fame platforms like social media and reality TV have created a generation out of touch with Rock and Roll. Though wounded as it may be, Rock certainly isn’t dead. Somewhere there is a kid with in a desperate situation with a guitar in his or her hand, coupled with the hustle and creativity to battle their way out. But this time they will have an old Mac with iMovie, Garageband and a new set of tools with which to create.
The recession and all the pitfalls it throws in front of the next generation of artists should be a breeding ground for the expression of reality - in the Robert Johnson devil dealing sense of course, not the feigned existence of the Kardashians. However, as Tyler The Creator has demonstrated, the word on the street may sound like a different language to the old school, but that is what will give it back its edge. And like Lil Wayne and TI, these new Rock stars might find their way into jail now and then, but wasn’t that what made the Beatles and the Stones so vital?
Robin Davey is an Independent Musician, Writer and Award Winning Film Maker. Follow him on Twitter @mr_robin_davey