Can hip hop win a Polaris? It doesnít need it.
Earlier in the summer, with Drake and Cadence Weapon nominated, Anupa Mistry, for CBC Radio, raised the question of whether or not a hip hop artist could win the Polaris Music Prize. The article was an interesting read with a strong argument against the structure of the Polaris judging panel that highlighted the bias music writers on the jury have against hip hop as an art form. For hip hop fans, this only reinforces their tendency to ignore the validity of such music prizes.
To tell you the truth, I hope that Canadian hip hop artists ignore the Polaris and boycott it. Hip hop has come too far to beg for scraps at the table and it has overcome too much as an art form to sit at the back of bus. While hip hop has developed and diversified its sound quicker than any other mainstream genre (and yes I believe hip hop is a mainstream genre judging by record sales) its been pigeonholed as a genre that lacks originality, authenticity, and subtlety.
It is astounding that, in this day and age, music writers still believe the stereotypes that have existed about hip hop 20 years ago. Have they not heard My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the boundaries it pushed?
Yes, hip hop has used sampling as an essential method for production. Reinterpretation keeps all types of works alive and hip hop sampling is about musical reinterpretation, bringing different aspects of a sample alive. Yes, hip hop, in a sense, is about borrowing different genre elements and concepts to create new tracks. But what genre hasn’t been forged from other musical influences?
Unlike other genres constrained by specific musical elements and rules, hip hop’s possibilities are unlimited because there are no rules. It’s a loop and a drumbeat but can be anything you imagine it to be beyond that. And of course, hip hop’s has never been subtle, in its lyricism or cultural presence. Hip hop, at its core, is a movement of youth, raw and straightforward in its principles, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be smart, poetic, and artistic in its expression.
At the end of the day, what makes hip hop just as important as any other genre is that it speaks about the cultural climate of the times. Just as American hardcore punk in the early ‘80s spoke of the political climate with Reagan in office or rock in the late ‘60s chronicled the peak of the culture wars, contemporary hip hop is a look into the social media age and the beliefs this generation holds about our society.
So, can hip hop win a Polaris? It doesn’t need it to justify its place in music’s history. Art stands the test of time and tells a story. When examining hip hop’s validity, these music writers should ask what makes it fundamentally different from other movements like Punk. After all, Fucked Up won a Polaris for the Chemistry of Common Life. Regardless, hip hop as an art form, and expression, will go on saying “fuck you” to the establishment as it always has.