Jay Z’s Death of Autotune is exactly what hip-hop needs

Jay Z’s new single, Death of Autotune is exactly what the hip-hop community needs. The genre is in a state of crisis and Death of Autotune reiterates the true definition of hip hop music. While I was growing up, it was almost impossible not to be influenced by hip-hop music. As a former dancer I can tell you that the hip-hop culture played a huge role in the art of dance and still does. The music should be raw, unfiltered talent with quality lyrics over a hard base line. The lyrics should tell a story and share a message. Death of Autotune does just that and raises a great question. Is Hip hop getting too soft?

Jay Z’s new single, Death of Autotune is exactly what the hip-hop community needs. The genre is in a state of crisis and Death of Autotune reiterates the true definition of hip hop music. While I was growing up, it was almost impossible not to be influenced by hip-hop music. As a former dancer I can tell you that the hip-hop culture played a huge role in the art of dance and still does. The music should be raw, unfiltered talent with quality lyrics over a hard base line. The lyrics should tell a story and share a message. Death of Autotune does just that and raises a great question. Is Hip hop getting too soft?

For the last few years, Rap music has been a combination of auto tune voices, synthesized beats and empty lyrics. The desire to make a profit has created artists who digress from the true meaning of hip-hop in an effort to commercialize. Jay’s new single calls for the death of auto tune in order to bring hip hop back to its roots. Hip hop is getting too soft, in fact it has been soft for quite some time. The lyrics in Death of Autotune call out the artists who choose to make a profit over hip hop.

First things first. Who is Jay Z and why does he think he can call other rappers soft? Jay Z and his fans refer to him as “the best rapper alive,” and arguably so. Since 1995, Jay Z has been a trend setter in the world of hip hop. His lyrics tell the story about his life as a crack dealer. In the song, Izzo off of the Blueprint album, Jay tells his fans not to sell drugs. He says, “Like I told you to sell drugs, no Hov' did that so hopefully you won't have to go through that.” Jay continues with, “I seen it all before. I seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiends weight.” This is an example of how Jay can share a message and still sell records. He’s an established icon in the hip hop community. When he said death to auto tune, the message had meaning.

It’s no secret that every one of Jay Z’s songs is not deep. Songs like Can I get A and Big Pimpin,’ aren’t about anything of substance. It’s your typical mainstream rap song but this is rare. He has over 8 platinum albums and less than half of his music is mainstream rap.

Death of Autotune is a continuation of what Jay Z represents-real hip hop. The single has quality lyrics with a clear message. The single was produced by Kanye West and No I.D. The beat is classic with a soulful, American Gangster vibe. It takes the listener back to a post Vietnam America with heroin addiction and crime. Jay’s voice is aggressive, emotion filled, and not his traditional delivery. In the Death of Autotune, Jay uses a combination of his old calm, cool and collected approach heard in the hook, “Na Na Na Na goodbye.” This is woven in with versus in which Jay’s voice is aggressive, emotion filled and charged. On most of Jay Z’s past songs he is known for a calmer delivery. The variety on this track is something new for Jay, but works very well.

In this single, like many of Jay Z’s other songs, the influence of Notorious B.I.G. is apparent. Jay uses Biggie’s lyrics when he says, “Stop the blood clot cryin, the kids, the dog, everybody dyin no lyin.” Many artists including Nas, argue that Jay Z is not a strong lyricist because he quotes Notorious B.I.G. in many of his songs. I would argue though, that Jay’s influence is rooted in the tradition of hip hop and he attributes his success to the artists that came before him. All four elements of hip hop give voice to the streets and Jay is paying respect to a close friend who also happens to be a highly respected artist in the hip hop community.

Anyone who knows anything about Jay Z knows he doesn’t write his lyrics down and he records every track in one take. Technically I can’t say the lyrics were well written, but they were definitely well thought out. In the single he says, “I know we facin a recession but the music yall make gonna make it the great depression,” and later, “You singing too much, get back to rappin you T-painin too much.” He is saying that auto tune has made it difficult to separate a quality lyricist with a message such as Talib Kweli from someone clearly trying to sell a record like T-Pain with songs like, “I like the bartender.” The song is a call to action, forcing listeners to re-evaluate what they call hip-hop.

The technical aspects of the song did not include an auto tune voice over. Autotune is the first single off of Jay’s album, The Blue Print 3. Some argue that the single is hypocritical because Kanye is one of the producers and recently released 808’s and heartbreak, an album with auto tune on every song. Kanye West has stated there will be no auto tune on Jay Z’s album, scheduled for release September 11.

Overall, the single is great for those who want to reconnect with real hip hop. Presently, mainstream hip-hop is too soft. The lyrics fail to ask difficult questions and fail to share knowledge or a message. It is too early to predict, but Death to Autotune may be the beginning of a shift back to the roots of hip-hop. If The Blue Print 3 is anything like the single hip-hop fans looking for substance will find their fix.

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