Questlove Releases "How Hip Hop Failed Black America" Essay

The Roots' Questlove releases "When the People Cheer: How Hip Hop Failed Black America."

Questlove has released "When the People Cheer: How Hip Hop Failed Black America," the first of six essays the drummer has penned for Vulture. In the essay, Questlove discusses Hip Hop's impact on Pop culture. 

"Hip Hop has taken over Black music," Questlove says. "At some level, this is a complex argument, with many outer rings, but it has a simple, indisputable core. Look at the music charts, or think of as many pop artists as you can, and see how many of the Black ones aren’t part of Hip Hop. There aren’t many Hip Hop performers at the top of the charts lately: You have perennial winners like Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake, along with newcomers like Kendrick Lamar, and that’s about it. Among women, it’s a little bit more complicated, but only a little bit. The two biggest stars, Beyoncé and Rihanna, are considered Pop (or is that Pop-Soul), but what does that mean anymore? In their case, it means that they’re offering a variation on Hip Hop that’s reinforced by their associations with the genre’s biggest stars: Beyonce with Jay Z, of course, and Rihanna with everyone from Drake to A$AP Rocky to Eminem."

In the essay, Questlove also explains how he feels about cultural change as Hip Hop has become more popular. 

"Young America now embraces Hip Hop as the signal pop-music genre of its time," he says. "So why does that victory feel strange: not exactly hollow, but a little haunted? I have wondered about this for years, and worried about it for just as many years. It’s kept me up at night or kept me distracted during the day. And after looking far and wide, I keep coming back to the same answer, which is this: The reason is simple. The reason is plain. Once Hip Hop culture is ubiquitous, it is also invisible. Once it’s everywhere, it is nowhere. What once offered resistance to mainstream culture (it was part of the larger tapestry, spooky-action style, but it pulled at the fabric) is now an integral part of the sullen dominant. Not to mention the obvious backlash conspiracy paranoia: Once all of Black music is associated with Hip Hop, then Those Who Wish to Squelch need only squelch one genre to effectively silence an entire cultural movement.

"And that’s what it’s become: an entire cultural movement, packed into one hyphenated adjective," Questlove continues. "These days, nearly anything fashioned or put forth by Black people gets referred to as 'Hip Hop,' even when the description is a poor or pointless fit. 'Hip Hop fashion' makes a little sense, but even that is confusing: Does it refer to fashions popularized by Hip Hop musicians, like my Lego heart pin, or to fashions that participate in the same vague cool that defines Hip Hop music? Others make a whole lot of nonsense: 'Hip Hop food?' 'Hip Hop politics?' 'Hip Hop intellectual?' And there’s even 'Hip Hop architecture.' What the hell is that? A house you build with a Hammer?" 

To read Questlove's full essay, click here

The Roots are prepping the release of a upcoming album ...and then you shoot your cousin. The project's first single, “When The People Cheer," was recently released.  

RELATED: Questlove Discusses Rappers In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame



  • Cal

    I'm 29 and I just watched the PBS documentary "Style Wars" for the first time earlier this year. I couldn't help but be blown away by the passion those dudes had for the culture during that time. Notice I said the 'culture' though. This was before the popularity set in. It was a legitimate counter-culture. Our slang had yet to become a part of the American lexicon in the way it is today. Hip-hop was "dangerous" then. Something that challenged the status quo. I think Quest's point is that, 35 years or so into its run, hip hop is becoming status quo. Hip hop has basically become a celebration of individual successes. Now, I can't front as if I don't like to hear the individual successes that Hov or Drake put in their rhymes. I find them inspiring. And when you live in the hood and see a lack of success all around you, you'll take inspiration wherever you can find it. But on a larger scale, hip hop is supposed to tell a story of struggle. Because overwhelmingly the struggle is still taking place in the black community. Sure, niggas might have J's and Foamposites on their feet for Instagram but as whole the struggle is still real. That story isn't being told in mainstream hip-hop. Let mainstream hip-hop tell it, everyone is getting money and living swell. Nope. Perhaps the saddest thing about it all is that though hip-hop has had a beautiful run...the message still hasn't REALLY gotten across to white America. Our story/struggle throughout the 70's 80's and 90's is still grossly misunderstood by a large part of America. And ultimately wasn't that hip-hop's job?

  • What

    Oldest rule in the book man anything for money, Black people and rapper is who sold out Rap, Hip Hop whatever you want to call it as soon as niggaz find out there are million of dollars to be made from doing it, it became all for the money, it when from keeping real too getting paid

  • DMC

    Once motherfuckers realized they can make money with this shit, they sold out faster than buckets of chicken when a new Tyler Perry movie comes out. Simple as that. Most rappers/artists just don't give a fuck about the culture.

  • eric

    misleading title again... :(

  • Anonymous

    rap has become dogshit music for dogshit people... or is motherfucking Jay Z (or Joell Ortiz, hah), really 'your' John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, P-Funk, Nina Simone, Last Poets... x 100000!!! there used to be tremendous variety AND creativity in black music... hell, even Prince alone... now there's fat fuck Raekown, here's Kanye married to... congratulations, rap!

  • D-Train

    Hip hop was once just a small culture that was meant for black and Ricans or those that lived in the hoods that could relate.... The white man wanted nothing to do with it because it was a street thing and was persevered as ignorant, ghetto and simplistic.... Once he saw that it can make money they pimped the artists, got ride of anything that was Afrocentric or knowledge based and the result it this....It's just another dumbed down art-form that was once creative and competitive... Once your art is compromised for money your product will always suffer......I can name 20 artist that I loved who's music now sux...........

  • Anonymous

    This site is bogus and absolutely useless to hip-hop culture. Its only purpose is so people can troll anonymously. The articles are trash, content is trash, comment section is trash. Writers and staff obviously don't give a shit about integrity at all. Just a pointless site going no where that they can put on their resumes


    Jimmy Iovine likes to fuck young black boys

  • DAMN

    Faggot ass skinny jean HHDX fans, trolls and clown ass old ass jewish music label executives ruined rap

    • Jack

      "Why don't Jay or some other 'baller' start a BLACK OWNED record label and show folks how it's done?" That already happened. 1959. Detroit. brother named Berry Gordy. Heard of him?

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, because black music executives like Jay-Z... who was only a House Negro but let's pretend otherwise... have been so good for black artists? Why don't Jay or some other 'baller' start a BLACK OWNED record label and show folks how it's done?

  • piss on the devil

    hip hop died a long time ago. Thank white people for that.

  • Anon o Mouse

    Read the essay. Form an intelligent opinion. Comment. In that order. Or shut up.

  • Jake

    Says the guy that work on Jimmy Fallon's house band.

  • Anonymous

    "I have wondered about this for years, and worried about it for just as many years. Its kept me up at night or kept me distracted during the day." Damn, shit really hurt this nigga feelings lol

    • Anonymous

      if hip hop is dead, then lets create something else. Enough mourning and lets keep it moving. We can't rely on hip hop like we're not creative or innovative enough to come up with something else...lets make it

    • son of a sax

      It is sad, cause "this" (hiphop) was ours. It was sumthin to call our own. For years, people shunned it. downplayed it. Hell, even our parents didnt understand. Hiphop was our rebel music, and you know whut?!?! We liked it. It's whut separated us...from the rest of the world. We had our own idenity. Now, its like our underworld has been exposed and is no longer a secret. Now, the whole world, who doesnt truly care about the culture, in the first place. Can get a piece of the pie.

  • Anonymous

    Since this is coming from America's top House Negro, I'm not sure if I can respect it.

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