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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Merkel

The worst summer in hip-hop history?

On its 50 year anniversary, the genre may be in decline

Jack Harlow with fan

2023 marked 50 years since the creation of hip-hop, people in the culture have celebrated this

anniversary in a variety of ways. Performances, awards, interviews, discussions, and even

documentaries have highlighted hip-hops greatest moments, as well as it’s untold stories.

However, one area has fallen far short of expectations this year, allowing a dark cloud to hang over the future of hip-


Music returned in 2022 in full force following the pandemic. Fans received projects from established legends, the current top 3, as well as younger artists that proved the next generation had the ability to make quality music.

Artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Play Boi Carti, and even Kevin Gates routinely

went viral for their live performances. Hip-hop’s mainstream was once again reigning supreme.

So, there was no reason to think this year 2023 would be any different come January.

Yet surprisingly, this has not been the case. It took nearly 7 months for hip-hop to get its first number 1 charting album, many of its greatest artists have been going through legal struggles, while others continue to mourn the death of fellow musicians.

After a bountiful year of quality releases and exceptional moments, fans have felt starved so far this year.


J. Cole on stage

The most glaring omission from these years line up of releases has been the absence of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole.

Kendrick’s absence is understandable considering Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers was his first album in nearly 6 years, and he is still on tour. K-Dot should have a buffer between projects to not burn listeners out.

Although, his only single this year, The Hillbillies featuring Baby Keem, was a pleasant surprise.

Drake has also been on tour, been the most active online, and released the most music this year.

Unfortunately, Drizzy has failed to connect on any of his singles and has had milder success with his features. His verse on “Meltdown”, where he disses multiple other artists is without a doubt his highlight of the year musically.

J. Cole has been the most consistent out of the three for features. His contributions on tracks with Lil Durk, Bas, and Summer Walker have each created their own moments this year, with his “Audio Hug” contribution quickly spreading like wildfire across TikTok.

All three say they have more music on the horizon. Rap fans should certainly keep their eye out for these contributions but should also be concerned on why these veteran artists continue to run Hip-hop



Lil Baby

Lil Baby fans are disappointed. The slick talking Atlanta rapper has been fairly active this year and has had little success with singles and features since he dropped It’s Only Me last year. That album already fielded some pretty rough reviews from critics and fans alike, so his latest releases have only further slowed down any motion he had heading into 2023.

Once considered raps next superstar, Baby has fallen to the wayside. The same could be said for other contenders like Lil Durk, NBA YoungBoy, and EST Gee, a sign the “killer music” wave may be coming to a

close before it could even take over.

This leaves mainstream hip-hop without a challenger for the top position, a vacant spot that once could be filled by a variety of artists. However, as long as labels and streaming platforms continue to market music towards TikTok users instead of real hip-hop fans, the genre will be unable to vault its most

talented artists to the forefront.

Rappers like Ice Spice and Jack Harlow should not have some of the most publicized rollouts of this year.

Labels may have also killed the big “summer release” as there has failed to be any highly notable summer singles dropped this year. Hip-hop hasn’t had a song of the summer since 2020.


Rap is going through an awkward phase between what listeners want and what they are being provided.

There is lots of quality new music being dropped, but fans are just having a hard time finding it.

When combing over this year’s best releases, it appears hip-hops sound is returning to the underground. JPEG Mafia and Danny Brown, Conway Tha Machine, Killer Mike, Aminé, Navy Blue, and even Lil Yachty have had great few months. This trend began before the pandemic, picked up a lot last year, and

exploded in 2023.

redveil learn 2 swim album cover

Although this could be seen as a regression, it

should be interpreted as a blessing in disguise.

Every genre goes through a transition period, and hip-hop has gone through a few in its lifetime as well.

The solidification of new sub-genres, as well as experimental work undertaken by artists like Yachty and Travis Scott show that hip-hop is expanding in ways that fans, artists, and executives could never have


Yes, the music marketed towards listeners has been not up to stuff. Yes, rap is still stuck in this toxic and violent TikTok era. But that does not mean hip-hop is dead. There is still lots of great music being produced, and real hip-hop fans know where to find it.


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