Since hip-hop's inception, it was only probable to move more commercial. The importance and focus on expanding its audience and reach were recognized, but it came at the price of losing its "real" quality to hardcore hip-hop fans. Today, hip-hop has grown up to become a full-grown adult after going through some changes itself during that time. What once was a genre of hoodies, gangsters, and stoic head-bobbing became a genre of flashy clothes, dancing, and elatedness. While the hood tales and dominant basslines have stayed, hip-hop's shift away from a harsh focus on reality to euphoric escapism has shifted the landscape to make it historically more comparable to disco as a music genre and culture than old-school hip-hop. Let's compare a few aspects of each genre's culture.
Escapism & Hedonism
Many old-school rappers would claim that maintaining responsibility for their lyrics' and content's influence is not on them because it is simply a reflection of their reality and they should not have to apologize for it. However, as hip-hop has matured, the lyrics have drawn away from trying to expose and shed light on problems in black neighborhoods and are instead offering escapism from it. Disco followed the same suit by initially bringing Blacks, Italians, Latinos, and gays together at discos. During the 1970s, a stigmatization of dance music was brought into American culture by the counterculture movement and disco was the backlash to it. Due to the Vietnam War, disco offered escapism from the draft, economic problems, and hardships of the time. Today, a hip-hop example of this would be YFN Lucci's song "Everyday We Lit." Living your life every day in a lit state of mind is the definition of hedonism. For today's rappers, it's not about being on the block and in the hood. It's about hustling and aspirations of having a better life.
Dancing is an interesting trend that has come, gone, and come again in hip-hop. From disco's Hustle, to the Bump, to the 'YMCA' to hip-hop's Milly Rock, Hit Dem Folks and, of course, the Dab. Seeing the amount of hip-hop music videos featuring rappers dancing today has indicated a major shift in the genre; moreso, the acceptance of male dancing is something that is only comparable to disco as far as other music genres.
Throughout hip-hop's early years, the narrative and importance of being an authentic gangster held a lot of weight in one's career. To convey their street image, rappers would usually wear dark colors and baggy clothing. As the genre switched from a gangster mentality to a hustler mentality, the fashion changed with it. Instead of wearing street clothes, rappers now dressed excessively with intricate colors, styles, and accessories. The fashion now embodies "peacocking," or wearing something so gaudy and ostentatious that you have no choice but to notice it. Disco also applied this same principle. Disco-goers would wear glitzy, colorful, and luxurious outfits with intricate patterns. Rappers don't dress down anymore, they dress up like disco-goers did.
Drug Use & Promiscuity
Today's rappers push the hard drug and sex culture more than at any other time in hip-hop. 90s rappers would mostly be satisfied with marijuana and a 40, while today's rappers are discussing lean, cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy, Xanax, and Molly Percocet! Molly Percocet! Disco culture was widely known for its drug usage and sexuality with partygoers frequently hooking up in various obscure spots at the clubs. The idea of using drugs and sex to enhance the party experience is a big part of the culture for both genres.
Being A Sell-Out Musically
This one comes from everyone who isn't a fan of the genre. Both disco and specifically trap music have been criticized for selling-out and placating to dumbed-down mainstream consumerism. From Joe Budden and Migos, to Ice-T and Soulja Boy, to Pete Rock and Lil Yachty, there's an inconsistency between the two generations of hip-hop. And what did people say about disco? "Disco sucks!" So how did all this happen? I have a couple ideas.
The one rapper I would credit the start of the dance phase of hip-hop to is 50 Cent. 50 Cent's first album Get Rich Or Die Tryin' debuted with 872,000 copies and launched 50 Cent into superstardom. Lead by his hit single and biggest song to date, "In Da Club," 50 simultaneously took over the street side of rap and was the pioneer of club rap. What most people forget is that his first single was "Wanksta," a song describing how he is a true gangster. With "Wanksta" as his first song, it cemented that his gangster status came first and paved the way for the seemingly endless stream of clubby rap songs and artists soon to come.
The next artist to magnify the dance aspect of hip-hop was Soulja Boy with his 2009 hit "Crank That." What Soulja Boy lucked out with was timing. He came of age during YouTube's infant days and utilized it to post videos to teach his fans how to do the dance properly. While many old-school hip-hop fans scorned at the song, and it did seem insignificant at the time, Soulja Boy was the first artist to utilize internet video, a tool not available to past hip-hop generations, to achieve mainstream success with his music visually online. Today, YouTube is the biggest music source on the planet.
So it is all bad? I don't think so. I think the escapism of trap music today is a reaction to the economic recession and post-Obama era rap. Throughout rap's history, rappers would always wish to have a black President someday. Now that Obama has come and gone and we have the less-than-spectacular President Trump (that's another article), maybe this is the new generation's way of dealing with the stress and hardships that young people face in this country. Trap music will fade some day and something new will come. We'll have to wait and see, but hip-hop's culture today in the 2010s and disco in the 1970s definitely draw some comparisons historically.
Worst case scenario though is that trap will be remembered like this.