Half-naked girls, big rims, and loud jewelry are now synonymous with hip-hop, but on August 6, these stereotypes took a backseat to the music. The “Footprints in Hip-Hop Tour” featured Wu-Tang alumni Redman, Method Man, and Ghostface Killah, and they delivered east coast anthems to a packed house of fans throughout the night. But while their performances were all up to par, the most interesting part of the show was the tour’s overall message. Like the self-proclaimed “New York ambassador” Jay-Z, these musical veterans called for a return to the hip-hop of yesteryear. Instead of rocking the flashy jewelry often displayed by Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne, artists were devoid of jewelry. Like their necks and wrists, the stage was stripped down to a DJ, turntables, a poster and the performers. During the show, the artists even went as far to explain their appearance. “Yo, everybody comes out now like, ‘Look at my chain, look at my watch,’” Method Man said. “But they give you a half-assed show.”
While Meth and crew dissed the status quo during their night onstage, hip-hop phenomenon T-Pain eagerly defended it on August 11. Unlike the “Footprints …” tour, the rapper-turned-singer entered the stage with a full band, several backup singers and a group of energetic dancers. He performed while wearing a chain worth a quarter of a million dollars – one that read “Big Ass Chain” in diamonds. While running through his solo hits, he also stated his thoughts on the industry’s current critics and Jay-Z’s “Death of Auto Tune” in particular. “Don’t listen to the industry and don’t listen to Jay-Z,” he said.
But when it comes to the stage, the veterans apparently have the upper hand. While chart-toppers bring an overdose of cockiness and bravado, the old schoolers easily trounce with their love and pure passion for their art. T-Pain’s show ended with a traditional last song and thank you to the audience. When it came time for Red and Meth to exit the stage, they jumped off and crowd surfed out. The stark contrast in the way the shows ended just displays the main difference between the two schools. Unlike their younger counterparts, hip-hop is a way of life for Red and Meth, not just another way to get paid. When some of today’s hit makers make this mental transition the rankings may even up. Until then, today’s hip-hop will only serve as a bleak reminder of what the music and the culture as a whole once was.