Everyone wants to be great. If an artist, or anyone for that matter, is fortunate enough to possess or learn the skills needed to earnestly pursue a goal, then success isn’t far fetched. But the most common desire is to just get there. The question existing, however, is how do you stay there? How do you continue to evolve and how do you maintain? We look to cultural veterans such as Jay Z and Nas as the standards for success. We use them as sort of a bar for which to reach. They’ve withstood the test of time, but they also continue to advance inside and outside the realm of hip-hop.
There are a few interesting factors that can give clarity or shine light on what it takes to have longevity or to remain reigning over the cultural throne. The first could be their pursuit of excellence. Jay Z has described excellence as “…being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time.” We anticipate their next move, whether it is lyrical or an entrepreneurial endeavor. Whatever the case, their efforts remain just as fresh and exciting as the first time they released Reasonable Doubt and Illmatic.
The second factor could be setting the right foundation, which is chasing the pure passion of the art form. Always making mention that the culture needs reviving, Nas’ nostalgia can be used as encouragement to revisit the historical background of the craft, “Rap is like a ghost town, real mystic. Like these folks never existed. They the reason that rap became addictive. Play they CD or wax and get lifted. I recommend when your kid turn ten, let him here Spice 1, made plenty of noise, Positive K, Father MC, the Skinny Boys.” A broader sense of awareness of hip hops humble beginnings and the creativeness of it all begins to take root. From there, the compelling nature to save hip hop from its destitute state is brought forth. Hence, switching the motive from chasing a dollar to “holding down the block.”
All eyes are on the new students of the game, who, since the beginning of their careers, appear to have been taking detailed notes. Like Jay and Nas, Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole, for example, are using their creative and artistic ability to share new perspectives on common issues. Kendrick’s struggle to make it out of Compton’s “belly of the rough” and J.Cole’s “dollar and a dream” are their means of connecting with listeners. It doesn’t hurt to have the vet’s characteristic of ambition as well, which frequently appears in Wale‘s rhymes. Wanting to aim higher remains just as important as being persistent despite obstacles.
Having a sense of self-awareness is just as essential. Being self-aware may just be what makes these artist’s relatable and encouraging to those still on a journey. Or, taking it a step further, having the willingness and courage to be vulnerable, like Drake, and conveying their messages in a genuine way. Being open, honest and transparent about most of their life experience’s; transmitting hope to the hopeless. The understudies are reaching for the bar. Maybe even setting it higher. They are undoubtedly following the same formula as their predecessor’s, but with clearly distinctive personalities and rap styles.
Of course, it takes time and patience to be a Jay Z or a Nas, but it’s possible for the believer. The throne isn’t just for few. It’s for many, who have a vision and seek to validate that vision and pursue it while keeping the proper perspective. It takes lyricists who are strong-willed, like Jay and Nas, to continue to inspire on any level. Everyone wants to be great, but to reign on the throne, the expectation should be to become excellent. Ten years from now, who will be wearing the crown?