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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

For The Culture: Don’t bite the bait!

Young rappers are relying on nostalgia baiting to attract listeners.

For the Culture

Graphic by Kayla Drazan

Hip-hop has a problem: unoriginality. Espoused by “oldheads” and hip-hop traditionalists for years,  criticism of unoriginality in hip-hop is now an established sentiment within the community. Although some hip-hop artists and groups like JPEGMAFIA, Smino, EARTHGANG and Griselda maintain the experimental and innovative spirit of the genre, mainstream hip-hop is overwhelmed with strikingly stale records. Former heavyweight rappers like Lil Baby and Nicki Minaj are progressively declining in prowess, while newcomers like Jack Harlow and Sexyy Red demonstrate the degeneracy of hip-hop consumption.

Ironically, the technique that characterized the innovation of hip-hop now embodies its downfall: sampling. Many hip-hop listeners, fans and media personalities have isolated “nostalgia baiting,” or the sampling of classic tunes, as the primary essence of the unoriginality plaguing hip-hop. Jack Harlow’s “First Class” (2022) epitomizes the “nostalgia bait” that angers many avid hip-hop fans. Sampling Fergie’s blockbuster “Glamorous” (2006), “First Class,” appropriates the classic hook “G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S,” as Harlow lazily interjects bars like “I can put you in …” Fundamentally, nostalgia-baiting involves the incorporation of classic songs to invite broader audiences who cherish their old-school hits. Whereas typical hip-hop song structure often places the first chorus after an opening verse, “First Class” begins with the bastardized version of Fergie’s “Glamorous” hook. Unfortunately, Harlow fails to reconcile any arguments against unoriginality with his verses — rather than introducing novel bars, clever punchlines or exciting flows, Harlow recycles familiar topics that, ultimately, neither expand nor add nuance to the original song. Nevertheless, Harlow, at least, adds something (hip-hop) to the original track — I will never reject rappers throwing some bars over pop songs.

However, Harlow is certainly not the only rapper nostalgia-baiting listeners — Drake, Future and Young Thug violate listeners with their overly sexualized “Way 2 Sexy” (2021), and Ice Spice and Minaj — albeit somewhat cleverly —  hijack the Barbie theme song, “Barbie World” (2023). Most egregiously, NLE Choppa shamefully brutalizes the classic Nelly track “Hot In Herre” (2002) in his track, “IT’S GETTING HOT” (2023). Known for his energetic, violent and vivacious delivery, Choppa hardly effuses the same charming cadence as Nelly. Whereas Nelly effortlessly transitions between punchy flows in the verses and sensual yet jumpy singing for the chorus, Choppa maintains the same grating vocal delivery throughout “IT’S GETTING HOT.” Moreover, Choppa completely diverges thematically from Nelly’s classic track. In “Hot in Herre,” Nelly delivers sexual yet charming lyrics; contrastingly, Choppa raps discomfitingly about “smoking his opps.” 

Sampling made hip-hop special. Previously, artists rearranged and manipulated familiar, unconventional or even obscure songs and sounds to create musical masterpieces. Dishearteningly, hip-hop artists today are degrading the innovative nature of sampling.