Will Rap Ruin EDM?

Image via Max Hoagland
Image via Max Hoagland

After witnessing yet another blitzkrieg of a set in 2013 by legendary rap producer Just Blaze – as a producer/DJ in the world of EDM – it may be time to seriously think about what is the most significant issue facing America in its relationship with EDM: rap music. Of the many 800-pound gorillas lurking in the room as Americans already working in and around global EDM consider America’s full scale invasion of dance music, the one that should be most significantly considered is the effect of rap music upon dance – and exactly what that means for dance music overall. It’s not so much that rap is a bad thing. On a purely subjective level it should always be argued that all music is good music if it can find an audience. However, it’s more that when you put rap in a room with kids slowly growing in appreciation of dance’s true diversity, rap becomes the ONLY thing, possibly to the detriment of everything else.

On Wednesday evening at Philadelphia’s Soundgarden Hall, I witnessed a Halloween party featuring Latin-tinged bass producer Mexicans With Guns, populist and rap-friendly party smasher Willy Joy, with Just Blaze as a headliner. The whole night for me was built around watching the crowd’s responses to “typical dance music” while knowing in the back of my mind that Just Blaze was going to blow their minds by playing a set built around rap music that he had produced almost a decade prior, alongside only the most obvious of hard house dance favorites.

As expected, kids bobbed their heads and got into the heavy vibes of Mexicans With Guns. He’s got this shaman quality as a producer that he expounds upon with a club set, taking you deeper into a jungle of ambient sounds and mind-bending bass. It’s not music ideal for “turning up,” but it definitely puts you in a weird frame of mind. Willy Joy is easily one of my favorite live DJs. He’s someone who a) produces not club music but music meant for clubs and b) also plays the hottest party songs in the world at any given time in such a way that he disarms them from having any other context than driving a dance floor into hysterics. I’ve watched him play at festivals and it just doesn’t feel the same as having him in a nightclub where he’s a mad scientist treating both tracks selected and the people dancing to them as though they were quarks in a small hadron collider. Of course, what Just Blaze did by playing Jay Z’s “PSA,” Freeway’s “What We Do” (we were in Philly, after all), Joe Budden’s “Pump It Up,” and Cam’ron’s “Oh Boy” within the first 15 minutes made everything else pale by comparison, and ultimately raised a few points of intrigue and/or concern.

To use a drug analogy (well, it’s 2013 in EDM, so it feels right in some terrible way), typical dance music is like cocaine in the ’70s. It’s fun, opens up your senses, lowers your inhibitions, and in doses is considered non-addictive. However, rap by comparison is crack cocaine. It’s made by people who are not of the culture, and while, yes, it opens senses and lowers inhibitions, it also causes people upon the first snap of an 808 or hit of a snare to go wild. Of course, when you add in the notion that someone like Just Blaze produced hits for Jay Z and the entire Roc-A-Fella family (Dipset, Freeway, Beanie Sigel, etc.) and Kanye West that were definite game changers insofar as rap’s evolution to becoming the most defining sound of 21st century pop music, the kind of response that Just Blaze received from playing not just his hits, but remixes of “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” as well as a series of rap tunes based around hand claps (which must be seen to be believed) is to be expected. EDM is already a culture wherein the music propels the listener into an optimal euphoric space. However, if you add the music from the mainstream that also taps into a similar (and arguably more connective) place in the psyche of someone that is new to dance music to the party, the potential for that which they are already comfortable to supersede that which has just been introduced is arguably quite high.

While rap and EDM’s 2013 provided a disjointed, yet entertaining synergy, 2014 likely promises to feature a far more well-planned union between the monolithic pop genres. Waka Flocka is promising an EDM album (and has already released “Wild Out” with Borgore), while Flosstradamus will attempt to run the trap for Ultra Records. Furthermore, it’s entirely likely that every mainstream rap release for 2014 for will feature every rapper directly working with a top EDM producer to attempt to create a sustainable stream of income for themselves in dance music. With that being said – and given Just Blaze’s absolute victory in Philly (and well, everywhere else he’s headlined this year), it would stand to reason that rap as American EDM’s contribution to the global scene is certainly going to cause more than a few issues for dance’s global mainstream progression.

Can rap’s seemingly-possible complete dominance in dance’s mainstream be stopped? Are there ways to join rap with other styles to mute it’s effectiveness? Or, is this the 800-pound gorilla that, when loosed, obliterates the genre like Godzilla did to Tokyo? All I know is that Just Blaze played rap records on a fall night in Philadelphia and I believe I saw the future of dance, and its name is rap.

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO EDM FROM A RAP FAN’S PERSPECTIVE

  • Bull

    what will kill edm is not rap, it is the flood of new sub-genres and basic structure of chart hits.

    • no1d

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. Subgenres made by producers has always pushed dance music forward, how do you think new sounds are made? But what do I know. I’ve only been listening and dancing to it for 20 years.

      • DJ Todd G

        Nothing is going to kill or ruin either genre….both have been around for decades and will continue to go forward and evolve as they already have. You have so many DJs/producers that blur the lines between them anyways that its just going to become the norm…and then you will have genre-specific DJs/producers staying in their own lane. My hope is that the current “EDM” phase goes back into the underground a bit more again but that’s unlikely seeing as how much $$$ is being made and thrown around these days.

      • DJ Todd G

        Nothing is going to kill or ruin either genre….both have been around for decades and will continue to go forward and evolve as they already have. You have so many DJs/producers that blur the lines between them anyways that its just going to become the norm…and then you will have genre-specific DJs/producers staying in their own lane. My hope is that the current “EDM” phase goes back into the underground a bit more again but that’s unlikely seeing as how much $$$ is being made and thrown around these days.

        • no1d

          If you consider how fast Trap blew up, with the help of meme samples “damn son…” and the meme harlem shake videos, everyone is looking for the next thing to ride in EDM. Dillon Francis and Dave Nada made names with moombahton and Dillon especially is racking in the dough with his online engagement.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    1) Rap ruin EDM? Ummm EDM has mostly killed rap on the college party scene, unless you’re talking about Drake
    2) Why does every genre worry about rap’s influence? It’s not the musical equivalent of leprosy or something, chill out

  • dggdg

    Trap is what made me love EDM now I’m so into all of it (Electro House, Big room, Festival etc) so I dont think it’ll ruin it. If anything EDM will ruin Hip Hop haha real talk. We’ll get more and more Nicki Minaj’s & Flo Ridas.. NO THANKS haha

  • dggdg

    plus hip hop used to be the mainstream club music not its edm. it makes sense for them to merge

  • Not Really

    “trap is hip-hop for white people”…..

    • Malik DrumFunk Martin

      Did someone actually say that? or are you saying that?

  • Malik DrumFunk Martin

    This is the stupidest article I’ve read in a while. For someone who seems to take interest in dissecting social behavior, it didn’t take much for you to write a whole article before you did a bit of analysis.

    Rap has been a part of EDM for decades, you obviously haven’t realized that. Most of what you’re even mentioning is POP. POP RUINS EVERYTHING. This includes popped-out EDM ruining RAP. Your article sucks, and I don’t know you, but I have a strong love for both rap and EDM (which are both going through some seriously weak pop phases, in even the most underground forms of their arts) and I find this careless spew of BS to be offensive to both genres.

  • http://www.bassdrop.ca/bossdrum Bryan W.O

    Electronica is one of the few types of music on the planet that is always evolving and creating something new every few years because it encourages creativity by an inherit design… the technology used to create it. Styles (and/or genres) ebb and flow.Some get better,worse or haven’t changed much in 10 or 15 years. Die? No because it gives birth to 3-4 sub genres, some of which survive and grow up (I’m looking at you dubstep from 2004 and Drum&Bass 1996 if not earlier) to be the next “big” thing.

    Wash,Rinse,Repeat.

    I would also like to point out a couple things you may have overlooked.

    “The KLF” House & Acid-House many hits from 1987-1992
    Heavy hip-hop/rap influence
    Charted songs with rapper Ricardo Lyte & Isaac Bello
    Very little mainstream radio play in the U.S

    “Snap!” Eurodance fronted by rapper Turbo B “The Power” charts worldwide in 1990
    “The Power” went Platinum in the U.S
    then in 1992 they did it again with “Rhythm is a Dancer”
    Heavy mainstream radio play in the U.S

    “Stereo MC’s” Hip-Hop/Rap & House “Elevate My Mind” first British Hip-Hop single to reach the US R&B charts…..in 1990.
    1992 “Connected” reaches world wide charts.
    “Connected” gets moderate mainstream radio play only in larger U.S markets

    “Faithless” House Trance With rapper Maxi Jazz the single “Insomnia” charts worldwide from 1995 through 1997 then does it again in 2005.
    “God is a DJ” charts in 1998 then does it again in 2006
    Very little mainstream radio play in the U.S

    Rap & Hip-Hop have been apart of this scene for ALONG time, it’s that for the last 20+ years 95% of us Americans got little to no exposure because radio stations in the U.S just wouldn’t play it.

    For those Americans in the U.S club scene from 1987 to 1998, hearing hip-hop/rap in a house or trance track, or a rapper, B.G The Prince of Rap, using a house beat with HEAVY techno overtones in 1991′s “This Beat is Hot” and last, rapper Paris “The Devil Made Me Do It” in 1990 using a sped up sample of “Funky Drummer” giving is a slight house beat and looped sample that sound like a Metal guitar rift, subtly crossing alot of genre boundaries, is not a new or innovative sound.

    Rap will not kill it, what will (and it’s “death” will mostly occur in the U.S) is it’s fast rise to popularity in this country and over exposure via T.V commercials,record labels, and radio play. We will simply get bored,burnt out and tired of it because for 95% of us Americans it is a consumable product, for 5% of us its still a culture.

    We have a long, slower rise to popularity and now well established hip-hop/rap culture in America. More than likely it’s decline will come from it gradually being replaced by something else. Hip-Hop/Rap did it to Rock music in the 1990′s.

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  • HipHopHead999

    Uh… EDM is ruining Rap, if anything. The good rap out there is much better than EDM ever will be, I’m not talking the club/radio songs but the more deep and profound stuff that usually never is a single. Anyway, since EDM is what suburban white kids like hearing at parties and whatnot, it could likely over power the club/radio Rap songs that people like to dance and wild out to, and we already have rappers dabbling in EDM… Too Short, Chance the Rapper, Waka Flocka, ASAP Rocky, ScHoolboy Q… And as much as I don’t want this to happen, I could see all Rap songs having EDM based beats in as little as 2-3 years. That would be really unfortunate since there are so much better production styles that are better and more true to the genre. Also, EDM fans need to stop calling EDM stuff Trap, Trap was a genre / lifestyle that was created in Hip-Hop… Three 6 Mafia was doing Trap since the 90s and Jeezy, TI, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka also are known to Trap. It describes the 808 heavy beats just as much as the lifestyle, trying to make it out of the ghetto by grinding and hustling, or Trapping. It’s NOT an EDM thing at all.