Hip-Hop may be dominating these days in record sales but, at the end of the day, Rock still rules the road. If you look at any listing of the top grossing live acts, you'll notice that Hip-Hop is conspicuously absent. I've often wondered why it is that Hip-Hop acts just can't bring in the crowds like rock bands and I've come to a few conclusions.
First of all, let me say, I completely respect Rap and Hip-Hop as artforms and this is a discussion of why most (not all) Hip-Hop acts just can't pull off live the same way as rock (or country... or Pop... etc.).
I, myself, have never seen or heard an exceptional live Hip-Hop performance. If you look at the rock canon, there is an endless list of great live albums: Live at Leeds, Cheap Trick At Budokan, Under A Blood Red Sky, Band of Gypsys, Allman Brothers Band Live at the Fillmore East, and dozens of others. Where are the great live Hip-Hop albums?
I think this weakness live can be attributed to two major factors:
1. Hip-Hop/Rap is largely a studio artform. Rather than being organically created by musicians playing in a room, the instrumentals of Hip-Hop are 'assembled' by producers. I'm not slighting this as an artform... but, when it comes time to reproduce the experience in a live environment, what ultimately ends up happening is that the sounds must be reproduced using a tape or a loop of some sort. Granted, there are many acts like The Roots and The Fugees that do use extensive live bands but, in the hip hop world, those acts are few and far between. So, what happens with most Hip-Hop acts is they just become a form of 'Karaoke on Steroids' live. Even the highest grossing live Hip-Hop acts realize the weakness of this and artists like Jay-Z and Kanye place the emphasis on the 'show' rather than the music. It's more about spectacle (MC Hammer would take this to ridiculous extremes in the early 90s). True, there are rock acts that use a great deal of spectacle in their stage shows... but it would be hard to imagine a Hip-Hop act doing what Springsteen does. I just saw him a few weeks back and he basically comes out and its just him and the E Street Band on a Bare stage... and they captivate everyone in the entire coliseum for a full 2 and a half hours. Now, try to imagine Wu Tang Clan doing the same thing. Them on a bare stage with nothing but their DJ. Would this work?
2. At the end of the day, most Hip-Hop and Rap is, in fact, dance music. There is nothing wrong with that but, in terms of a live concert environment, it puts them at a disadvantage. You see, the ideal enviroment to see or hear Hip-Hop is not a packed arena where you are either seated or packed like sardines on the floor but, rather, a club where you can, if you'll pardon a white boy for saying this, "get your groove on."
I realize that this is not a flawless arguement and much of this may be the result of my own personal taste. Still, it stands to reason, if Hip-Hop artists are outselling rock artist when it comes to records, why can't they compete in ticket sales? Thoughts on this?
Rolling Stone has some thoughts on this. CLICK HERE.