Is AI A Threat To Hip-Hop?

As the capabilities of AI grow, the technology is making its way into hip-hop spaces.

BYCaleb Hardy
Is AI A Threat To Hip-Hop?

There's no denying that AI has become increasingly prevalent in our lives. Self-driving cars fill the streets, threatening the future livelihoods of truck drivers. Restaurants are beginning to automate their food service process, leaving food service workers wondering if they'll be out of a job in five years. Even in the corporate world, AI may seem able to automatically perform the tasks of accountants or financial analysts. Of course, we all know about the auto-generated Bored Ape NFTs that took over the internet in 2021. AI has seeped into our daily lives more and more over the past decade.

However, most creatives assumed this trend wouldn't apply to hip-hop. Why would they? Creation is founded on emotion rather than logic, which is inherently the opposite of how automated technology works. The creation of art derives from past experiences, whether those experiences were traumatic or cheerful. This sentiment has been challenged, though, over the past year. AI has begun to create automated art, produce or mix songs, and automatically generate stories.

AI Will Change Musical Process For Producers & Engineers

More recently, talk has been about the increasing quality of AI-generated music. This has left producers and sound engineers wondering whether their jobs could soon be threatened. There are already plenty of downloadable online services that will easily auto-generate music for users. It's becoming increasingly apparent that AI is here to stay in the hip-hop space. The question has to be, is AI here to threaten the livelihoods of people who work in music?

Will the jobs of creatives change? Absolutely, but not in a directly negative manner. Creatives who adapt to the technology to enhance their process rather than push against it will thrive. Many producers are already using its capabilities to streamline their production process. By utilizing AI, they do not have to spend as much time on the redundant mixing or mastering tasks associated with music production. As a result, producers can spend more time experimenting with genre-bending ideas.

However, there have been concerns about using our artist's voices. AI-generated music of fake verses from Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and Kanye West has surfaced online. The sound is almost indecipherable, as the tracks sonically seem like the Rap icons were behind the microphone. This has caused a wave of concern within hip-hop, as Young Guru recently came forward with complaints. Others echoed his sentiment and questioned what the future of the music industry would look like.

AI Will Likely Create Jobs in Hip-Hop, Not Destroy Them

A quick peek into the past proves that new inventions create new jobs rather than eliminate existing ones. For example, the rise of the internet had many worried about the future viability of their work. However, the technology created millions of jobs. The Internet now comprises over 10 percent of the US GDP. Some sources claim that AI will have an even more substantial impact on the world GDP. A study by PwC found that "any job losses from automation are likely to be broadly offset in the long run by new jobs created as a result of the larger and wealthier economy made possible by these new technologies."

Of course, there's not only the question of how AI will affect jobs in the music space but how it will affect the quality of the music. For the time being, music that's solely had the input of AI still sounds soulless. Take Kanye West's self-titled project, Ye. It's undeniably his most messy record to date. However, that very messiness and vulnerability have contributed to its timeless quality. Another example is Tyler, the Creator's Igor. Oddball pitching and distortion fill the record. Like Ye, its messiness adds to its notoriety and critical acclaim as one of the better records of the past decade.

AI Could Enable Hip-Hop Artists To Be More Creative

Various artists have expressed reservations over AI. In an interview with Converse, Tyler, the Creator, stated, "None of the examples that I've seen are beautiful art. I'm fully not into it because you can't NFT me looking at you in real life right now." Tyler brings up a valid point, as many argue that the rise of AI will have people even further out of touch with their inherent selves. Iconic music producer Rick Rubin discussed this trend on the Tim Ferriss podcast: "As an end, it doesn't strike me as interesting. However, as a means, it could be helpful."

Rubin's perspective seems to best describe the future of AI in music. It will streamline the creative process for artists, allowing them to formulate their baseline ideas for a piece of art more efficiently. This will allow creatives to spend more time throwing around ideas rather than revising and editing tracks in Ableton or Logic. In a genre that can be riddled with repetitive ideas, AI's advancement should encourage hip-hop to be more boundary-pushing. However, the threat of how far AI will continue to progress looms for creatives.


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