Even the most hardened traditionalists among us can’t have failed to notice and likely disapprove of the increasing influence of TikTok and other such short-form digital outlets on hip-hop specifically, music generally and society broadly. Even High Fidelity leftovers in faded Mars Volta t-shirts can see the extreme shift caused by these giant pulping machines, removing only the consumable juices of culture and discarding the offal. Young rappers are made and broken with life-shattering regularity over these tiny clips which have come to dominate the landscape. Older artists who would surely have been lost to the annals of history are being revitalised over clips of pineapples in air-fryers. There will come a time when art of any kind will not exist outside of this platform, and it is important to prepare for this eventuality.
There is nothing new to discuss in the dumbing down of culture and the shortening of attention spans, which are perpetually being yanked like a pit-bull’s leash. This tide of anti-intellectualism and instant gratification is inevitable and to fight it leads only to a watery death. No, the most useful thing we can do currently is speculate on the extent of the damage caused to the international mind-hive before the Earth is destroyed and the billionaires depart for Mars before realising Elon has only included rations for two days and eventually being jettisoned in space. And that’s not really useful at all.
The long-form album will be the first to suffer and forced to fight for survival under the TikTok Regime™. As the demand for ever more concise data chunks escalates, the luxury of sitting in a beanbag with some headphones and absorbing a 90-minute musical opus will disappear, to be replaced by its highly caffeinated counterpart. At a certain undefinable point, an album 15 minutes in duration will be given the same epic status as Dark Side Of The Moon.
As domination of our hearts, minds and phones continues, only rappers with Usher-level dancing abilities will be given the opportunity to shine. Without an accompanying dance craze, any track submitted to the information sphere will be considered incomplete and jeered at in disdain. As original dance moves gradually run out, the old moves will cross-promote with extreme sports in a last-ditch bid to stand out in a teeming, fidgety market. This strategy will eventually lead to more rappers’ deaths than prescription drugs and a blanket ban on live music at quad bike rallies.
These fads and trending topics will of course rob hip-hop of its social conscience. Dance crazes will always be more stimulating on a base level than urban blight, at least among the non-psychopathic. There are many world issues which are deep-rooted, complex and require lengthy analysis, and this is the antithesis of TikTok. Likewise, any music which does not immediately slap you in the face with its innate accessibility will slowly be phased out as dense and impenetrable. Hip-hop’s energy has translated into the bouncy, hyperactive, ADD world of TikTok to highly lucrative effect, but its deep connection to the real world will be lost as the lyrics are mimed using an endless stream of cat filters.
The catchy hook, an ingredient used with increasing prominence in recent years, will soon become the only currency. Verses will be seen as tools of the agitators and confined to the dingy back rooms of clandestine establishments. All more sophisticated means of mental manipulation will be unceremoniously dumped after the revelation that repetition is all that is required to hold the minds of the masses captive. Call-and-response hooks will be vacantly chanted at glowing screens by dead-eyed dopamine enthusiasts, eager to fulfil their responsibility in the relationship.
When microchip neuron receptors are released into wider circulation, the Top 10 artists will be decided purely on the neurochemical engagements detected within the brain of the user. When the pupils start dilating, the synapses start flaring and the mouth dries up, indicating a need for a popular carbonated beverage, all of culture is distilled into a joyless transaction and stars are born. Awards categories such as ‘Endorphin Production Unit of the Year’ and ‘Most Watches Sold in a Sales Quarter’ will become the holy grail in a genre which once held a mirror up to society but now holds only a phone, thumb forever stuck on record.
In 2022, I would love to see a total breakdown of all forms of digital communication and a return to a simpler way of life, just a loop pedal and a sampler by the fireplace. Failing that, I would like to see more TikTok clips of people berating politicians or reading from weighty tomes in 12 seconds or less. As art erodes and collapses under the weight of this inherently unsustainable model, its history will be retained in bite-size snippets, looping around the information cloud until long after the extinction of our slack-jawed species when its digital imprint finally fades into the void. Happy New Year!