During a rare interview with heralded Chicago blogger and curator Andrew Barber, the legendary No I.D. explained the clear difference he sees between hip-hop culture and rap music.
“Music saved my life,” No I.D. begins in a measured tone. “There's a miscommunication going on here. I think what hip-hop was and what rap music is are two different things. I think the spirit of what hip-hop is and was and what rap music is, is totally different. Hip-hop is what saved my life, not rap music. I just happen to rap, I happen to do a lot. I started as a DJ. I have a deep passion for this whole [culture]. Pop culture hijacked our thing and turned it into a way to get money, only, where nothing else matters.”
No I.D., fresh off earning five GRAMMY nominations for his work on JAY-Z's 4:44 album, doesn't go into specifics, but there are myriad differences between what hip-hop was and what rap music currently is: the gap between career artist and a moment artist, children inking major label deals because of virality, and the influence of on-demand streaming service playlist placements on the entire artistic process.
While No I.D. doesn’t point fingers, he does take sides, adding: “I can't just roll over for that one. I have to interject and hope a new generation finds [hip-hop culture], which is happening. This battle, this Yin and Yang, is the way our earth goes, but I just know what side I want to be on.”
No I.D.’s fighting the good fight, but it's certainly not in vain. Aside from young creatives looking to him as a role model, there are countless artists seeking a career in the music industry who are proudly embodying the culture he represents.
Be it Rapsody, Vic Mensa (whose debut No I.D. executively produced), or a smaller act like Marlon Craft, it's important to remember that the essence of the genre has never completely been lost; sometimes we just need to train our eyes to spot it.