Music’s Message to Millennials

Like most things, popular music serves as a representation of the culture. Looking at the evolution of today’s hip hop artists reveals what’s coming next.

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After a far too brief bridge on Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, I decided to revisit Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. I was familiar with Crazy Train but didn’t know much else about this music.

What I found was the sound I never knew I was looking for. The dark, blues laced lyrics and powerful riffs channeled pure emotion and frustration directly into a sound that endured time. I was compelled to listen the entire day, each melody like a new world view. The drums inspiring, and I was fascinated with the style that launched them across the world.

I had discovered a portal, transporting me back in time to the early 70s. I could feel the raw emotion that inspired the music mirroring the anxiety of the generation. I learned about the growth of a culture and music’s role in that culture’s development.

I was able to transfer those insights to this decade’s music. The undisputed sound of our Millennial generation is hip hop, and the many forms it takes. Whatever you call the new wave of chart-topping music, it is undeniably energizing and melds like a playlist to an out of control house party. It’s turn up music — as the kids call it.

As our artists grow old — mid 30's — so does their music, and the landscape they influenced changes with them. Songs have gone from soundtracks of the turn up, to the vibes of an after party. And now comes the hangover. As our once fearless leaders of the lit take on the responsibilities of adulthood and can no longer live the life of endless partying without feeling the consequences of their actions the next morning, we enter a new era.

Future’s Beast Modes, championing the invulnerable highs of the party, are being followed up with the title Save Me. NAV follows RECKLESS with Bad Habits, as if to acknowledge the errors of his drug fueled routines that made him so beloved. Even the delinquent acid rapper himself offers no solace for the ragers of the world; we listened as Chance’s Big Day left some feeling betrayed that one of our loudest rebels now preached traditional societal roles and sobriety like an after-school program.

A sign of the times. And what’s coming for us all.

Our Millennial generation is entering adulthood. As we peek behind the curtain, we slowly realize the endless labor of life. Adulting is harder than we imagined growing up. We saw a promise of a world for freedom and opportunity. The answers were easy as children, all we needed was to grow up.

The reality is anything accomplished in this world, happens after a 10-hour shift, errands are run, meals are prepped, and bills get paid. Any trips taken use money pinched from our slimming budgets because of the constant, looming grey cloud of debt. It’s enough to foster a deep, new appreciation for every parent working who manages to survive the juggling act of the middle class.

As the curators of culture and de facto leaders and voices for our generation, the artists we love articulate their life experiences through the filter of relevance. We still hear the same casual sex, endless money, and drugs; but their newfound maturity lends to the reality of the lifestyle. We start to see the story behind the music. These artists aren’t sipping lean and popping pills to party, but to cope. To deal with the pressures of a world that we don’t yet control or fully understand yet know that soon we will have others who depend on us to provide for them, or already do.

So, as a generation, we’re still figuring things out in a confusing world. The responsibilities of adulthood are bearing down, but they bring with them the ability to have a real say in the way society is shaped. Similar to Rock & Roll’s anti-establishment, psychedelic protests of the 70's. Or the extreme experimentation of the 80's. Or the grunge expressionism of the 90's. Like musical movements of the past, today’s music is the chosen form of expression of the country’s adolescence who are struggling with a world they are just getting to know.

Like the generations before us, we question why the society we design frequently leaves our fellow citizens at the bottom. The music that followed was a rejection of the responsibility — if the world is troubled beyond repair, we might as well party. And like past musical trends, the show ends with a reluctant coming of age.

My musical journey taught me that we aren’t alone in our existential worries about the future. I learned that every generation must go through the awkward phase of figuring out their collective identity, which comes with experimentation, and that’s not always a bad thing. We have a tremendous opportunity to create the society we want to see right now. And the music that results will be the time capsule of our emotional angst.

If we are in a hangover, what comes next is a morning of choice. We can continue the party or embrace the responsibility before us.

DaRon is a New Orleans based writer and recent graduate focusing on cultural, social and political issues.

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