The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Hip-hop

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has the ability to create songs that sound like real artists. Users are easily making music with AI music creation services and products. AI-generated hip-hop music is dominating the internet. Is this a threat to hip-hop? In a recent Instagram post, Young Guru, Jay Z’s longtime producer and engineer, wrote about the complexity of AI-generated hip-hop music. His post highlighted the issues surrounding an AI-generated song that is very hard to distinguish from the real voice of hip-hop legend Jay Z. He warns that technology can’t be stopped and that the only way to handle this new influx of AI-generated music is to change laws to protect artists’ intellectual property. LL Cool J, hip-hop pioneer, believes that AI is a tool that we shouldn’t be afraid of and that we should embrace because it can benefit the genre; it all depends on how we use it. Another hip-hop pioneer, Ice Cube, calls AI demonic and feels it will receive backlash from real, authentic people. He thinks anyone that has been sampled without permission should sue the generators of this type of music. Whether you embrace AI or deem it evil, you can’t deny its role in shaping contemporary hip-hop.  

Legendary hip-hop producer Timbaland provoked discussion around the use of AI tools with his new track featuring deceased hip-hop icon Notorious B.I.G. In a recent Twitter post, he addressed the concerns of using AI that violates creatives’ work, but he vowed to work on a solution that will benefit everyone. He has plans to use AI in the future to create more music with other deceased artists that he never got the chance to work with. Fans are divided on this topic of making music and speaking for the dead. Some fans think the track is a great idea and welcome more like it to celebrate those artists that are no longer with us. Other fans don’t want to hear AI-generated music at all and think this is a violation of deceased artists’ rights because they are not here to make their own creative decisions.  

AI is not only changing the way hip-hop music is made, but it is also changing the way hip-hop is being marketed to the public. Liquor brand Hennessey teamed up with hip-hop legend Nas to create an AI marketing campaign called “Rep Yours” that used AI to turn selfies into album covers inspired by various hip-hop eras. This social tactic is a way to generate buzz about the brand while allowing fans to use the technology to create and express their love for hip-hop music.  

Hip-hop is a cultural phenomenon that has impacted music, fashion, film, sports, and language. The genre started in the Bronx, New York, in Black communities and is now a global force that is inclusive to everyone. Will AI eventually replace the human creativity that drives hip-hop?