Boom Bap and the Pro Era Effect
For many, boom bap is synonymous with real hip hop and is one of the only forms that truly encapsulates the genre. Even with the young genre continuing to grow and dominate popular music, these fans still remain persistent in their desire for raw beats that call back to the ‘90s. Boom bap was popularized in hip hop in the 90s and is revered as one of the staples of the East Coast hip hop movement. Its the combination of a bass drum on downbeats and a snare on the upbeats, but even without a specific or lengthy explanation, listeners know boom bap when they hear it. And hearing it in 2000s always introduces a sort of nostalgia for older, East Coast records.
When Pro Era emerged, they were refreshing to listen to for old souls and people that had tracks from the Golden Age of hip hop on repeat. The nostalgic old school beats on The Secc$ Tape, The Secc$ Tape2, PEEP: The aPROcalypse and 1999 probably reminded listeners of KRS One, Wu-Tang and other greats known for their boom bap tracks. Nearly a decade after the emergence of Pro Era, their sound is growing and changing and many fans are not okay with it.
Comments on new music from any Pro Era member is bound to include several fans asking about boom bap or criticizing the rapper for their lack of boom bap as of late. On Joey Bada$$’s 1999 project, specifically “FromdaTomb$” he claimed that he was resurrecting boom bap, but that wasn’t necessarily him saying that it was going to be a career long venture. Even members that never made such statements get this same criticism. The boom bap resurrection didn’t seem to seek bringing back a certain style of hip hop, rather, it was a quest to make music that sounded like it was influenced by the greats to come out of New York rather than the Southern influenced rap that many other New York natives were creating at the time. At such a young age, their city and its history was all they knew and where most of their pride lay.
The members of Pro Era find themselves in a tight spot typical of many artists, especially those that are on the cusp of transitioning from underground to mainstream. They are currently at the soft spot between alienating older fans because of their changing sound and alienating potential fans because it took them a bit longer to be more experimental. Usually, these fans make up a pretty small demographic and that seems to be the case this time around as well, but even a small amount of this kind of criticism can seem incredibly overwhelming. There are also accusations of Pro Era members being jealous of other artists and changing their sound in order to reflect that and of course, some think that the change is just to make more money in an attempt to go mainstream. I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but if it is, can you blame them? This is their job and just like you and me, they seek to make a living off of their work. But like I said, I don’t think this is the case. I don't know all of the Pro Era lore, nor have I listened to every single track or watched every single interview, but I'm a fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt and having faith in them. And with that being said, I really do think they’re just making an effort to try new things. Some members probably never intended for boom bap to spearhead their sound in the first place. Look at the solo projects from CJ Fly, Nyck Caution, Dirty Sanchez, none of these sound like boom bap through and through and to my knowledge, they never claimed that they wanted them to. They have all of their own influences, of which, boom bap is only one. Nyck is clearly influenced by rock in some ways and CJ and Joey have implemented a reggae sound on several tracks. Restricting Pro Era members to only making songs with ‘90s style beats really limits creativity and can give their style a dated sound. Creating a cohesive project that around a certain era is likely to have more success than crafting an entire career focused on staying in the past.