For as long as hip-hop has been around it has been inextricably connected to the streets. After all, 'the street',or some romanticized notion thereof, is the essence of hip-hop. It's where hip-hop originated from, where its style comes from, its stories and its aspirations. Any rapper worth his salt has to come up through the streets to be considered legitimate, or at least have the backing/support of his 'hood.' Rap has gotten increasingly commercial over the past decade. Now, though it's not nearly as commercially viable as it was just a few years ago. In fact, no one is selling albums - unless your name is Eminem. Or Jay-Z. Or Kanye West. Even artists once considered sure bets are having issues creating buzz for their projects (e.g. T.I. & Young Jeezy). The entire business model behind hip-hop is shifting, with artists making the bulk of their money off of touring, merch sales, endorsements, etc.
There seems to be a change brewing. One look at the Billboard Hot R&B/Rap Tracks chart show a trend emerging - so called 'street singles' are becoming much bigger than one would expect. Songs like Waka Flocka Flame's 'Hard In Da Paint' and Rick Ross' 'B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)' - both of which were originally just mixtape tracks - are racing up the charts. As is always the case, there are a lot of movements and scenes bubbling at once (one could easily point to the success of Drake and B.O.B as evidence that hip-hop is moving in a more 'pop' direction). But signs point to hip-hop regaining a hard edge.