WAMBOP: A new music genre is born

Every age gives birth to its own art form. This is ours.

The contested birth of jazz music, a century ago.

Think of classical, rock, hip hop — or jazz, which took off in the last roaring ‘20s.

What will this new genre sound like?

Here’s a hint.

More generally, I have argued that Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the culmination of music history as such. More recently Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever drew on the electronic sounds of her earlier work and the indie music of the Dø. The agricultural inspiration of Taylor Swift’s folklore is equally clear, contrasting with the industrial sounds of reputation. Bon Iver’s collaborations with West and Swift draw on Justin Vernon’s own use of atmospheric autotune to unify the vibes of town and country.

Kanye’s other balance was between town and gown as universities have boomed since the 1990s, when Lauryn Hill debuted a new era of intelligent hip hop. The political roots of the genre always risked being overcome by the new knowledge paradigm, and Hill rightly proposed a message of love to bridge the gap. Kanye found the economic critique offered by hip hop compelling, delving into a meditation on luxury and excess on his 2010 magnum opus.

Jon Bellion in the mid-2010s further bridges between hip hop and pop, while also echoing older eras of music. Kanye drew on progressive rock for his masterpiece, while Kendrick Lamar has made one of the most politically impactful hip hop records with largely jazz-infused beats.

Jazz began as romanticism brought baroque order to a close, requiring a reinvention of the music form before neoclassical balance could be restored. Such a move may seem almost old-fashioned at first, but its novelty is evident in its controversy. J. S. Bach, Miles Davis, and other founders of musical genres — after these genres had gone through a long period of gestation, notably — were by no means unacknowledged in their own time, but were at least not recognised as highly as they are today. The fruits of our labours are grown many years after we begin to sow the seeds of future prosperity, physical and spiritual. Shall we begin?

Afternote: A sub-genre of Wambop may be a fusion of baroque and popular sounds, and baroque pop already exists as a genre of sorts. Brop may be its abbreviation, under the broader, more open-ended umbrella of music that is WAMBOP.

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