By Tristin Marshall
Motown has branded itself as the “Sound of Young America” since the inception in 1959, and has proven to be a mainstay in that mantra for nearly six decades.
Artists like Stevie Wonder and The Supremes embodied the young America of their time in the 1960s. Towards the late 70s, Rick James wrote songs like “Mary Jane” that captured the spirit of young America in its era. In the 90s, Boyz II Men serenaded a generation of young women and left an imprint of classics, including “End of the Road” and “I’ll Make Love to You.”
Public Enemy released “Fight the Power” on Motown in 1989, and not only did it become a staple in Black music and American protest music, it also marked Motown’s territory in hip-hop.
In 2015, Motown and Quality Control Music entered a joint venture with a clear vision–to make hip-hop a mainstay in Motown’s legacy. The King of the Youth, better known as Lil Yachty, honed his rap and creative skills under their collective umbrella. UK Singer, songwriter, and rapper Stefflon Don holds her weight as a woman in hip-hop in the States and across the pond.
The “Three Kings of Hip-Hop,” Migos, blazed the trail with their groundbreaking cover for Rolling Stone and cover of XXL Magazine in 2017. Within the last year, Migos continues to make leaps and bounds in record-breaking categories; while topping the charts numerous times with singles, features, and albums, they have become an integral part of the Culture. Pun intended.
The roster deepens with Rich Homie Quan and Zaytoven, showing the propensity of Motown’s expansion in the South and influence within the Atlanta hip-hop scene. Rapper Chaz French represents an eastern approach, using his place in hip-hop to give other DMV artists a platform in the genre.
Motown will never forget its roots in the music that forever changed the sound of young America. However, this new generation means a new sound, and the future looks very bright to make the same impact as it did 60 years ago.