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Craving a Different Kind of Buzz: How Music Has Evolved Over the Last 15 Years

Music has undergone a massive transformation since Consequence's birth in 2007 -- here's a quick tour

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how music has changed
Illustration by Steven Fiche

    It’s Consequence’s 15th anniversary, and all September long we’ll be publishing a series of retrospective pieces encompassing our publication’s own history — and the entertainment landscape in general. Today, we’re examining the ways in which music has changed since Consequence‘s start in 2007.

    Like this essay? Check out our ranking of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, and then snag some of our “Legends” merch (posters, T-shirts, and tote bags) at the Consequence Shop.


    Back in 2007, when Consequence was born, the site offered a personalized approach to music outside of the typical structure of entertainment blogging. The mission was to combine a penchant for the underground and independent with the undying fervor for mainstream music. Fifteen years later, that mission isn’t as black and white as it once was, because the lines between “underground” and “mainstream” have been blurred and redrawn over and over again. And yet, as music has shifted and boundaries changed, Consequence has continued to find ways to reassess how those changes have impacted music and the industry as a whole.

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    And boy, has music changed since the early days of Consequence. Since we started, we’ve experienced massive trends that have changed the tides of music forever, we’ve lived through significant political eras that deeply impacted our culture, our own consumption of music has transformed, and our tastes and needs as fans have adjusted. Whether or not those changes are “good” or “bad” is up to the consumer, but one thing is for certain: Music has expanded, in every sense of the word, to be more inclusive, diverse, and specific, and less restricted, inhibited, and rules-driven.

    Perhaps the biggest shift in terms of actual sonics and melodies over the last 15 years is evident in the explosion and embracing of one genre: hip-hop. During the birth of hip-hop in the ’80s to its subsequent evolution in the ’90s and ’00s, this was a tradition of Black art that was just becoming inseparably tied to Western culture at large, but now, it’s completely dominated — and predicted — the conversation. Hip-hop no longer exists as a sectioned off genre, divorced from the stylings of pop and rock; it is pop and rock, because its dominance is so undeniable that it becomes a go-to move for artists and producers alike.

    This is not to say that every pop star is rapping now (though many, many do), or that every rock musician is spitting rhymes about the hardships of street life (see: Machine Gun Kelly) — it’s a testament to hip-hop’s global ethos and the way our culture has become more aware of and enthusiastic about the intricacies of Black art. As streaming came to dominate the way we consumed music in the mid 2010s, hip-hop became the most listened to genre in the United States, and eventually, the globe.

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    But where exactly did hip-hop’s undisputed reign begin, and where does it live in the music we hear today? For starters, there were quite a few pre-2007 pioneers that entirely reimagined popular music’s scope. Perhaps one of the most prescient choices was T-Pain’s insistence on using Auto-Tuned vocals. Inspired by dominating ’90s producer Teddy Riley and funk musician Roger Troutman’s use of the “talk-box,” T-Pain saw the aesthetic potential of pitch-corrected vocals to create a futuristic sheen, and his use of Auto-Tune became an instantly recognizable trait.

    The general public may have criticized T-Pain’s almost impersonal use of the technology at the time, but nearly 20 years later, it’s one of the most significant contributions made to popular music, and T-Pain deserves the credit for seeing artistic value in Auto-Tune’s digitized expression.

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