Mere hours after the arrival of “Heart on My Sleeve,” the AI-generated “Drake” song that went viral last spring, the doomsday projections began pouring in. Most centered on the relationship between artificial intelligence and music, including reflections on copyright, creative license, and the definition of original art.
The main reason the song generated so much buzz is that Drake is one of the world’s most popular musicians. But part of what gave us pause is that hip hop—which celebrates its 50th birthday this week—is driven by a spontaneity that feels as authentically human as anything humans have ever come up with. That is, rap is a unique form of human language, and if AI can mimic that, maybe nothing is safe.
If the future is already here, then the impacts of generative AI will be even greater in the next decades, especially when it comes to hip hop. In fact, AI will change the way all art is practiced, sold, and appreciated. But technology might also provide novel opportunities for exploration, expansion, and even inclusion. Here we use fictional scenarios to communicate our visions for what hip hop might look like in August 2073.
…IN THESE FICTIONAL anecdotes, we depict a single universe out of many possible universes, one in which AI profoundly influences everything about the way music is made. But we also observe that AI need not spell the end of the human creative process, but could rather offer new modes of creation and new challenges for how artists are perceived (and compensated).