Rapper Q-Tip threw down the gauntlet early at this year's CMJ Music Marathon, repeating his controversial complaint from years ago, saying, "Hip-hop is dead."

"The appetite for music is bigger than it ever has been," Q-Tip said at the "Hip-Hop Renaissance" panel yesterday at NYU. "But hip-hop will never go back to the way it was. Maybe it'll morph into something else."

Vibe Editor Danyel Smith said that may not necessarily be a bad thing, since the Internet allows music lovers to hunt down new artists in ways that didn't exist before.

"There is an underground again," Smith said. "We might be at the start of something new."

And finding something new is the center of the 28th CMJ Music Marathon, a five-day convention that started yesterday that will bring more than 1,000 acts and 100,000 music fans into venues of all sorts throughout New York.

"It's the new version of crate-digging," said Chris Inglish of the hip-hop group Cool Kids, adding that on the Internet, "if you suck, then you know it that day."

Q-Tip says that kind of discovery is what made hip-hop so successful early on. "More

people were doing it for fun," he said. "There was a naiveté that people attached to it."

He said that hip-hop was co-opted "when the corporations came in and people started seeing it was making money."

But that has started to change. "I know it sounds hokey," Q-Tip said. "You have to love what you do."


The CMJ Mixtape