"My oh my things ain't what they used to be." -Big Daddy Kane, "Lean On Me (Remix)"
"There's a lot of prejudice in the business and a lot of people think it's Black and White, but a lot of it is, young and old." -Suge Knight, 2001
I know I've talked about this subject on the blog before, but after a barbershop visit yesterday (10/15/16 to be exact), I had to come back with something, plus I haven't ranted on the blog in a while, lol. So, before I get to breaking things down in terms of the topics at hand, a little (recent) backstory shall we. When my son and I were at the barbershop, I happened to walk in on a hip hop related discussion, between my barber, a father and one of his two sons who had to have been either 15 or 16 (I didn't catch their names). The father was making the case of hip hop being much different (and better) back in the day, making a lot of valid points that I agreed with of course. The son tried his best to defend today's hip hop landscape, even sort of dismissing the "back in the day" points as "simply being old." I didn't jump in like I wanted to, mainly because the father kept countering everything his son said with continuous valid points, to a point where each time out, the discussion would end with his son laughing and shaking his head because he had no comeback(s). Furthermore, another guy came into the shop with his family, and once he got into the discussion, he agreed with the father, and in a hilarious moment, he summed up everything wrong with the majority of hip hop flooding radio and TV today: he stood up and did his version/impression of what apparently is now called "mumble rap", and while it was funny as hell, it made NO sense and just further cemented why hip hop has been completely dumbed down for the last several years (I could do nothing but clap at what this man did, lol, because it spoke volumes). There also was a point when the son kept listing off names of, uh, rappers who NO ONE had heard of, and my God you should've heard some of these terrible sounding names. And trust me, I'll have more to say about, uh, "mumble rap" throughout the rest of this post. So, once my son and I left the barbershop, the thought came to me that I should talk about this a little more in depth on my blog, and that's where this post comes in.
THE AGE FACTOR (REVISITED)
This to day, I have no idea where the notion of hip hop being a "young's man game" came into play, but it's a notion that I strongly disagree with. Hip hop is not like the NBA for example, where you have a respectable influx of talented athletes ready to step in and make their marks, but on the other hand, you have other seasoned veterans who will step aside, i.e. retire, because even they recognize the changing of the guard and they can no longer keep up with the new athletes on the scene. Any passionate NBA (or sports fan in general) would be the first to understand and back this up for obvious reasons and this should not be compared to hip hop in any form because it's two totally different things. Allow me to use two KEY examples, bias aside. Let's start with Nas. My #1 favorite MC of all time is 43, however, if he were to release an album tomorrow (or for the sake of an argument, Friday), not only would it instantly be the BEST album out at that moment, but he'll also continue to show that even as he gets older, he continues to get better in the process, and most importantly still showing that he's damn good at his job. The second example is Masta Ace. This man turns 50 on December 4, 2016, and even though he's been putting work in since '88, on somewhat of a smaller scale than Nas, once he dropped "Disposable Arts" in 2001, not only did he age well, but his skills on the mic sharpened and he strengthened his creativity to a point that every album he's put out since has been a "concept album" in nature, none under 4 stars with the exception of ONE and that was likely the eMC album, "The Tonite Show." The point I'm making is far more than age being nothing but a number, but when it comes to music, which obviously is a different ballgame, no pun intended, than sports, definitely less physical, as long as you put out quality material and your loyal fans like what you do, age should never be the issue. Also, who are we to say, "well, such and such is __ years old, he shouldn't be talking about that at his age, he should talk about something else." Um, newsflash, as ADULTS, grown ass men and women, artists have the right to talk about whatever he/she wishes, after all we still do have the freedom of speech right?
You know, with hindsight being 20/20, I REALLY feel that the entire premise of "young & old" came into play during the KRS-One/Nelly beef back in 2002. The previous year, Nelly dropped a song called "#1" (I'm sure most of you reading this has heard it) and in this song, which wasn't terrible but not great either, he seemingly threw a shot at KRS with the following lines:
"Ayo I'm tired of people judgin' what's real hip hop/Half the time it be you niggas who fuckin album flop/You know, boat done sank and it ain't left the dock/Come on, mad cause I'm hot, HE JUST, mad cause he not!"
Ok, with such lines like that, who wouldn't respond and if this was '82 or '92, KRS still would've responded and the results likely would've been different. Now, KRS did clap back with "Ova Here", which would've buried Nelly's career in any other year, but at this point things were changing overall. As mentioned by hip hop historian Davey D, we had a new generation coming up, being conditioned by certain record executives as to what they perceive hip hop should be and sound like, as well as being conditioned to not even care who someone like KRS-One is, essentially looking at you as if you're nobody. Needless to say, even when KRS suggested a boycott of Nelly's "Nellyville" album, that didn't matter one bit, as said album was one of the highest selling in 2002, but all in all this was not about sales. KRS' response was justified, but then you had some ridiculously trying to spin it like KRS was some bitter old man attacking the innocent Nelly, which was FURTHER from the truth. And realistically speaking, was Nelly the best that hip hop had to offer at this point? Sure, he sold a lot of records, no one is taking that from him, but was he really on the level of the likes of Jay-Z, Eminem, (the former two can also claim massive album sales) and even KRS in a LYRICAL aspect? No he wasn't and I respectively dare anyone to say that he ever was. If you ever want to see when the actual "young & old" argument was exacerbated so to speak, look no further than this KRS/Nelly beef.
Even as 2016 marches on and we head into 2017, I've never seen such a generation gap in hip hop like I have for the last few years. Listen, I'm not asking for the artists who came up in the 80s and 90s to be worshiped like Gods all the time, but at the very least you should have some sense of perspective and respect for the architects of hip hop history. What bothers me a lot is when today's generation (and for the record when I say "today's generation", I'm speaking in terms of the 15-25 age range) would really try to act like the majority of what's popular today JUST started, as if the 80s and 90s didn't happen, then in the process would dismiss said decades as "oh that's that old stuff." Give me a break. Speaking of the 90s, when a lot of the artists of the day were making a name for themselves, they didn't dismiss Run-DMC, N.W.A., Rakim, Kane, Public Enemy, KRS, Kool G Rap, Kurtis Blow, Sugarhill Gang, MC Lyte, (I mean this list goes on and on) as being unimportant or irrelevant. Mad props and respect were given because if those artists and everyone else from the 80s didn't contribute they way they did, we wouldn't be having this discussion today, Then again, you'll find some youngster who'll literally try to defend the "popular" artists we hear today as if they're the second coming of Rakim or something, and at worst treat the situation like hip hop is totally something new, just sprung out of the thin air. And "mumble rap?" Ok, smh, when did this exactly become the "in-thing" and who in their right mind can defend this as something even remotely "good???" Having a nice beat is one thing, but it still saddens me to see that lyrics don't matter to some, whereas back in the day, if you couldn't cut it on the mic, your rap card would be pulled (the lack of skills was definitely not tolerated, but within the last few years, it's become so acceptable to the point that it's downright sad). Overall I have no issues with our youngsters, I don't, but the least you can do is show respect for those that paved the way and not dismiss it like it doesn't matter. That's all I'm saying.
The bottom line here is that hip hop should not be determined by age. I don't care if you're 23, 43, 53 or 73, if you still got it on the mic and can put out quality music, that's what counts. Another example, one of my favorite actors is Denzel Washington and he turns 61 in December. Should he "step aside" because he'll be 61, even though he's STILL one of the best actors in the world? Absolutely not. Whoever said (and still says) that "hip hop is a young man's game" needs a reality check, seriously. That's all I have to say in this case, thanks for reading!