Since its inception, Hip-Hop music has been mostly seen as a young man’s game.
The majority of the legends in rap reached major success in their middle to late teens. LL Cool J, Nas, Lil Wayne, Rakim and others were breakout stars while most us were stressing for a prom date. They all represented a new wave to follow.
Emcees like Jay Z, Chuck D, and Eminem are the exception as they saw success in their 20’s,although most assumed they were younger than they actually were.
Hip-Hop is 44 years strong now, and for what felt like an eternity, the common rule was “out with the old, in with the new.” A whole generation of pioneers were left in the dust once Rakim up’d the lyricism bar.
Before Eric B and Rakim’s classic debut, Paid in Full, rappers who flowed like Kurtis Blow ruled the Hip-Hop world. It was all about having fun and moving the crowd. True masters of ceremony they were. With an influx of emcees like Big Daddy Kane, KRS One, and Kool G. Rap, diverse and varied lyricism was now the requirement.
NEW Channel! Come Subscribe to Bohemia After Dark's NEW Channel! We will be unlocking more of the music vault! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsM-iljUTTWr-Tu9-qrXEzA Nathaniel Wilson (born July 20, 1968), better known by his stage name Kool G Rap, is an American hardcore rapper from the Corona section of Queens, New York.
I can’t say this was the intention of this new generation but it became the mandate for which us fans graded them. I’m guilty as charged. I loved the Fat Boys but I didn’t want to hear them anymore after EPMD hit the scene. Growing up in Brooklyn New York as a kid in the 1980’s, the culture was always about moving forward, from rhyme skills to fashion to dancing. Rap was no different in this regard.
album Business as Usual
If there was one lyricist that seemed immune to the “old school” tag, it was LL. He managed to stay relevant through numerous eras of rap while upgrading his rhyme style and adapting to the new trends.
Sure, his fan base seemed to consist mostly of women but when it was time for him to flex lyrical his prowess , he did it with the best of them. Who else went from battling Kool Moe Dee in the ‘80s to sparring with Canibus in the ‘90s, and then trading jabs with Jay-Z in the early 2000s?
Uncle L is the exception to the rule. But soon, he too would be looked at as old news.
The rise of Death Row Records and East Coast rappers like Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and The Notorious B.I.G would usher in a new flavor of Hip-Hop music. While legends like Run DMC continued to put out new albums, the audience had already moved on for the most part.
To their credit, Run DMC did find success with the Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth assisted “Down With the King”, but it didn’t do much to keep them in the conversation of top emcees.
Down With the King ©1993 Profile Records
You can already see the common thread here. New emcees, a couple of hot albums, and then bring on the new wave.
Fast forward a couple of years and that dynamic has changed slightly. Those late ‘70s/ early ‘80s artists had to either find a new hustle or struggle to be heard with new material that would never measure up to their earlier records. Why is this?
The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen continue to pack stadiums with loyal fans. Their legacy is adored and respected, no matter how old they get. Their fans show it by continuing to support their old and new material.
That same love doesn’t resonate for Hip-Hop fans. I’ve seen advertisements for shows in smaller venues that carry more than one Hip-Hop legend on the marquee. Could Rakim pack The Apollo today off of the strength of his latest album? Not without a guarantee he’d perform all of his classic music.
Music video by Eric B. & Rakim performing Juice (Know The Ledge). (C) 1992 Geffen Records
I believe this is a U.S. issue. Overseas, they tend to cherish these legends way more than we do. When Kool G. Rap returns to the game with a new album in 2017, fans of his past releases balk at the thought.
Most aren’t even aware that some of these artists are still making music. It’s almost if the common thought is, “Why would he continue to make music?” Rapping seems to be universally recognized as a phase that you go through as a youth until you mature.
My homie Kil said it best, “If he was a poet or actor, no one would care about his age.”
I guess the “old-head” rapper tag is meant for emcees not named Nas or Jay -Z. They both continue to garner high anticipation for new music. This comes from older and younger generations. Why them and not somebody like Mc Eiht?
I don’t pretend to have the all of the answers, but maybe times are changing. A Tribe Called Quest dropped a new album after 18 years away from the game and the hype was unavoidable.
"We got it from Here...
Do older emcee have to compromise their legacy and collaborate with the younger generation? Does the younger generation need to reach out and connect their young fan base with the legends? Not necessarily.
I think we need to remove the stigma of an older, seasoned rapper being a washed up rapper. They are artists, ones who express their opinions through poetry, storytelling, and wit. If the message resonates with you, why would you care about the makeup of the messenger?
There is absolutely no reason why we can’t continue to support our legends. 44 years of this Hip-Hop thing and we have allowed corporate to dictate what the culture is on a global scale.
“Give them flowers while they can still smell em.” -Kanye West
It’s time we reclaim the culture we created, and honor those that made Hip-Hop the global force it is today.