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Hip-hop is a young man’s game no more. Gone are the days when MCs fresh off their Similac diet ridiculed their elders for supposedly being over the hill in age and rhyme skills. Rather than fade into obscurity, rappers have used middle age to reinvent themselves into independent powerhouses. They’ve also found success in performing their classic works from the 1990s as mentioned in XXL’s Veterans Day article in the October 2011 issue. XXL takes a look at 40 rappers that are either pushing 40, or have already reached the milestone and are still going strong.—XXL Staff

Nas

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Age: 38
Though still two years removed from the big 4-0, Nas first entered the game 20 years ago via his scene-stealing guest verse on Main Source’s “Live At the Barbecue.” Two decades and nine solo albums later, the Queensbridge lyricist is still considered Top 5, dead or alive. His 10th solo LP, Life Is Good, is scheduled for an early 2012 release.

Bun B

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Age: 38
Uncle Bun remains a sought after guest rapper well over 20 years after UGK began its influential journey in the late ‘80s. With Pimp C gone, the underground king continues to hold it down on the solo tip. His third solo effort, Trill OG, was released to rave reviews last year. His fourth disc, Keep It Trill IVEver, should hit stores next year.

Eminem

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Age: 38
Hip-hop is a young man’s game? The biggest rapper on the planet is almost 40. Em’s four-times platinum album, Recover is still on the Billboard 200 and Bad Meets Evil’s Hell: The Sequel with Royce Da 5’ 9”—released in June of this year— has sold over 500, 000 copies. Those are numbers to strive for, youngbloods.

Common

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Age: 39
Common may have a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card now (and is now also an author), but hip-hop still claims him. He recently released a single, “Ghetto Dreams” with Nas and his ninth LP, The Dreamer, The Believer is slated to hit stores November 22, 2011.

Black Thought

Black Thought

Age: 39
The Roots front man can still rhyme rappers under the table at 39. Thought ably juggles his nightly obligations on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, random spots dates and recording. The Roots released the Grammy Award-winning Wake Up! with John Legend last year and there’s been talk of a new record titled, Undun in the near future.

Sean Price

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Age: 39
Sean Price (P!) gets better with age. The incomparable Brooklyn MC teamed up with Black Milk and Guilty Simpson to release their well-received Random Axe project in June of this year. Price’s highly anticipated, Mic Tyson, should hit stores in late 2011 or early 2012.

Busta Rhymes

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Age: 39
It’s hard to believe that Bussa Buss recorded his legendary star-making verse on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” almost 20 years ago. Spitting after the Dungeon Dragon is still practically an impossible task today as evidenced on Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” and Tech N9ne’s “Worldwide Choppers.” Rumor has it that Bus’s next project will be E.L.E. II—a sequel to his 1998 album, E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front.

Snoop Dogg

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Age: 39
Snoop Dogg has gone from being one of America’s most wanted to coaching peewee football leagues and appearing on muppet shows, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the Doggfather’s work ethic in the studio. The Long Beach legend released his 11th album, The Doggumentary, in March 2011.

Tech N9ne

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Age: 39
There’s been a change in Tech N9ne’s lane since Lil Wayne shouted his name. After years of being the top independent rapper in the world, Tech reached major heights when his All 6’s and 7’s debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 charts—selling 55, 000 units in its first week. The Kansas City chopper is currently finishing up an 85-city tour and will be releasing Welcome to Strangeland—a collection of Tech collaborations—on his 40th birthday, November 8.

Q-Tip

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Age: 40
Tip’x yet another MC who’s hitting milestones in 2011, and is still going. A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory will be celebrating 20 years this weekend (September 24). The Abstract recently contributed production to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne and is rumored to be prepping an LP, The Last Zulu, for 2012.

Missy Elliot

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Fat Joe

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Age: 41
Joey Crack hasn’t skipped a beat through his respectable 18-year career. The Bronx representative dropped the well-received The Darkside, Vol. 1 last year and is working on dropping his 11th album in the near future.

Lil Jon

Lil Jon

Age: 40
Lil Jon’s not a rapper per se, but he still has one gold and two double platinum plaques on his wall. After being delayed for nearly six years, his solo debut, Crunk Rock was finally released in June of last year. Fresh off a standout turn on Donald Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Jon is working on his next LP, Party Animal.

Scarface

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Age: 40
Scarface just can’t stay away. After threatening to retire after Made in 2007, he followed up with Emeritus in 2008 and Dopeman Music in 2010. Now that he’s free after spending months in lock up for not paying his child support, it’s probably a matter of time before Face Mob announces his next record.

Warren G

Warren-G

Age: 40 The Regulator’s yet another MC who’s poised to experience a resurgence by dropping a sequel a decade-plus after the original’s release date. Warren G is working on dropping Regulate… G Funk Era Pt 2 in 2012. Mount up.

DMX

DMX

Age: 40 Fresh out of jail DMX plans on resuming his chart-topping ways with some new music soon. He’s recently collaborated with Busta Rhymes (“Otis” Freestyle) and N.O.R.E. (“Electrolytes (Remix))” and is prepping his new album, Redemption of the Beast, for release before year’s end.

Wyclef Jean

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Age: 41
His ambitions have deviated from a music a bit in recent years, but ‘Clef is always up to pick up his guitar and drop his brand of eclectic hip-hop. The former Fugee released If I Were President: The Haitian Experience—a project in support of his presidential hopes in Haiti—last year; and is prepping a self-titled debut that should impact before year’s end or early next year.

MF DOOM

MF Doom

Age: 40 The artist formerly known as Zev Love X has become an underground God in the last decade. Though he’s taken a step back from his exhausting release schedule in the past two calendars, DOOM has a highly anticipated collaboration with Ghostface, as well as a proper Madvillainy sequel, in the works.

Method Man

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Age: 40 Mr. Meth lives on stage these days, but he’s still pretty active in the booth as well. After touring with Wu-Tang Clan, he and Redman are cooking up Blackout! 3 as well as his fifth solo album, Crystal Meth, for late 2011 and 2012 releases, respectively.

Diddy

Diddy

Age: 41
The Puffster’s always been more of a businessman, but aligning himself with the likes of Rick Ross seems to have rejuvenated his reciting skills. Last year, he offered his best verse since “It’s All About the Benjamins” (13 years later) on Waka Flocka Flame’s “O’ Let’s Do It (Remix).” Though his mogul hat is back on with the recent signing of Machine Gun Kelly, his union with Rozay (Bugatti Boyz) should produce a release soon.

WC

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Age: 41 The Compton rapper is one of many veterans who is embracing the independent grind after years in the major label system. The rap OG’s fourth solo album, Revenge of the Barracuda, dropped just last year.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z

Age: 41 The God MC’s been breaking new ground for middle-aged MCs since “returning” to rap with his 2006 album, Kingdome Come. Hov is arguably bigger than ever 15 years after releasing his classic debut, Reasonable Doubt. Fresh off a successful joint LP, Watch the Throne, with Kanye West, Jigga Man shows no signs of slowing down. There are already talks of Jay releasing his 12th solo LP in 2012.

Baby Bash

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Age: 41
This Vallejo, California rapper has been consistently dropping albums since 2001. Now 41, Bash is still in the promotional cycle of his March release—Bashtown—on Universal.

DJ Quik

DJ Quik

Age: 41
Quick released his 8th solo album, The Book of David, on April 19, 2011. Just as renowned, if not more, for his production, the Compton representer still contributes production to acts like Game and Nick Cannon, to name a few.

Redman

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Age: 41 The Funk Doc is still rocking the spot into his 40s. The Brick City lyricist is prepping the release of Blackout! 3 with his partner-in-rhyme, Method Man, later this year and a sequel to his 1996 fan-favorite, Muddy Waters 2, for next year.

B-Real

B-Real

Age: 41
Cypress Hill were always touring extensively during their heyday and now that group members B-Real, Sen Dog and DJ Muggs, have reached middle age, they are probably performing more than ever. B-Real was just prominently seen in VH1’s Planet Rock documentary.

Raekwon

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Age: 41
The Chef has become more active leading up to his 40s. After a six-year hiatus, he released the critically-acclaimed Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II—the sequel to his seminal debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…—at the age of 39. Rae also scored momentous guest appearances on Justin Bieber’s “Runaway Love (Remix)” and Kanye West’s “Gorgeous” last year. He also dropped Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang earlier this year and has been touring across the US and overseas.

Ghostface Killah

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Age: 41
Like his brother from another mother, Raekwon, Tone Starks still commands big bucks for his stage show. One of the most consistent MCs of all time, Ghost Deini will be adding to his superb catalog next year when Supreme Clientele Presents: Blue & Cream: The Wally Era, hits stores.

Ice Cube

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Age: 42
Cube hasn’t left hip-hop completely behind. For years now, the South Central, Los Angeles legend has juggled movie roles with LP released. He dropped his ninth album, I Am the West last year and toured overseas to support the record this year.

Birdman

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Age: 42 Birdman doesn’t consider himself a rapper, but he sure drops albums like one. The 5-Star Stunna’s been featured on a healthy number of records in preparation for his fifth solo LP, Bigger Than Life.

De La Soul

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Age: Posdnuos (42), Dave (43) Posdnuos (42)
Though they haven’t released a studio album since 2004’s The Grind Date, Dave and Pos have been busy on the touring circuit— including appearances at Rock the Bells—the past few years. They’re presently working on the long delayed third installment of Art Official Intelligence.

Black Rob

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Age: 43
After years on Bad Boy, Bacardi Rob has transitioned into the independent grind. He released his third album, Game Tested, Streets Approved on Duck Down in July of this year.

E-40

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Age: 43
Fonzarelli is arguably more prolific in his middle age. He kicked off his Revenue Retrievin’ series in 2010 and has dropped four installments—two per year—since then. He’s also been touring at length, including a trek with the relentless Tech N9ne. 40 Water is also working on the release of The History Channel with fellow Bay Area legend Too $hort.

Kool G. Rap

Kool G. Rap

Age: 43
The legendary lyricist has been vocal about his disappointment with the younger generation’s lack of verbal skills, but some are still G. Rap-approved. The drug rap pioneer is set to drop a joint album with Necro titled, The Godfathers, next year.

GZA

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Age: 45
The veteran swordsman is looking to follow his fellow Wu-Tang Clansman when he releases Liquid Swords 2: Return of the Shadowboxer next year.

Too $hort

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Age: 45
Short Dawg threatened to leave the game over 10 years ago, but quickly came back after a brief hiatus. He’s been hammering out records ever since.

Dr. Dre

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Age: 46
As mentioned in XXL’s Veteran’s Day article, the Good Doctor may be 50 years old by the time Detox finally drops. In the past year, Dre has come the closest to dropping the mythical album in 10 years when he dropped two singles—“Kush” and “I Need a Doctor”—in a four-month span.

KRS-One

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Age: 46
The Blastmaster dropped Back to the L.A.B. in 2010 and is reportedly working on Return of the Boom Bip with DJ Premier. The album should hit stores in late 2011 or early 2012.

Beastie Boys

2004 MTV Video Music Awards Latin America - Arrivals

Age:Ad-Rock (44), Mike D (45) MCA (47)
Forget 40, Beastie Boys are damn near pushing 50. Their “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” clip—a sequel of their 1987 smash hit featuring Seth Rogan, Will Ferrell and Jack Black—was one of the best visuals of the year. The still feisty trio released their eight studio album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, in April.