Parents just don’t understand

A while back, I wrote that the generation gap is disappearing, as evidenced by the fact that a lot of grown folks don’t look/act/live like grownups. But it looks like I may have spoke too soon. As it turns out, the generation gap within hip-hop is becoming more and more pronounced—in spite of the fact that loads of 40-year-old dudes are running around in the same kicks as their 14-year-old sons.

The thing is, while it may be technically true that for the first time in music history, Pops and Junior are getting down to the same genre of music—in actuality the hip-hop that the young guns worship is a universe away from the hip-hop that the 30-plus crowd revere. [1]

In a Wall Street Journal article this weekend, John Jurgensen argues that a nostalgia movement is taking place in hip-hop [2]—giving birth to a marketing niche called Classic Rap. He points to recent tours from Snoop, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy, and comeback records from the likes of Reverend Run and DMC. Jurgensen interviews the president of Koch Records, who has this to say: “There’s no reason guys like these can’t have careers like rockers from the ’60s. We’re going to tap into this base … a fan base that’s 35 to 40 years old with two kids.” Which is something that the president of Koch would say.

Jurgensen also interviews DMC, who justifies his comeback with this nugget: “I thought about all the people my age who don’t want to hear the rap that’s on the radio. I can relate to John Fogerty more than I can relate to these rap guys now.”

I don’t think DMC is alone on this. [3] The 60s and 70s babies are royally pissed about trap music, snap music, radio hip-pop, and crunk—and they want their damn hip-hop back. [4]

I hate to say it, but this nostalgia “movement” is destined to fail. Let’s be honest. Like it or not, the 80s babies’ tastes are driving the industry right now. As Ed Lover said when he was interviewed for the piece: “Hip-hop is a young man’s game. Kids don’t want to hear a 40-year-old rapper.”

I think this is pretty much true. What do you all think?


[1] With the exception of 20-year-old, holier-than-thou, white suburban backpack rap fans—who rigidly adhere to the Cult of the Old School. But my guess is that their folks aren’t listening to hip-hop anyway.

[2] When he’s not revealing his ignorance of hip-hop, that is. His Hip-Hop 101 list, for starters, has some bizarre choices for Top 10 Records That Define the Genre. Take Missy Elliott. (While she is dope, she certainly doesn’t make the Top 10 cut. Methinks she was included cause someone’s editor noticed that there were no females on the list. This suspicion is confirmed by the fact that she’s described as “one of the genre’s most dominant female artists”). Also, Jurgensen states: “To the urban youths buying up releases from newer artists like 50 Cent and Nelly, the relatively tame music from rap’s golden age can sound positively square.” How is anyone going to describe P.E. and N.W.A. as “relatively tame” and “positively square”?

[3] This doesn’t mean that anyone is going to buy his album, mind you.

[4] I’m not even going to get into how futile it is to judge new hip-hop by old standards. The point has already been made. Well. 

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  • Zilla

    What kills me is that NO ONE thus far has been able to market “catalogue” hip hop to old heads on a consistent basis. Sure you can the Rhino Records release “Best of YO MTV! Raps” at Best Buy, but it ends there. In Philly alone, there are 3 classic rock stations. Why are there no classic hip hop stations? Who wouldn’t listen to that if they are older than 25 and grew up on Big Daddy Kane, Cube and Whodini? “Old” hip hop fans almost always turn off 50 Cent and tune back into new or classic R&B–it’s safer, nostalgic music made for and by grown folks. Why are the Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin and Jimi Hendrix still popular to today’s youth? Because there’s a radio format that pumps them everyday; their parents can lean them in that direction easily as they can to Green Day and Nickelback and My Chemical Romance. It’s a shared experience. Hip hop has always been us vs. them, new vs. old. Plus, with no venues or formats to support older hip hop stars, they are prone to be picked on by people like Nelly (ala KRS-One). “You like 40, derrty!” We’re all getting older, we all have records from 10 years ago we still love, why not tap into that?

  • mod

    co-sign. a 40 year old rapper says to me: “i still haven’t moved enough units.”
    the game right now is a little on the slow tip, we got old acts coming out, not delivering how they were 5-10 years ago, and everyone gets their panties in a bunch over that shit. shit like laffy taffy and rompe is killing it right now and that’s because rap can’t come with anything stronger than that.

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    There is no parallel relationship between classic rock and classic hip-hop, and no market for clasic hip-hop.

    The most popular hip-hop careers last no longer than a decade (with the exception of Mr. Smith). whereas classic rockers like the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith have had careers spanning over 4 decades, giving these classic stations 100s of albums to spin.

    Also, families where parents “raise” their children on classic rock are far more common than those who “raise” them on hip-hop, resulting in a much broader market for classic rock stations to thrive.

    (Of the approx 70% of hip-hop album consumers whom are white, how many do you think were “raised” on hip-hop?)

    As Jurgensen briefly touched upon, hip-hop simply doesn’t have a large catalogue, be it albums that are still selling, or albums that are classic albums, as does classic rock.

  • d rock

    i was thinkin about this the other day yea i feel you i dont think the market is big enough for a classic hip hop station. maybe in about 10 or 15 years when all the 80′s babies who grew up in the golden age of hip hop with biggie, nas, jay-z, dmx etc. get old but not right now.

  • khal

    the thing is, we need someone within the system who knows that the deal is. most of the “classic rap” discs I have heard have been hit or miss in terms of selection. Plus, not too many of those guys have a full CDs worth of “hits”… save for a few, and they are still relevant now (LL Cool J for example — if he did a greatest hits today, it’d span from the 80s to now, based on hit singles alone)… most of the old heads have maybe 3 or 4 BONAFIDE hits, the rest is filler/fodder — Sugarhill Gang was a one hit wonder, you feel me? I think more of these older crews just don’t have the singles to drive an entire concert — save for Run DMC and a handful of others. Most are remembered for their flash and burn. sad to say.

    I don’t see this working, unless they can pull something off where a gang of solid hits are compiled. And with the way so many labels jerked those old school cats, that’s a hard thing to do.

  • B.

    You know what,I been thinking about this for years now. I can officially say my peer group (over 24 years old) have taken our parents’ place. We are the ones complaining about the state of the music we used to love. Right now, there is very little out that moves me. I listen to what i call Golden Era 2 (92-96), old R&B, and somewhat underground Hip-Hop. It is very sad when I think about it. I want to say it is bad for the growth of Hip Hop. But, this young generation might feel that the current state, that I like to think of as the “Trap Era”, is the best thing since sliced bread. Every stage that Hip Hop has hit, although I might not have preferred it, was a growth for this thing we love so much. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am not wealthy. And,I probably never will be. That being the case, a lot of people like me, take this thing we relate so much to and want to claim ownership of. It is like watching a child/cousin/girl/friend (if I may use the “I Used To Love H.E.R.” theory) that you grew up with. For me, Hip Hop was already established, but this was by the people I like to think of as the Backbone of Hip Hop (Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Rakim, KRS-One, Slick Rick, Kool G. Rap, EPMD, NWA, MC Lyte,de la soul, etc.) I started to fall in love with Hip Hop around 1992. Actually, I will say it was the summer of 1992. I remember “They Want EFX”, “Nuthin But a G Thang”,”Scenario”, “Rump Shaker”, “Slam/Throw Ya Guns”, “T.R.O.Y.” and ,one of my all-time favorites, “Passin Me By”. And, the following years just had me sprung: “Who Got The Props”, “G’z & Hustlas”, “I Got 5 On It” remix, “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Lyrics To Go”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, “Mass Appeal”, “Chief Rocka”, “I Used To Love Her”, “Comin Out Hard”, “Life’s A Bitch”, “Come Clean”, “93 Til Infinity”, “You Got Me, “Verbal Intercourse”, “Punks Jump Up…”, “Get Lifted”, “Playaz Ball”, etc. All of these were classics and I didn’t even have to have BIG or Jay-Z on there. I want to say Hip Hop died when 50 Cent decided he was going to crush Ja Rule, then basically become him. But, I can start earlier with the “Bling Era” (I’m looking at you Cash Money and Puff Daddy). My beef is not because that the younger artists aren’t making the kind of music I liked 10 years ago. Being that I do LOVE Hip Hop, I give everything a chance. This current wave of what have you is just str8 garbage to me. I am of course speaking of the “Mainstream” artists. Your T.I.s, Lil Wayne, Cam’ron, Young Jeezy, D4L, Bow Wow, Mike Jones, Yin Yang Twins, the entire roster of G-Unit, and Fat Joe. Before I get my replys, I am from NYC. But, I lived half my life in Georgia. I have nothing against Southern Hip Hop. I have everything against garbage music. T.I., this kid is the truth. It will be argued that Lil Wayne is also. But, Young Jeezy, he might have had the best marketing team for the least talented rapper I have ever heard. His flow is so fucking lazy. But, duke was blessed with the third best produced album (Late Registration & Be are first and second). I bought his album. My problem is he is brought up,when the argument is made for this current crop of MC’s. That is str8 craziness. Let me get off the South. Now you have my birthplace: NYC. There is the new campaign for “Bringing Back NY”. Niggaz is real adamant with this. Granted, “New York Shit” by Busta is fucking bananas. But,who else screaming Bring NY back, has dropped a gem on us? Saigon, Papoose, Tru-Life, Jae Millz, Jae Hood, Grafh, Gravy, Corey Gunz, etc. All of these cats, with the exception of Saigon, will drop a dud. And, that is even if their album comes out. Otherwise, the rest of them are the same rapper. Same thing with the South (not all of it), most of their topics are the same. Ain’t nobody saying $hit anymore. WTF is really good? There is flicker of hope with Ye (but he rides his own dick so damn hard). There has been no album that I anticipated and was satisfied on the same par as “Illmatic”, “only Built for Cuban Linx”, Dah Shining”, “Enta Da Stage”, “Midnight Marauders”, etc. The only one I see that might have that “Glow” (You have to be real Old School to know that reference) is Lupe Fiasco. I think son will be the truth. I am putting his anticipation (and from what I heard so far) on the same level as Nasty Nas first foray into the game. Ya’ll have to be aware that at that time, Hip Hop wasn’t mainstream and, selling platinum albums wasn’t the bar. Selling Gold albums was. And at the time, Semi-underground groups were in the front with the Commercial ones. If Lupe Fiasco delivers, if ya’ll embrace Joe Budden and Killer Mike like they need to be embraced, and if G-Unit, Dipset, & snap music fall off the face of the earth. Ya’ll might be okay then. I know I am in heavy hater-mode, but I been reading Bol’s articles and I agree with duke for the most part (except calling other black folks Jigs, but then again we call each other N*ggas. So,whats the fuss, right???)

  • Mrs Damian Marley

    very much on point

  • Incilin

    One of the most anticipated albums to come out next year (hopefully) will be released by a man in well over 40. Dr. Dre’s Detox. We all want to hear it, old and young.

  • allnice

    Man, you are on a role with good posts lately. I think that the Classic Rap movement is going to make a comeback because population wise, there are more 30-40 year old cats who love the old stuff than teenagers. Maybe if the population was rising you could say classic rap is on its way out, but the 80s babies number far less than their elders. Older rappers like Ice Cube and Dre continue to stick around and sell more records than most of the young guys. Even a guy like 50 Cent has connections to Run DMC through Jam Master Jay, which enforces his credibility with the old school heads.

    Hip hop right now is in an old head renaissance because all of the baby boomers are retiring soon and their sons/daughters are next in line. You noticed how Missy switched her whole style to classic, Andre 3000 is singing old soul, Ceelo is doing that same old soul music, Kanye West makes old soul beats for Jay-Z, etc. This is not some coincidence. The new type rappers are barely even going gold despite their enormous popularity among the youth. It is only a matter of time before all the old heads come back for an encore….

  • Urbonics Exec

    As Ed Lover said when he was interviewed for the piece: “Hip-hop is a young man’s game. Kids don’t want to hear a 40-year-old rapper.”

    The irony here is that eventually some radio exec will realize that kids dont want to hear a 40-year old DJ, either.

  • john

    To the guy who made the point of “how do you say that NWA and PE sound square”. I dont think that he was referring to the golden age of gangsta rap. Rap’s golden age was already over for most by the time that gangsta rap came along. An 80s babie would make a comment like the one he made, so who is really showing their ignorance here? hmmmm?
    Btw..not trying to attack you, but merely pointing out that you are attacking someone else for allegedly being ignorant by attacking them with your own ignorance. My 2 cents worth.

  • myrna

    great column.

  • Blaq Thought

    I get angry whenever I see someone say they wish they could bring the old Hip Hop back. There is some very good music out there you just have to look harder now since there are not that many independent labels. I don’t hate on snap music, Diplomats or G-Unit for that matter. You have to admit that the Southern movement didn’t retard rap music starting with Laffy Taffy. I’m sick of people treating this song like the “there goes the neighborhood” song that destroyed rap music. This style of music is not new. The Southern rappers like Ying Yang Twins, Drama (the rapper not the DJ), the kids who did Nuck if You Buck and Triple Six Mafia had snaps in their shit for years. What is killing the rap game is the lack of quality. Art imitates life and right now in America, we are all falling victim to lack of quality and care. Most car fanatics like old school cars because their (a) faster? (b) look better that newer cars? or because they were made with care as if each on was special to the company or person making it. Apply this theory to rap music, those late 80′s early 90′s rap acts made albums as if they actualy cared about their song quality. Fast forward to 50 Cent, Nas, Lil Wayne, Fat Joe and Young Jeezy. They make some hot singles and sell them as albums to get the extra dollars by adding weak musical filler on their CDs. Try to think of the last CD you bought or played through from beginning to end consistantly. This is the reason the internet is looking like a better marketplace because you can sell individual downloaded songs instead of wasting studio money on album filler. Rap is outta control. Who would of though that EPMD were psychic?

  • cacapoopoo

    if anyone has a copy of 95-live by doo wop please get at me will pay money for this classic

  • big ive

    im over 40, and i had a rap cd out in 91, called ‘just what you need’, im thinking its time for me to do a 2nd cd while over 40 years old, and see what happens, since i am not world famous, i wonder how people will accept it. by the way i was 16 (1978) when sugarhill was our 1st exposure to rap in detroit, and i like todays rap as much as the beginning of commercial rap to the world back in 78 and 79, its gonna take another 20 years to really have a good look back a rap, and i can’t wait, cause i plan to be over 60 and rappin. hahehehehahahaeheh

  • big ive

    im over 40, and i had a rap cd out in 91, called ‘just what you need’, im thinking its time for me to do a 2nd cd while over 40 years old, and see what happens, since i am not world famous, i wonder how people will accept it. by the way i was 16 (1978) when sugarhill was our 1st exposure to rap in detroit, and i like todays rap as much as the beginning of commercial rap to the world back in 78 and 79, its gonna take another 20 years to really have a good look back a rap, and i can’t wait, cause i plan to be over 60 and rappin. hahehehehahahaeheh