In Defense Of Rappers Who Just Won’t Retire

I admit, I’ve been on the side of the argument where I’m begging for some of these older rappers to give it up already. I think we’ve all been there at some point. From a critic’s standpoint, it’s pretty easy to call that shot. Like XXL’s Jesse Gissen did yesterday.

It’s obvious by now that there are a million over the hill rappers, dudes who had their run and now need to exit the game quietly. They’re too busy trying to get their Mickey Rourke on, word to The Wrestler, and need to face the reality that nobody wants to hear them rap.

Or do they?

Think about it. Kids these days don’t really know shit about anything. I’m not even saying that in an “old head” way. Reality is, a lot of the stylistic elements which make up hip-hop have been co-opted by pop and mainstream artists. And a lot of the culture’s other aspects– the fashion, the talk, the walk.. etc– has gone mainstream as well. It’s to the point where nobody really knows what’s real and what’s not, what’s authentic, what’s some made up fantasy rap, and so on. Hip-hop is just a part of our lives at this point. But note that culture is very disposable in modern times.

The older hip-hop generation, however, they didn’t grow up like that. They have different standards, and music and hip-hop culture mean something different to them. They grew up having to go to record stores to purchase music. They grew up when this culture was still transitioning into what it is today, so it’s not just some added accessory to their everyday life. Artists like Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Ice-T, Naughty By Nature, Too-Short, Cypress Hill, the Beastie Boys, Busta Rhymes, Hov… they may be over the hill, but they really mean something to people’s lives.

In New York, where we don’t have anything even resembling a relevant rap scene anymore (except for the hipster sect, basically), you go to a Wu-Tang or Slick Rick concert, and who do you see? For the most part it’s a bunch of twenty and thirty somethings. Maybe a few adventurous younger kids, cats who are really into rap and stuff. Future XXL journalists, ha!

I say all this to say, I’m 26 years old. Not old, but not getting any younger. If Cypress Hill were to retire, or Naughty By Nature, for example, who am I going to go see perform to make me jump around like a maniac and recall my more youthful days?

Soulja Boy?

I think not.

Point being, we’ve got a handful of dudes right now who make good music, and maybe two or three who make music that people really love. Then there’s a whole bunch of shitty ass rappers who need to hang themselves by a mic cord. Should we wait around for the handful of good artist to make LPs? Yes. But while we’re waiting, we fuck with other genres of music, and the great artists who did it big in the past. Like, when I was growing up I didn’t know shit about rap from the 80s, but I did my homework and embraced the acts that made that appealed to me. I think that’s what any free-thinking person with a brain would do. Perhaps not though.

We need older rappers to keep doing it, to keep making music, even if the shit don’t sell, and to keep hitting the road and performing for guys like me, who love old artists just as much as the new ones (at least the ones who are good). We’re called, fans. We may not even want to hear said rappers new music, we just want to hear their past hits, but that doesn’t mean they should stop recording.

A a perfect analogy would be, what if I told a writer, hey man, you’re too old to write. Yo Roger Ebert, you’re too old to critique movies, move the fuck over so some young dude who may not do it any better than you, but is younger, can write about movies.

Does Roger Ebert stop writing at that point?

No.

You can’t expect anyone who does something even remotely creative to just pack it in and call it a career. No rapper is just going to retire and chill with the wife and kids. A performer’s going to perform as long as there are gigs to be had. And a recording artist is going to record until their voice is gone, and their muscles no longer allow them to play their instrument.

If newer guys like Lupe and Saigon threaten retirement, it’s not because they don’t want to make rap music anymore. It’s that the whole dog and pony show that surrounds this business is enough to make anyone want to bail, especially when the business model itself is broken and it’s nearly impossible to make any money. Plus what is expected of rappers nowadays is so generic, it’s not even something that an artist can get their creative nut off doing, because they’ve got to dumb it down so much in order to please the people and the powers that be.

But overall, I wouldn’t expect anyone who claims retirement in rap to actually go through with it. Other than, ya’know, dudes who just got in the game for a quick check and that’s it. And those cats don’t retire so much as just lack the talent to sustain a career in the first place.

  • DV8

    couldnt have said it better myself

  • Big Dan

    Great post overall.

    “when I was growing up I didn’t know shit about rap from the 80s, but I did my homework and embraced the acts that made that appealed to me”

    ^ I did that a lot last year. Doing my homework (usually on wikipedia and youtube) and finding out which albums are worth buying and importing (I’m in Australia see. Last year I bought stuff from “Paid in Full” to Public Enemy, Ice Cube’s early stuff (and Raw Footage), Wu-Tang Forever, Reasonable Doubt, When Disaster Strikes, Southernplayalisticadillacmusick, It Was Written, Ridin Dirty. All of that stuff along side most of the new stuff that came out. Of course I had no money left over to see the artists when they toured but it was good to know where Lupe, Game, Little Brother and the rest got it all from and how the culture developed into what it is.

  • Simple like ABC, 123

    “Like, when I was growing up I didn’t know shit about rap from the 80s, but I did my homework and embraced the acts that made that appealed to me.”

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Co-sign, I’m 25 years old and one of my favorite MC is Chuck-D (Public Enemy).

    The most “intelligent” blog of all-time

  • Pierzy

    Exactly…you’re on point. In every genre, “elder statesmen” musicians still do shows – go to Atlantic City and you’ll see a band that had one hit in the ’50s performing a 2 hour show.

    • $ykotic

      Or that’s like telling Andy Rooney go home.

      Or Earth,Wind & Fire Stop touring.

      Paul Cantor ya’ll needed this on video. More hits, streaming, etc. This is one of them HHID topics.

      That was a big hint.

  • Phil

    Excellent post. Great insight. I’m finally seeing some journalism in here! Nuff respect, Mr. Cantor.

  • Curtis75Black

    When it comes to Hip Hop I’ll listen to a Vet way before I check for a new Jack basically because they have a History, you sort of know what you’re gonna get but they might surprise you !! And they come from a point of view you can relate to because they came from the same era and time as you, so it goes hand -N- hand. It’s never about being “Hot” because that’s a point of view of the listener. My older heads know a Hot Beat from Jake One, Just Blaze or Premo, dont mean shit if lyrically the rapper ain’t saying nothing. Our elderstatemen and Women know how to rock a crowd also, something new jacks still can’t do which is how you really determine how good you are !! Hip Hop is about love because if they were sucessful in the past, the money and fame was a given. So for MC Lyte, LL, Kool G., KRS, Ice Cube, De La Soul, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes wanna contiue to spit, they’ll have a listener while ya’ll croon with Kanye !!

  • amar

    i don’t think looking at a soulja boy or a tyga or the next guy to beef with T.I. is an accurate representation of hip hop today.

    If you’re gonna compare jay-z, nas etc. to today, you gotta compare them to today’s jay-z and nas, ie kanye, ti, ludacris, lil wayne…

    so with that said, i don’t think kanye, ti, ludacris and lil wayne treat hip hop as a disposable art form. In fact, i think while jay-z was primarily about the money, these guys treat hip hop as their profession and passion, no matter what u hear in songs. Sure, Jay-z worked hard to get his song out, but lil wayne didn’t have a childhood and currently all he does is drink lean and focus on his music.

    as for the future, just like 50 cent isn’t the present, soulja boy isn’t the future. Soulja boy is one of those pop acts which is necessary, but dies out very quick. He’s a 1.5 hit wonder like Vanilla ice or Kriss Kross.

  • http://dailymathematics.blogspot.com/ Combat Jack

    I wrote this one just for you:

    dailymathematics.blogspot.com/2009/01/easy-mo-bee-is-nuttier-than-snickers.html#comments

    Enjoy

  • http://www.xxlmag.com Gooch

    combat jack, crazy… dude must have been on that digi… tried leaving a comment but site was buggin…

    • http://dailymathematics.blogspot.com Combat Jack

      I’m getting that response from alotta people. If i cant fix it, might have to switch up to word press. Good looking though.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    Great post. This blog has been really good lately.

  • http://dailymathematics.blogspot.com Combat Jack

    There, I think I fixed that.

  • El Tico Loco

    Finally a well balanced post. And on the week Run DMC gets inducted in the R&RHOF.

  • http://xxl All Dae

    Excellent post. A lot of good points were made here.

    I agree that it’s insulting to ask yr favorite rapper to retire from his chosen line of work. I mean if there not fresh anymore said rapper should take the hint and gracefully bow out.

    I think the simplicity of the culture has not been promoted to new generations. I don’t think Soulja Boy, Lupe or any new heads in the game mean disrespect to older heads or the culture. They know what they know and can’t be expected to know what’s hidden by media hip-pop or dumb it down execs.

  • macdatruest

    yea this blog is on point. None of that bullshit that other guy was talkin really made sense. Niggas like martians and headwraps cause hese niggas nowadays cant make a decent album? Get the fuck outta here. Old artist is always gonna be relevant. I went back to listening to older rap too. When you listen to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…all the interludes, the order of the songs and everything, the clean/grimy mastering RZA did, that shit is like a movie. By the time they get to Wu-Gambinos you feel like it’s the grand finale to a movie. Only to end it all off wit Heaven or Hell which is like the credits rollin’, makin you think about all the shit Rae and Ghost just went trough. They don’t make albums like that anymore. If I gotta go back to not hear a collection of 14 singles by 14 different producers slapped together and labeled “a full length project” then crank dat time machine. I’m bout to break out that Mobb Deep- Infamous in a sec.

    • $ykotic

      that’s why you dont put more water into the kool-aid. you dilute it.

      dont they do that in them brainwashing/interrogation tactics anyway? show them brite colors and lights to break down the melon?

  • Curtis75Black

    The New Generation has to learn to Takeover the game instead of thinking the Mature emcee is just gonna bow out and disappear !! The Crack era has really fucked up the minds of fans and rappers into thinking you HAVE to be put on by the Elderstatemen and They HAVE to step off when you get a certain Buzz. Fuck that !! When LL came with his second cd talking how He’s the “Baddest rapper in the History of Rap Itself” in 87 no less, He was challenged by an elderman in Kool Moe Dee and they went back and forth at eachother on the love of Hip Hop. It was Mutual respect and Shit talking but it was a real battle of generations. Same thing happened 10 yrs later with LL vs. Canibus/Wyclef and KRS vs. Nelly. To think a Rappers like Jay-Z and Nas needs to step off because of all his success and let Charles Hamilton get his shine on is ridiculous. The new niggas gotta take it cause that’s when respect is really given. New emcee’s can’t even rock show without their vocals being in the Background so until they can put on a show, I’ll be checkin’ for the Vet to Blaze !!

  • Jhon da Analyst

    Courtesy of Dart Adams:

    So what if kids today don’t know who Lord Finesse is, tell them! Share his music with them and fill in the generation gap. If an 18 year old doesn’t know that Just Blaze isn’t the end all be all as far as producers go then break out your records and sit him down and have a real open dialogue about it with him. If young girls think they have to rhyme or look a certain way to get noticed by labels and her talent and lyricism doesn’t matter then show her the long line of proud female emcees that demanded respect and forced to look them in the face and acknowledge them as equals and peers. Like Mos Def said “Hip Hop is as we are”.

  • Re-yo

    Cats like Masta Ace still make albums that should be the blueprint for these youngsters.

  • Lowedwn

    props on the post, u hit hte nail straight on the head

  • http://xxl ryan

    deres all a lot of good artist out dere. yall fools jus stay stuck in ur ways n listen 2 the same artist over n over. try listenin 2 little brother, crooked I, royce. im not sayin dont listen 2 the old cats jus expand ur choices.

  • miles archer

    Damn, read my mind. I’m 25 and I feel forty cause 98% of the artists I love are boring the shit outta me(i.e. Wu-Tang, Nas, Mobb Deep) with lazy delivery and no kinda energy to their sound.
    Problem is, 98% of this new shit is boring the shit outta me with lazy, cookie cutter delivery and monotaneous(I think I misspelled that) quantized, production.

    Is it just me? Is their still good music around and I just won’t embrace it?

    The 10 freshmen cover ya’ll just did reminded me of a similar cover The Source did in June’98 with Cam’ron, DMX, Big Pun, Canibus, Noreaga, Eightball….
    My point is, to compare that list of artists to these new artists makes it difficult for me to get excited about something new when it seems so watered down. I don’t think I’m just being nostalgic…

    If u compared the ’92 Dream Team to last years Olympic team, I can live with that(shit, the Kobe, Lebron, Chris Paul squad might even be better). Just because I grew up on Michael, Drexler and Ewing doesn’t mean I’m incapable of putting current players in their ranks.

    As far as this rap shit though, at least rite now, not so much.

    myspace.com/fastlifearchitects

    • DETROIT

      the 1st dream team was better…two words, Michael Jordan!

      remember barkley was slammin niggas!

      they had more hall of fame caliber players!

  • PeRsOn

    Yo!

    Im a 25 Year old dude from Auckland, New Zealand and we had Kanye do a show with NaS supporting. But damn Kanye was supporting NaS in my eyes.

    Kanye killed it on stage better than NaS Performance wise and i fux with Ye a heap but dude just didnt do what NaS did for me while he was Rappin’

    Nas sent those fuck off, are you for real shivers up my spine when he performed tracks like ‘It Aint hard to tell’ Had shit bumpin for like the last 10-15 years and i see him do it live for the first time at 25. That shit was crazy for me, and you on point it bought back the feelin’ of more youthful times…

    Straight fire with this post mann.

    Peace.

    • amar

      i saw both live but at separate concerts, not both at once. I agree, nas is a pro at this and puts on a way crazier live show than kanye. More simplistic, but way better delivery.

  • DETROIT

    GREAT POST!

  • Clever

    This was a Great Look! I like this Post alot.