“You can’t kill me/I live forever through these bars” —Jay-Z
After Michael Jackson died, a lot of folks went out and bought his albums. People who didn’t already possess his entire catalog wanted to own a piece of him, which says a lot about what a true artist means to a music fan. Yes, people hit up iTunes, but a majority of them wanted to physically own all of MJ’s classic material, maybe to have something tangible to show their kids other than digital songs and memories.
A huge reason they wanted those songs and albums, though, is because Michael’s music was timeless. He made songs that could be played at weddings, funerals, birthday parties, baby showers, dice games… whatever. His music lasted more than a year or a decade. Even though joints like “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and “Off the Wall” were so tied to the disco era, they’re still playable today because of that timeless quality.
What about hip-hop? Will the rap we listen to now be what we’re bumping 20 years from now or will we still be going for the original nostalgic hits?
A lot of the songs from hip-hop’s early days never get old – like “Rapper’s Delight” or “Walk This Way.” But I don’t see many of today’s rappers making timeless music anymore. Sure, you can pop in Rick Ross tomorrow, but I doubt you’ll be playing it at your kid’s wedding 20 years from now. You can jig to Soulja Boy but will his music deserve spins decades later? When I think about what our kids will be playing at their weddings, I wonder if they’ll choose songs from this era — Soulja Boy, Flo Rida, Ron Browz (please no) — or whether they’ll stick to our classics because none were created for them.
I think much of what constitutes a timeless song has to do with the commercial factor, good songwriting, and the amount of people it’s able to touch. And also nostalgia – the songs that evoke a special memory or moment in time are the ones that stick through the ages. That’s one of the qualities most hip-hop heads look for when determining classic rap albums. But compared to earlier decades, the songs we hear on the radio now and the albums on the shelves are way too disposable. On the other hand, “Party Like a Rockstar,” “Low,” “This Is Why I’m Hot” – maybe by the time 2040 rolls around, we’ll think of them like “Ice Ice Baby.” Think about that.
On his Sincerely Yours Southside mixtape, 50 said something about going back to the classics cause “the new shit is wack.” We all remember and still bump 2Pac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Brenda’s Got A Baby” and B.I.G.’s “Juicy.” And Nas has a lot of timeless joints – “The World is Yours.” I think Jay-Z and Kanye are timeless, but I’m not sure we can say the same for “Crank Dat.” Can you imagine bumping Soulja Boy at your wedding? I know it’s impossible to tell the future but who do you think will be responsible for the “timeless rap” that we listen to decades from now? T.I., Jeezy, Kanye West? Are there any new songs, albums or artists in general you think you’ll still rock with when you’re 50 years old?—clovito