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Is Old Man Rap Really Obsolete?

Being geriatric seemed to be hip-hop’s trending topic (oh, how I loathe that term) this past weekend. One of only a few rappers from hip-hop’s 90s renaissance who are still prominent these days, Jay-Z shared the stage with fellow octogenarian, funny lady Betty White, for a few performances on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live. This was then followed up by a rather uninspiring episode of The Boondocks (call me a “hater,” but I’m just calling it how I see it. But it’s taken three years for this season, and this is what we’re treated to so far? A bunch of played-out themes and unfunny jokes? But I digress.), which was a play on the old Ice T/Soulja Boy beef between a rapper struggling to maintain a relevance in rap and a wildly popular, dance-and-ringtone peddling teenager who’s the current hot thing.

Skewed as it may seem to others (there’s a connection I can see, but then again I’m half-crazy), it still appears as if the so-called “old man rap” still holds some relevance in the new decade. It took a definitive blow over the past few years when every rapper who had a shred of heat and dignity during the eighties and nineties started bitching about the lack of support they received today, and rather than looking like a call to arms they looked like a bunch of crotchety, bitter artists who were out of touch with reality. But now it seems that instead of trying to force the fans to respect them, many are rolling with the punches and doing everything to keep their name out there, from dropping new projects to still touring.

But let’s not also forget that many of today’s high profile acts are well into their thirties. Gucci Mane and T.I. just burned another year off of their lives fighting for who gets the top bunk in prison, and both will have hit the 3-0 plateaus before the year is out. Young Jeezy and The-Dream are two years removed from 30, and at this point Rick Ross is closer to 40 than he is 30. Jay Electronica is deep into his thirties also, and it took him past his twenties to get the recognition he’s receiving now.

And yesteryear’s rapsters who managed to survive the dark ages of rap (from the shiny suits to the ringtones) are, well, old as shit also. Andre 3000 doesn’t even like rapping anymore, and his name still warrants GOAT talk whenever he comes out of whatever cave he’s hiding in to drop a verse. Hell, Diddy and Jay are both 40, and they’re still wildly popular to this day.

The younger generation may claim to be salty at their elders for not relinquishing the spotlight, but if anything they should learn too share the thing. It seems that it’s only in rap where rappers are quick to get shuttled off to the Chitlin Circuit of rap tours and independently released albums. If that’s the case, what’s going to happen to the youngsters of today when they’ve become part of that genre? Instead of lamenting about old folks not giving them a chance, take solace in the fact they have a chance to remain relevant to somebody when they’re old as well.

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