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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  • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

    Strong drop…

    Young artists sell more in almost every genre, mainly because they are the closest to pop and hence have more crossover appeal. But, for example, a vast majority of the people that loved Cuban Linx probably loved (or at least liked and appreciated) Cuban Linx II…even if the sales didn’t show that…mainly because no artist sells like they used to and probably never will. True, Wu-Tang couldn’t generate the kind of hype they had for Wu-Tang Forever, but no other rap artist can, either. It’s a different time.

    Rap is often compared to boxing and that is an apt comparison, but you don’t need to be in the best shape of your life to make music. The fact that artists like Jay, Nas, Snoop & Ice Cube continue to make albums at a fairly regular pace is different. In the mid-90′s when a lot of these now-old head emcees were coming up, the generation before them were on hiatus or looking to branch out – Rakim took a break, Kane’s pace slowed considerably – only LL really continued to release work on the regular and he was already dabbling in movies and TV. While Jay’s music is certainly not like Reasonable Doubt anymore, American Gangster sounded as if it could’ve come from a 25 year old (although it had the mature view of hindsight).

    Remember, many people thought Dr. Dre was old & washed up when he signed Eminem and then he released 2001. If he somehow manages to make another classic at this age, along with Jay still being popular, it will show that you can be a 30+ rapper as long as you still have the skills.

  • Worley

    “take solace in the fact they have a chance to remain relevant to somebody when they’re old as well.”

    And that’s the bottom line. I’ve always approached this topic from the stance that 30 and 40 year olds have no business trying to connect with teenagers. In “real life” it would be ridiculous. I think it’s just as ridiculous in entertainment. Know your audience and stick to your demographic.

  • Mighty Casey

    it will be if bloggers like you don’t return emails with dope new video cuz your too busy wth the same old same old

    Mighty Casey “Crackhead Superheroes”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLU0WqwVgV4&feature=player_embedded

  • Maya

    you have a point, it just amazes me the large number of artists that are up in their 30s. hip-hop can be such a “youthful” medium

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  • Just Rockwell

    De La Soul is still my favorite Hip Hop group. They get NO respect. You never hear white people dissing Bruce Springsteen no matter how many albums he puts out. The Rolling Stones are old as hell and still sell out stadiums. It’s like most of the black youth today…. No Respect. We shit on our older black performers in Hip Hop and R&B. The older artists are still good in my opinion so I dont understand why we hate them so much and think that their music is irrelevant. I like new artists as well as the artists I grew up on but I don’t like how we dont support them and feel they shouldnt put out records anymore because they are a certain age.

    • Curtis75Black

      I doubt there’s really hate. More so the fact “Older Fans” wanna remain young in the eyes of Hip Hop. It’s too easy to diss a group like De La for a new group you hear constantly on the radio and see their videos. Its all about “what’s Hot” and Hip Hop has always been about that. Most males in their 30′s probably don’t like whats on the radio but aren’t truthfully gonna hate on a Jeezy or TI like they will dismiss a LL or KRS for the only reason being they been in the game for over 20 years and they don’t want to be looked at like a relic !! Emcees who came through in the 90′s are on their way out, trying to stay afloat with what’s poppin’ and the fans in their mid 30′s was in their teens when they debuted. The only way things will change is when older fans stop trying to fit in with the younger fans.

  • latino heat

    cosign the disappointment in the new Boondocks season. their 0-2 so far IMO. i think it took too long for the season to come out. so far all we’ve got is old references like the Ice-T vs Souljah Bitch thing and the Jim Jones and Dmx references about Obama last week. if they can’t produce the show at a faster pace or come better then this then maybe it’s for the best that this is the last season.

    good drop overall btw.

  • A NIGGA FROM BOSTON

    maybe cuz 9 out of 10 tadays rappers are wack,talk about nothing,are more pop then hip hop,cant rhyme for shit, and until some of these new cats catch my ear ill jus keep listening to the “old rappers” and thanks god some of these “old rappers” are still making music for me, just imagine no rappers from the 90s or producers didnt make music today? what would we have? hip pop? peace

  • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

    People don’t realize a lot of those “missing” sales are older cats who ain’t buying the new stuff and aren’t buying a lot of older artists’ music, because they haven’t grown with their fanbase (still pants sagging on the block doesn’t work for 40 yr old spouses with kids paying a mortgage).

    There is room for a contemporary rap format (Grown Man Rap).

    • sb

      you are so right, i was having a coversation with 9th wonder about this a few years ago.

  • http://versis.bandcamp.com/ Versis

    This is real…

    I will take heed.

  • El Tico Loco

    The reason the older rappers are still around making music is because they feel they’re still superior and righfully so. I use to think back in the 90′s when everyone was trying to outdo each other based on skills (back when it paid to have skills) that if the dudes spittin back then were sick that by 2009 niggas will have to be plague infested to get in the game. Fast forward to 2010 DAMN WAS I WRONG!! So why quit? Nobody has put out anything to make them (the old rappers)bow out and as far as sales is concerned looks like the field is level anyway, 100k is the new gold.

  • J EaRLy

    You knock the Boondocks, yet your article or claim of a trending topic (I dont follow people) are mostly like the reason for your entry, no?

    Eitha way, I think old men and women, should retire. Then again, the spotlight is for those who can take it, not earn it. People do what ever they can to hold on to their 15 seconds of fame.

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    Co sign the last Boondocks episode. I never had silence in my home while watching that show. You can tell their was beef. The obama episode had its moment.

    Nevertheless, while watchin it, i wrote something similar. Making music for trends will not land you a career just as getting a job witha fake resume. sooner a later ur real skills will come to test. however, if you have the skills and can go, keep on rhyming. I’m sorry but i would go to a nas show five years from now. Hell, R & B groups tour at 65. Rockers die on stage.

    Hip Hop’s mindset is just bad. First, all the one hit wonders don’t realize that they cutting out the long money. Second, when you diss a rapper for his age, you killing your chance of making money in the long run. Take Cam and Jim. They dissed jay five years ago. Now they are his age. Soulja boi will get old. Third, imagine souja boi touring to supeman twenty years later. Ya, imagine 34 year old fans doing that dance.

    Hip hop itself is fairly young so we have time to still figure this out.

  • Quasar

    Why don’t we just love each other

  • DoubleUp

    Rap is in a transition. There are young budding artists right now that are ready to make their mark, or did we forget that Drake, J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B, Kid Cudi, Nipsey Hussle, Vado, Corey Gunz, etc are all young dudes. Not saying that I like all the above, but those are names generating a great deal of buzz right now.

    Also why does Kanye West not get any love and respect as the best and most consistent rapper in the game since 04. I would put his 4 albums up against any other hip-hop act’s official studio albums released during the same time frame.

    There are also young cats that are not in their 30s that had a nice choke hold on the game or have we forgotten that Wayne has been the biggest super star in the game since 06/07? If not for the problems within the Dips, Juelz would’ve probably been in a better situation. The fact is there just weren’t many budding superstars in the age range (*cues the Papoose reference).

  • http://ihiphop.com Rashaan

    I think hip-hop is just evolving into a fuller music genre. There are all types of rock – some appeals to teenagers and some appeals to people in their 50-60′s. If you listen to Ross or Jay Elec, even with their different styles, they both seem like they would appeal to someone older. Plus, its still alot of people in their thirties believe it or not that can’t figure out how to download music for free. People who are grown with grown money consume different than a 17 year old would.
    A friend and me went out to lunch a month ago and Alley Boy was there. My man didn’t know who the fuck he was. I told him he’s trying to be like the new Jeezy or Gucci and he was like “ok”. I had to go buy his mixtape so my man would listen to it because he damn sure wasn’t going to go and look him up and check him out when he listens to the people I “compared” him to. People in their thirties been listening to rap for like 20+ years, so when they hear something they like, they stay loyal to it. That’s why Susan Boyle, Sade, and Alicia Keys are moving so many physical units.

  • http://skush.com Stronger

    I think we’re ignoring the major CD and music buying demographic. Young people buy into the radio the most, therefore the songs get more play. The more radio play they get, the more likely it is your grandparents hear about Ke$ha and Soulja Boy.

  • Silky Johnson

    The problem with the hip-hop/rap demographic is that they tend to forget that it is music, and like all music it is a form of art. Be it Jay-Z talking about his hustle growing up, or Waka Flocka talking about how he just wants to rock a club it’s all just an expression of someone’s character and interests. Other genres of music appreciate and encourage branching out and musically exploring, yet Rap/Hip-Hop does not. The Urban genres of music, R&B included, have got increasingly stale and commercial and are worried too much about following the current trend instead of setting new ones. If this mindset existed 60 years ago, people such as Jimi Hendrix, Grandmaster Flash, and Miles Davis would’ve never been able to exist. These so-called “Old” rappers stay relevant because they are the only ones secure enough in their finances and fan base to warrant exploring or growing musically. The only way to get some shine these days is to play to the commercial desires of radio and the record industries.

  • megulito

    good post i myself have turned to mostly listening to old stuff like the whole ruff ryders back cataloge roc hell i even like cam now compared to what going on now in rap and i used to hate his roy boy raps so ill stick to my old talib n mos tracks and check out the fly new dudes like jcole wale and kudi but on the whole the radio was killing me. on another note 2010 has been a good year in my mind for music ive heard a good maybe 45 tracks from various artist some from the bangers section that were actually fire. and cosign with pierzy on the analogy and on american gangster so many people called it garbage but its a dope album (no bol intended)

    oh and where is joel ortiz why isnt he some where with a stable??

  • El Tico Loco

    Like I said hip hop will always be competitive no matter how long is gonna be around if you want old heads to retire you gotta make them. As big as Lil Wayne or whoever may be nowadays nobody has “Sucker MC’d” or “Paid in Full’d” the old cats out of the game like Run dmc or Rakim did or added more quality like the ones that followed them, so they will stay on guard as they feel they should.

  • OG Matt Herbz

    It is mad embarrassing how, at 28, I feel like I’m at least a generation removed from the current list of rap acts. You either have the grown-ass man rappers that could be my uncle, and then you got this new young crowd that I could have spawned about 15 years ago, fresh in the middle of middle school.

    Just last Friday, I had a pizza party at Casa Herbz and invited everyone I could think of–young and old. Jay-Z arrived and immediately bitched out Soulja Boy for sitting in “his seat,” and then after sipping some sweet tea, he falls asleep in the chair and starts snoring through the movie. (We were watching “Above The Rim”) Drake showed up with his mommy and went to find Soulja Boy and those two started running all around my house playing hide and seek, and tag with water guns.

    I was in a bind…as I munched on the hand-tossed crust of my pizza, I couldn’t decide who I wanted to hang out with. Do I run around playing duck-duck-goose with Soulja Boy and Drake, or do I go wake up Jay and risk him going on his trademark rant about respecting your elders while they’re rapping and/or napping?

    In the end I just said “Fuck it” and took Nicki Minaj and Erykah Badu upstairs and laid pipe. I even made Nicki take off that stupid ass wig so I’d have something to wipe off with when I was done. I reached the conclusion that I am old enough if I can smash two at a time, and I am young enough if I can still smash two at a time and not get tired.

    Midlife crisis postponed….

    –OG Matt Herbz–

    • P. Harris

      ^^^^ That’s fugging hilarious!

  • P. Harris

    Good post Meka

    As far as the Boondocks, in total agreement, last episode was lackluster. I don’t even think I laughed at anything except for “Sergeant Gutter” and “Artichoke-Crank Dat”. I did like the season premiere simply because it mirrored and scoffed all the the ignorant things people did leading up to Obama becoming president.

    Simply put, “Old Man Rap” can stay prominent as long as they can keep their old man fans… like us who are 30 and up…

    Hip Hop/Rap is just like any profession where there is a battle between the new up and comer and the old head. The old head is always going to come off as bitter and at a lost to keep his crown or title.

    It’s the cycle

  • http://www.facebook.com/maxprofit Max Profit

    There’s room for everyone!!! (almost)
    Rap Music needs different perspectives or it will just die out!

  • abdulnasir

    agree with pierzy and max profit!

  • macdatruest

    Man that boondocks was funny as hell. Yall niggas gay it aint about the beef bein old its about it being put into perspective by someone. Shit, everything yall niggas watch is recycled. Every video show, every conflict on every sitcom, all that shit, But nobody is covering shit like the generational transition of Hip hop in no other cartoon, or even in a serious forum on television. The shit thats made for you niggas, ya don’t want. But then yall will sit up and watch some recycled love competitions on VH1 or some shit that dont even require a critical analysis.

    That shit was funny as hell wit them Lethal Injection crew niggas gettin real jobs dude said he needed 88 hours a week at Wendys thats comedy hahaha yall niggas wanna see some homo jokes on Stepbrothers or Superbad

  • DJ SYK

    ITS EASY. TODAYS SOCIETY IS STUPIDER AS WHAT IT WAS IN THE 80S AND 90S.

  • DJ SYK

    ITS EASY. TODAYS SOCIETY IS STUPIDER THAN THE 80S AND 90S.

  • swype-matic

    Even though I’m 22, I don’t even relate to a lot of the stuff that comes out now. I was raised on Biggie, 2Pac, Bone Thugs, Ice Cube then Jay-Z, Nas, Talib, UGK and a lot of others. Always been a fan of Em and Luda, and there’s som Young Jeezy and T.I. that I like, and every last one of them are over thirty. I just cant see myself w/ any Roscoe Dash, Soulja Boi and A-Rab in my headphones, it’s just not my thing. I guess all in all it’s who you feel comfortable with based on your lyrical/style taste. I bought Rakim’s ‘Seventh Seal’ back in September, and when it’s time for him to put out a new album, I’ll probably get that too. You’ll always ride with your favorite artists, cuz they have to age just like you, and you know they’ll always come correct as ong as they stay true to themselves and never try to conform to what’s “in” at th time.

  • swype-matic

    Even though I’m 22, I don’t even relate to a lot of the stuff that comes out now. I was raised on Biggie, 2Pac, Bone Thugs, Ice Cube then Jay-Z, Nas, Talib, UGK and a lot of others. Always been a fan of Em and Luda, and there’s som Young Jeezy and T.I. that I like, and every last one of them are over thirty. I just cant see myself w/ any Roscoe Dash, Soulja Boi and A-Rab in my headphones, it’s just not my thing. I guess all in all it’s who you feel comfortable with based on your lyrical/style taste. I bought Rakim’s ‘Seventh Seal’ back in September, and when it’s time for him to put out a new album, I’ll probably get that too. You’ll always ride with your favorite artists, cuz they have to age just like you, and you know they’ll always come correct as ong as they stay true to themselves and never try to conform to what’s “in” at the time.

  • Bless

    I’m 19, and if me pops taught me about anything, he taught me about music. I’ve been listening to, studying, and memorizibng the rhymes of the Wu, Nas, and Mobb Deep since like ’99. To me those are the G.O.A.T.s, the ones who went through the shiny-suit era and the ringtone era. Not all of them have been able to stand the test of time (in fact, the Wu is strugling to maintain its composure, while Nas and Mobb Deep…yeah). But despite that, these dudes know (or knew) what the fuck they were doing. They’re the older Gods, the O.G.’s. And O.G.s deserve respect, ’cause lets face it, they’ll still fuck you up if they really want to.