Age Limits In Hip-Hop…

Categories EditorialsPosted on

 
…are coming to an end.
 
How do you feel when you read that above title? Do you agree with me when I say it or does it cause you to laugh uncontrollably? Do you really know, or maybe not even care? For as long as I’ve known, there has been an interesting concept for an artform that wants to be known for more than just a passing fad: it’s largely in part carried by just that (don’t agree? does the “shiny suit era” or the “snap movement” ring a bell?). By saying that, I understand that there are both factors that always remain AND characteristics that seem to pass and fade with each new decade or era, perhaps due to the power of the “machine”, or the big companies that control the industry, so to speak. The artists that are able to successfully maintain a top-level career in hip-hop are the ones who constantly reinvent themselves: Busta Rhymes could be one great example, Black Eyed Peas could be another (if you can still even call them hip-hop, but I think you see my point). There’s always been one issue, though, that the genre couldn’t seem to get past…an issue that, once approached, marks the general end of your successful career at the top, regardless of talent or “swag” or whatever: age. That’s right, AGE.
 
Read the rest after the jump.

Let me try to better explain my opinion of what I believe is fact: I’m not saying that the favorite rappers of the generations before me are all fossils. Emcees like KRS-1, Rakim, and the like are still touring and performing, are still lyrically talented, and are (probably for the most part) still able to put out relevant records today. What I mean is that, back in the day, once a still-talented emcee began to overlap the success of the new generation, their value declined on the commercial platform (I understand this even more now since I am getting older and the titans I looked up to are going through this process now). Sure, true fans of their work always supported, are supporting, and will always continue to support, but you noticed that, quite frankly, they simply weren’t hot to the general masses anymore. And I believe that is all changing now.
The easiest first example would be to look at Jay-Z, right? He’s 40, and currently still considered not only the greatest rapper right now, but also the leader of the hip-hop industry as a whole (at least in the consumers eyes, those that know the industry as a whole know better, but whatever). In the various beefs he has had, many of them have tried to take shots at the fact that he is generally older than the average and should give up his reigns for the younger up-and-coming artists. Naturally, like every other swipe, he dismisses it and renders it a non-factor while continuing to make great music. But there are other considerations as far as age I’ve noticed: a LOT of artists that are running hip-hop right now are over 30…and it isn’t a big deal anymore. Snoop, Nas, 50 Cent, Bun B, Eminem, and even groups like Wu-Tang, OutKast (sort of) and most of Dipset continue to put out great music that appeal to the fan of the culture.

But it doesn’t just stop there. Even new artists, who before only seemed to enter the game in their mid-20s or younger (some way younger), have now begun successful careers (by what we see, I understand that the grind of some artists have begun well in the past) at 28 or higher. Rick Ross released Port of Miami at age 30; Maino was 34 when If Tomorrow Comes… dropped. Some emcees started at the late age to get their break, while others might have been putting in hard work for a successful career since they were teenagers. There are even a few that have been forced to do jail time, ultimately putting their careers on hold. The beauty of it is, these factors are (I believe) soon to become issues no more.

I am happy that things are headed in this direction because, quite frankly, you don’t really hear about these problems in other genres. With Country, R&B and Rock, some of the biggest stars are at retirement age, still putting out albums to promote to this day. With that said, I have never really understood why heading to a certain age meant that your career had to end, especially if you are still putting out top-quality music. While there are artists that probably need to put the mic down (sorry, LL, it looks like you’re doing more of trying to keep up than setting trends), it’s talent, and not age, that’s finally playing the larger role in the music that’s being put out. And I hope it continues this way permanently.

Getting Diddy to sit his singing ass down, though, is another story…

A small but committed group of writers, bloggers and videographers that (mostly) exist and function all over the D.C. Metro area.