The other day I was watching a comedian doing an interview on television. At one point in the interview he talked about his love of hip hop. While talking about hip hop he made mention of possibly being too old for it. This caught my attention because many of the innovators in hip hop who helped to bring the culture to a more mainstream audience like Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J are headed towards middle age. With people like Little Wayne and The Game talking about how they are the future of hip hop for various reasons but one of them being that they’re younger, and Jay-Z doing a song about how 30 is the new 20, it made me wonder: Is it possible to become too old for hip hop?
I’m not sure what could be causing this age factor to become even remotely relevant in the world of hip hop. It’s not like Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J are the inventors of hip hop culture. They got their inspiration from people like Grandmaster Flash and the L Brothers, DJ Kool Herc and the Herculoids, and DJ Breakout And the Funky Four Plus One More. According to a website maintained by Davey D who is a hip hop pioneer in his own right, these are some of the individuals that spearheaded the hip hop movement. The funny thing is that people like Jay-Z and LL Cool J are one to two decades younger than the previously mentioned guys but when Jay-Z and LL Cool J were youngsters coming up in the rap game, they looked up to those forerunners. Back when hip hop was an up and coming underground music movement, there was no such thing as being too old for hip hop. It didn’t matter if you were 15 or 35, if you made good hip hop music, you were an important part of hip hop culture.
Recently Lil Wayne was quoted in an article as saying that he was “better than Jay-Z” one of the reasons he gave was that he was much younger and therefore had more to offer. In one of his songs, The Game has a line in his hit song “It’s Ok (One Blood) that says “You 38 and you still rappin’ uhh. I’m 26 n***a, so is the dubs”. Why does there even need to be a line about age? Why does that even matter? Hip hop was never about the year a person was born but rather about staying true to the culture that was born in the streets and represents a part of life in urban America. Young rappers like Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy and The Game can really learn from older ones like Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Busta Rhyme and Dr. Dre. As hip hop becomes more mainstream, we run the risk of losing the pure nature of the music and culture to things like demographics, psychographics and other statistics. Hip hop was created as a form of expression for a culture of people who didn’t relate to the mainstream culture. If we start focusing on things like the age of the rapper we dilute the heart of hip hop music. So again I ask: Is it possible to become too old for hip hop? I sure hope not.
Article that I wrote for the online publication Avenue 1.