It’s been said time and time before that “hip hop is a young mans game”. Most of the consumers of hip hop music are the 21 and under age group, most focus groups polled about fashion and whats trendy and current are from the 25 and under age group. Actually the youthful demographic is responsible for more than they recognize and yet they could careless about it, or so it seems. One thing is for sure though, they definitely make their voices heard when it comes to who they want to see in the hip hop world.
50 Cent said if “If I aint rich by 26, I’ll be dead or in jail”. He brought those words to life. As cryptic as it may be though the mortality rate for rappers and black men in America are astonishingly similar. Biggie and Pac both died before 25. Most of our favourite rappers released their best work in their mid to early twenties, in some cases the late twenties but if 40 is the new 20, what the hell is 20 I ask you?
In my personal opinion, 20 is the age where the world starts to make sense and you become more in tune with who you are as a person. Everything preceding was a trial run moreless.
Hip hop has always represented rebellion, the voice for the voiceless, an outlet for the youth of America’s inner city. Hip hop’s voice when tried to be silenced by the masses infiltrated and resonated through out the halls of the Guggenheim, Carnegie, Heinz and so many other forums traditionally reserved for mature patrons.
So why is it that an art form started by what are now are seniors, intended for the youth, is being asked to grow up? Maturation in hip hop has been called for now for quite a few years and yet everyone’s speculation on whether it has or not varies with the wind. Oprah put hip hop on blast, capitol hill and slew of lazy ass parents as well. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t take responsibility for your children and you expect us to. I digress.
Let me get to my point. Is there an age where it’s too old to start rapping? I had a conversation with James Armstead Brown about this and we both agreed, no 30 year old rapper will ever break into the industry to wide acclaim with out a serious gimmick/marketing plan. Not to say a rapper can’t achieve some notable success after 30 but it won’t happen on the global icon stage.
Is there an age where one becomes too old? If so, what is the age? I know I gave myself to 26 to get both feet through the door before I hang it up. I remember at one time, Roscoe, EMS (Kid A) and Wiz Khalifa were the youngest noticeable guys on the PGH hip hop scene. I just recently hit 25 (thanks for the birthday love on 9/16) and I can honestly say I’m panicking a bit inside, especially with the rise of success 19 year old Mac Miller has acquired. I like Mac, I think he’s gotta good lane, gotta good image and all that but I can’t relate to all of his raps. I am not fresh out of high school (class of 04 stand up!!!) and I can’t relate to partying all night and sleeping all day just to rinse and repeat. Nigga, I got obligations. But therein which lies a paradox. I’m the youngest one out of all of my friends who rap, save a handful. My age is looked at as a benefit to them, where as the youth on the rise fill me into the bitter old head category. Perplexing init?
For those that don’t know, I’m part of a group called Good Company. Alex (Fundamental) and I are only a year and some months apart but we have almost no common ground with music. We have contrasting views on where hip hop should go, why it should sound like how we feel but we still make it work. At first, Alex thought my views were of those bitter old head dudes stuck in the cipher. I recall vividly Johnny Juliano accusing me of the same. I laughed from a hardy place. But I guess it’s deserved, I don’t fuck with a lot of new music cause I can’t relate to it. I guess that’s what it’s about at the end of the day, isn’t it? Who can relate to what and where.
Two of the most commonly mentioned names in rap today are Drake and Wiz Khalifa. Both are 80s babies but they were conceived at the tail end of the 80s, damn near 90s babies. Look at the pop charts across the board then do the knowledge on each artists age. One or two may surprise you but you can pretty much bet they all belong to the 25 and younger crowd. On the flip, there are quite a few artists who didn’t get their just due until they hit the mid to late twenties. Eminem, Kanye, Saigon, GZA, there are others as well. I remember voicing my age fears to an A&R at Universal and he told me plain and simple, “your favourite rappers said the same thing, this aint the 90s, shit takes longer.” He also went on to assure me that much like car insurance, A&Rs look at MCs in their mid twenties as more reliable, not as susceptible to the rookie mistakes and fuck ups as the yutes are, basically safer investments.
Pittsburgh has quite a few members of its scene belonging to the 30+ club. I’m sure every city does. The Game said “You’re 35 and you’re still rapping? Ughhhhhh!”. I don’t necessarily share the same sentiments but it definitely causes me to raise an eyebrow every time I come across an aspiring MC who is past 28. At some point, you gotta swallow your pride and call it a day. No one wants to be that old nigga in the club trying so desperately to chase the same women your son’s friends are going after. A lot of MCs on the scene here are the same age as Nas and still trying to break through the game. Do I find something wrong with that? Not really, but I think at sooner or later reality has to set in and you gotta asses your stance and really think about what your goals are.
In an extension of of the conversation Armstead and I had, he brought up a really good point. He always viewed hip hop as “folk music”. Something that should be related to by the class it came from. He said “Maybe that’s where hip hop is now, you know? Maybe you go to work during the day and do your hip hop thing at night.” I really thought about that. It makes a world of sense. How many of you who actively pursue a career as a rapper 9 to 5? That’s shit grown folks relate to. I know highschool/college aged kids are moreless concerned with the party scene over the Democratic/Republican party’s views on shit that pertains to us.
If I were a 16 year old kid on Tuesday in Best Buy or HMV, I seriously doubt I’d buy the album of a 35 year old “break out” artist. I’d be looking for that Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Drake shit that I can bump and relate to because its tangible.
I guess I’ll close with this. The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. I’m lactose intolerant but I loves some cheese.