I’m part of the generation of hip hop heads that grew up listening to BDP, PE and Big Daddy Kane – then Tribe, De La, Gangstarr and then Nas, The Roots, Biggie and…..yes, even Jay-Z and Kanye.
I am one of those that would often opine about mid-90s hip hop, as early as 2000! I’d rant about the “glory days”. However, I got tired of doing that pretty quick since I listen to other genres of music, but for hip hop, it will always be about my era – from ’85-’95. Period.
Now, there are many, many of us from this generation who are very quick to label all new hip hop as “shit”. You hear it all the time: “this new shit is wack”; “Drake sucks”; “Kendrick Lamar is not Nas”…blah blah blah. None of it is wrong mind you, it’s all opinion.
What does strike me as ‘wrong’ is when the same folks of my generation start to label the younger generation of fans as somehow ignorant of good music. I hear it all the time: “these kids don’t know what’s good from what’s shit”; “they only like what they think they are supposed to like”. While this may be true for a large percentage of kids – it wasn’t untrue when WE WERE KIDS either.
How many people do you recall in your peer group at 15-16 years old were really banging Leaders of the New School?
Anyone who tells you they weren’t bumping Kriss Kross is liying, but we all bumped EPMD right along side!?!?!? All the jokes about how Drake is a soft girly-man today would apply 110% to PM Dawn back then. Pop music still ran the show back then, only difference now is Rap music IS pop music, and we (the older gen) make the mistake of labelling everyone who listens to Rap music a hip hop head. That’s just not true, it was in OUR day because hip hop was still growing. If you were a “hip hop head” in the 90s in Toronto – you knew (directly or indirectly) EVERYONE in the hip hop scene in Toronto by name. You can’t do that shit anymore, it’s too big. It’s pop music now, and the “celebrity” of it removes that element of community that once existed – now hip hop is splintered into a local and popular scene – even within Toronto
More importantly, I feel, is the sheer volume of hip hop music that is out there. Imagine you’re 11-12 years old, and you hear Macklemore’s song on the radio, and you decide that you want to download some more rap music. Where do you start? You’ve now got 30+ years worth of music to choose from, with tons of sub-genre’s and a MASSIVE explosion of local artists able to create hip hop in their bedroom!?!
Like everything else on the internet, the volume of information present requires a deft ability to filter it. The kids, and more importantly the kids who are interested in HIP HOP, can approach the music from any angle they want: hippy raps, horror raps, thug, trap, boom bap, bounce….the list goes on and on.
Compare that to ‘discovering’ hip hop in the 90s. You couldn’t just go to the internet and DL everything – you had DJs filtering FOR YOU, putting together mixtapes, doing club nights, and mix shows on radio – period.
So this brings me to the title of my little piece here, the Kids Are Alright. I see young folks at hip hop jams, and they are bugging out to Jeru, rocking with Lords of the Underground, and then rocking with Odd Future, and then a Drake tune. What they are doing is filtering for themselves, creating a hip hop universe that is their own.
So who are we to judge? It’s their taste, their opinion. More to the point, how would you put into context a BDP song from 86, a Gangstarr song from 1991, a Tribe song from 93, Pac in 96, Jay and Kanye in early 2000, Eminem, up to today with Kendrick Lamar and the new school of rappers? Without any nostalgia to colour your opinion of these artists, it’s EASY to see how kids could write off KRS One against Kendrick – the sophistication of the music 30 years later is far more advanced – what Kendrick is doing in 2013 vs what KRS did in ’86 is apples and oranges. BUT…..and here’s the thing – the real hip hop kids today DON’T write KRS off….they still go to see him live. They go to see Masta Ace, Kane, EPMD, Tribe, De La…..because they ARE putting it in context. They just also are absorbing the new hip hop with as much vigour as the old.
We only absorbed the old classic hip hop with that level of enthusiasm, because we were there for it. Let’s not kill the younger generations enthusiasm for hip hop by berating their contribution to the art form. Let’s continue to participate in the writing, producing, DJing, sharing, and learning about hip hop – and let’s allow everyone to contribute something to the movement. If we don’t do that, hip hop WILL die.
And that would be a shame.