The hyper-American culture of hip-hop has been around for a whopping 40 years, and has gone through countless changes. We’ve heard party music heavily focused on seconds-long drum breaks propelled by two turntables and a DJ, to boom-bap beats, heavy dark samples and witty MCs rhyming about the “trife” life, to extremely melodic and catchy beats paired with rhymes that at times are clever, but at most are one dimensional.
Different times saw different mindsets, different work ethics and different inspirations. Yet, can these disparate minds and styles continue to create simultaneously as the genre itself begins to have a real human history? Can pivotal members of the culture (the old heads like Pete Rock) who have honed in their craft and who represent the old-school exist alongside rappers whose sole purpose is to make cash (the young bucks like Young Dolph) in rap.
In a perfect world, yes. But nothing’s ever easy in hip-hop.
It is good old ageism that’s not allowing old heads and young bucks to happily co-exist? A recent clash between the two suggests no way. The 44-year-old Pete Rock, who’s been creating hip-hop since the late ’80s and is one of the most influential hip-hop producers on earth, went after 26-year-old rapper Young Dolph on social media.
Rock reacted on Instagram to Dolph shooting a music video in which he spit the line “I had he had “cocaine running though my vain” with a child beside him. The clip prompted Rock to say “we have to raise our children better than this.” And he called Dolph “hot garbage.”
Dolph took to Twitter, insulted Rock, and said the cocaine bit was a nod to his parents being crack addicts and being born with crack in his system.
Rock shot back, taking a stand against “mumble rappers” and said “Y’all don't care about the culture, so why are you in it?"
Rock has a point. Many new rappers claim they don't like older hip-hop, that it doesn't resonate with them and it's not a culture they want to be in. In fact, rapper Lil Yachty said in a recent Billboard interview that he couldn’t name five tunes by Tupac Shakur or The Notorious B.I.G., two of the most influential MCs in hip hop.
Everyone should know where they came from.
Art teaches us that we learn from the past. And to be an artist, you’ve got to learn the basics; the techniques, the history, the form of the art, and learn to appreciate what it is and what it has become.
To be a writer you need to read the greats. To be a doctor you need to study the inroads made in medicine. It’s the same thing.
Some old heads get irritated. Yes, some of that could be vanity—maybe they just want their work—their art—to be appreciated. Who wouldn’t? And it’s true that about anybody with even a slight creative streak can create a rap song that becomes extremely popular.
Hip-hop ageism is a mindset that’s not about numbers. Once labeled a fad—mostly by the white press establishment—hip-hop and rap has proven it’ll be here forever, in some form. Maybe there’ll be a time where old heads and young bucks can live together in harmony.
But for now, everybody needs to let everybody cook.