Ageism In Hip-Hop: Does It Hold Us Back?

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Hip-Hop has come a long way in its short life. Just four decades ago, DJ Kool Herc helped pioneer a new rebellious movement in The Bronx which would infectiously spread across America and eventually the world. Resting comfortably at a mere 40 years old, the genre is young by all standards, with some of its most respected legends at the same age if not older. Being one of the rarer genres of music where competition is inherent, conflict is inevitable and often welcomed. But what happens when the victims of hatred become the future of Hip-Hop itself, the young generation of fans and rappers alike? I had a conversation with Sermon to discuss the implications.

Akaash: What does it mean to have the younger fans and rappers be treated as inferior?

Sermon: It means we have a lot of older folks hating the direction of our genre. Lord Jamar, for instance, has never been on a website praising anybody in this generation. He’s given a platform to spew hate after hate. He’s criticized Kanye for wearing a kilt, made comments about Yelawolf and Macklemore, and God knows what else. What makes him a prime example of the hatred toward this generation is many echo his sentiments. This is why he has a platform and people watch him speak.

I personally believe this generation is thriving. I’m not going to like everything that comes out, but I can find value in both Kendrick Lamar and Young Thug. What’s kind of cool to look at is older artists who are being embraced. 2 Chainz is someone I look at, because he’s 38, and still fits in well with this era as opposed to Jay Z on ‘Tom Ford’. Even some of our biggest artists, who may or may not be musically great anymore, still get lots of attention. Jay, Eminem, and Diddy are all over 40 and still can sell out tours.

Akaash: Those types of rappers will always be relevant which makes songs like ‘Tom Ford’ and other feeble attempts to blend in with the new generation even more unnecessary. A lot of older Hip-Hop fans lived through the perceived “Golden Era” of Rap music, where rappers who are now heralded as legends and top 5 were in the primes of their careers, skill wise. But when fans refer to that time as the “Golden Era”, does it really mean rappers have only gotten worse since and the younger individuals are to blame?

I think that nostalgia has a large part to play with their judgement. The music is subconsciously being linked to a certain time in their life that they enjoyed and it sounds better as a result. Also, the growth of the internet and social media means that it’s easier for less lyrical, trendier content to seep through into the masses nowadays. A lot of these new artists are in their teens and get dismissed as holding the culture back when in reality they could be finding their footing. Perhaps Hip-Hop isn’t going to stay the same for another 40 years.

Sermon: Music has not gotten any worse in my opinion. I have a diverse taste, though. Some people who grew up on ’90s hip-hop are close-minded. They think Future is killing our genre. Even Drake, who actually puts in effort, is seen as a bad artist. That’s just unfortunate for those people. Hip-Hop needs to change, because it’s one of the most creative genres. When you have something so loose in creativity, it has to continue to evolve.

For those who hate what’s being projected on the radio and internet, they need to do some digging. There are all types of artists online. Whatever you’re looking for, it exists to some degree. Either that or listen to Illmatic on repeat until death does them part.

With that said, do you feel like there’s a balance with the type of sounds and artists that are getting through in this era?

Akaash: I feel the balance is there but as you said, it requires more extensive research to get a good dose of everything. I think that the real issue stems from the fact that the older generation looks down upon us. Vince Staples got a lot of hate for his comments about the ‘90s a few months back but what he was saying was a harsh truth. Today’s younger fans like you and I hardly remember that era, but that doesn’t make us less qualified as fans. Instead of telling us we’re disrespecting the legends, we have to be taught about the past. Rappers like J. Cole bridge the gap. Sneak the medicine into the food.

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