“These kids don’t appreciate music from last week, let alone ten years ago!”
This is something that a lot of people – artists in particular – like to complain about. It’s a valid point though. Any mention of ‘older rappers’ in the media draws the inevitable comparisons with the Rolling Stones, who continue to tour despite that the fact that they’re all over 100 years old (not to mention the fact that Keith Richards has been dead for the last 25 years). Classic rock albums from Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd and The Beatles continue to be discovered and enjoyed by each new generation of music fans – or at least those who take the time to study their **** – while many staples of great hip-hop long-players are relegated to the occasional blog post on knowyaraphistory.blogspot.com (note: may not be a real URL).
The problem seems to be that one of the things that makes good hip-hop so much better than any other modern form of music is the fact that it’s always on the cutting edge. ‘Newest, latest’ as Buggin’ Out once exclaimed. The downside with having the brand new slang and speaking on the topics of the day is that it can also date the record horribly. Also, featuring the dance craze of the minute? Not such a great idea when people check your clip in five years time. Although I haven’t attempted to convert any teenagers to the sounds of Critical Beatdown, Criminal Minded or Long Live The Kane in recent times, I can just imagine the blank stares and calls of ‘Meh’ that would greet these landmark releases. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Biggie Smalls is now considered ‘old school’…but I digress. Truth be told, I can understand why nobody would want to listen to Sir Mix-A-Lot‘s ‘Beepers’ for a number of compelling reasons – not least of which is the fact that nobody has used a beeper since 1994.
Even beyond the subject matter, the relatively lo-fi sound of a lot of 80′s rap can seem world’s apart to someone weaned on super-slick modern beats and R&B hooks, while the extra-lyrical techniques of old might scare off the more attention deficit, raised on easily digestible, dumbed-down punch-lines and ‘witty’ wordplay. Public Enemy must sound like something from the prehistoric era to a kid who enjoys rappers who have feelings and cry when girls break their hearts. Does Breaking Atoms still sound as fresh to me as it did when it dropped just because I can associate it with that moment in time and still appreciate the impact it had? Could somebody who had never heard rap before throw on Schoolly D and enjoy it in the same way? Or is everything before Illmatic and Enter The 36 Chambers strictly for old timers and archivists now?