1. Learning to Accept Rap’s Generation Gap.


    “Look at these new jack kids. They don’t even know what song this is, and it’s sad.”

    I'd heard that statement a million times over. I'd said it myself a million and five times. But this time, for whatever reason, was different. I’d just finished DJ-ing,opening up for DJ Premier at the Soundset festival in May of 2012. And as I stood off to the side in the 1,000 degree tent, sweat-soaked from shirt to drawers, nodding my head as Preemo dropped the jazzy, yet beautifully morose intro for the Group Home LP he produced from 1995, an attendee around my age uttered that magic phrase that actually froze me in my tracks for the first time.

    That's when the doctor walked into the office holding the x-ray with the malignant tumor on it and sporting a somber face: I was officially part of the first generation of folks raised on hip-hop as recorded music to get...[ gasp ]...old.

    As I scanned the crowd, the arithmetic made it even more obvious: About 40% of the people in that tent looked like they’d be cramming for the SATs when they got home from Soundset. Some that I met after my DJ set stated they couldn’t make it to that night's after party due to curfews and age restrictions. I turned my internal calculator on. That’d make their year of birth about... 1996. Group Home’s album may have been available via special order at the record store in Mall of America when their parents were deciding whether or not they should drop a brat. I thought it was pretty cool young kids were nodding to a dope beat they didn’t know, but I guess the complainant had a point. If you were a teenager in the '90s and didn’t know which song came after “Zig Zag” on the Car Wash Soundtrack from 1976, that’d be pretty Goddamn sad, too, right? Or does that sound a bit ridiculous?

    Only a certain demographic can truly understand why [N.W.A] were considered so dangerous once upon a time. You had to be there to “get it.”

    The Soundset epiphany kind of reminded me of an episode 20 years earlier, when I had the fellas over the crib during the summer of ‘92, right after my freshman year of high school ended. When I pulled out Kool and the Gang’s “Give It Up” and Young Holt Unlimited’s “Queen of the Nile” and played 'em back to back, everyone bugged at how the funk and jazz record combined to form the backdrop for what was the hottest joint of the moment, Eric B. & Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique.”

    “That’s fat,” said T-Bone. “You should use some more shit off those records.”

    T-Bone had no interest in learning about Kool and the Gang drummer, “Funky” George Brown, or asking me about this mysterious Young-Holt Unlimited group. They were before his time. He just liked the samples. Those two to four second audio grabs were fat. When EQd right, they bumped in the jeeps that passed us in the street. That was it. He didn’t ask me for a tape dub of the first Kool and the Gang LP to bump on his own, but he was down to loop up their shit. Aspiring producers and DJs like myself cared about that stuff. But our casual rap fan peers? Nah. If a sample was fat, it was fat. Who gave a fuck about the original source? The original source was before their time, their parents' music. And when you're a teenager, your parents' music is corny. We snatched pieces of it and made it ours. It was different now. "Don't Sweat the Technique" was our locker room music, not "Give It Up."

    So as I reminisced on T-Bone's insouciant stance on the DNA of early '90s hip-hop records while simultaneously examining the all ages crowd at Soundset, I finally and firmly accepted the fact that the generational disconnect will always exist. Music from the past is largely enjoyed and preserved by those who lived through it upon its release to the public and felt its impact. They first absorbed it immediately upon its creation. They’re old enough to look back on the music and its associated time period as a point of reference to where the world is in its current state. Vietnam, Reaganomics, Watergate, crack, The L.A. Riots , New York's state of being a racial powder keg in the late '80s - each had a soundtrack. Younger folks who dig deeper and are more intrigued by music than their peers appreciate stuff from all genres and all eras. But they're in the minority, and although they may appreciate the music itself, they'll never fully comprehend what surrounded it or the circumstances it was made under. Some of our "Golden Era" innovations in style have come back around - Gumby haircuts are actually popular again. But N.W.A. is no longer dangerous. Ice Cube’s penchant for getting lost in his movies and Dr. Dre’s overpriced headphones make the group seem damn near humorous in hindsight. I once played "Fuck The Police" during a college music course I taught at my alma mater; my students thought it was hilarious and fun. Only a certain demographic can truly understand why the group and song were considered so dangerous once upon a time. You had to be there to “get it.” Furthermore, rap has always been propelled by youth and rebellion, so fewer older artists in hip-hop will be revered by the youth than in most other genres of music.

    And despite all signs pointing to the merciless beating of a dead horse, we continue to wail away. Check the comment sections for any online hip-hop article related to beef between artists of two eras or start a rap debate in any black barbershop: “old,” “broke,” and “bitter” are words I’ll bet a kidney on popping up. KRS vs. Nelly, Lil’ Kim vs. Nicki Minaj, Common vs. Drake , Ice-T vs. Soulja Boy, Pete Rock vs. Lupe Fiasco , etc. - all the same. Had Twitter existed in 1991 , when Biz Markie's album was pulled from shelves for illegally sampling Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again," you can't deny that 14-year-old Biz fans like myself would be tweeting:

    Gilbert O’Sullivan is a herb #Broke #Bitter #OldMan

    Continues on page 2...

  2. You might wanna peep...

    • GtRnR

      "There is dope new music being made that is true but on the whole its a fact the culture and sound is weaker in dopeness." - That is not a fact its an opinion.

      But I do agree with the culturally starved statement. You gotta go out and dig for yourself. It's no ones fault but your own at this point of the internet and information if you are ignorant to what came before you. Knowledge is power no matter what the subject.

      Everyday I discover some dope shit that came before "my time" and it never ceases to amaze that as I dig into the past I discover current things related to it. Music is cyclical, especially in a sampled based genre.

    • GtRnR

      The Ink Spots were/are dope. Good music is timeless and is made every year. You just gotta know where to find. Also the idea of what is good is completely subjective. So its an impossible argument to win.

    • concert promoter

      Yeah, but in recent years, his content is absolute garbage and unlistenable projections of his ego. If I didn't speak English and couldn't be disgusted by the stupidity of his lyrics, I might love it for the production but alas, I understand the useless pseudo intelligent giberish coming out of his mouth.

    • il padrino

      i was born in 74....raised in the Bx and love my hip hop....but i haaaaaaaaaaate this new crap....i work in a place where these new dudes come in with publicist, stylist and security telling these kids what to where, how to act, and basically protecting them from nobody....its RETARDED.... when i was growing up it was common to bump into fat joe, pun, cuban linx, krs, show and ag, diamond d...alone chillin and i'm pretty sure it was like that in queens, brooklyn etc....Now these "rappers" are media made, not all but most and they are definitely not real....there are some that dont get the publicity or acclaim that they should, like slaughterhouse, bigrec, snow da product and a few more....i dont pay for music anymore i think its a losing battle to buy an album that has 1 or 2 decent songs on it and in the '80s and 90's i amassed a collection of over 1000 tapes and 800 cds and since 2000 i mite have purchased 3 albums....
      i also see that alot of old school artists are still touring and thriving....i pose the question that in 20 years will anyone really be interested in seeing the "artists" of today on tour like Delasoul or going crazy to see ATRIBE CALLED QUEST reunion?....i think the answer is obviously hell no...

    • Guest

      Drake is a media creation....he wouldnt have lasted 2 minutes in NYC in the 90's spittin that total nonsense. the real hiphop is dying out because of shatstains like him. hes a canadian actor who the pop media converted into a fake rap icon. i personally dont know anyone over the age of 25 that thinks hes anything more than a hack.

    • john mcevoy

      I reckon Samples or sampling (not sure of right term) is musically friendly as introduces the new ear to the old and the old ear to the new, keeps it ticking. :)

    • Yoda

      im seeing these comments like two years later and realizing i left this comment as yoda and nich obert u are wise. anti pop consortium - flash from the past. im old enough to remember when the beastie boys were dismissed as millionaire rich kids "pretending to be black" ...When Biggie/Puffy were also considered trash for R&B hooks & the west-coast feel for a NY record. meanwhile, i digged all that and i was always the first one copping lord finesse, black moon, tim dog, wu-tang whatever when we were growing up and these clowns (my boys) were like always 2 years late to get into it ... now, im growing old with a bunch of these same guys who have now reversed their opinions on both biggie, beasties and a host of others (surprise ! now they are legends according to them) and they have new enemies to "real hiphop" - lil wayne, rick ross, drake are pop-trash -stripper music to be grouped with justin beiber or britney spears. i just dont get it. say what people want : like u said - drake is an innovator. 90% of people commenting here will die of old age never getting it but i respect innovation and thats why hiphop rocked and still rocks now IMO. i swear to god, its like people are unable to see the forest from the trees. almost every time a region is broke in hiphop, legends are born: NWA (The west), Outkast (ATL), Geto Boys (Houston)...Its a pattern. It takes a hell of a lot for hiphop to except a light-skin Canadian so u know he has to be skilled. anyways, i get the nostalgia obsession. its sad when u listen to midnight mauraders and know there never be anything like it again but ive accepted that and im over it...i just dont quite get the stronger aversive militant Drake-hate for the life of me. the kid can rhyme, great flow and at least, hes original. i actually see him as a throwback. reminds me of LL
      Cool J and when hiphop was more honest. he helped divert hiphop back away from phony gangsta over-drive (most of which I enjoyed-yes-but to be honest is phony)...and its well-documented the kid grew up middle-class-ish with a dad in jail/ill-mother and in a rented half-house in two different parts of Toronto. no silver spoon but instead, arguably, less well-off than the likes of guru, de la soul and plenty of other legendary MCs. anyways, these guys will be calling drake, a soft disney cornball until their in old age..but j-zone nailed it - the old
      hates the new and they become just like their parents...awe well.

    • Renoroc

      I'm old and love Run The Jewels

    • Thomas Jensen

      I was born in '84 and discovered 90s hiphop and loved it after the new millennium. Not saying you don't have a point, but you should also consider the factor that the music we keep from each year is only the very best. And the music we keep from each decade, is the best from that again. Good music is timeless. And you have to dig through a lot of shit to find the nuggets. This was true in 1980 and still is today.

      So no, I don't think we are wrong to play our best music to the kids. And if it has merit, some of them will listen to it. And find some nice music. And become better at, in their musical era, separating boogie from moustache, as we say here in Norway.

    • Winston

      I totally agree. Doing your own research is what makes it fun. It also shows others that you respect as well as appreciate their generation's contribution, older or younger. This makes for great discussions and broadens your knowledge of what you don't know or have time to research when talking to younger/older heads.

    • Winston

      ...take sips of the brew!

    • chillie pete

      little queers with your bent up hat rims and your stupid fucking socks. I wish these little fags were around back in 95 we would have flogged these lil high pitched voiced nyuckas. with your tight ass nuthugger jeans FAGS THE LOT OF YOU!!!

    • Paul H.

      Warning, long post ahead:

      Like most things, I think answers lie somewhere in the middle. I think the perpetuation of the idea that you can't enjoy music/art/film from generations before you is incredibly problematic (and pretty bullshit). I think it speaks to a much larger issue in our society than just music though; just the lack of focus on history/learning and that old cliche of "those who don't learn it are doomed to repeat it."

      It also overlooks how many young people DO intensely get into musical movements from way before their time, even hip-hop. I mean, you definitely see it in punk and metal, and you are seeing it in hip-hop (Joey Badass and the Pro Era kids for instance). I mean, hell, I listen to A LOT of stuff from before my time that still sounds radical in the present day (Can, This Heat, Beefheart). But it also IS possible to appreciate things that are of its time. I mean, Whodini's Escape sounds like it came out of '84, but I still love that album even though that was my birth year. And who knows, there may be a group of kids down the line who pick up on that and spawn something interesting out of that sound. It could happen.

      But yeah, playing the "all modern music sucks" card is bullshit, and even though I can't get down with a lot of new mainstream rap, I'd rather listen to something like Future any day than some watered-down, self-serious purist ripping off Pete Rock.

      Though I do think a lot of these conversations overlook issues related to corporate America and capitalism. A lot of genres seem to decline in urgency and quality one Madison Avenue gets their hand in the pot. That's not to say that there isn't compelling pop music or mainstream music, but it makes sense that a lot of people get hung up on the early years of particular eras sine that's when it was fresh and untouched by purely commercial ambitions. I mean, I wasn't around for, say, the birth of punk or the birth of hardcore, but those eras still sound more powerful to me for whatever reason than when punk became a commercial concern in the 90's and beyond with Green Day and all that. But I'm not going to freak out on someone born in 1997 who thinks Green Day is the shit, because that doesn't really concern me. There's enough good punk these days that carries the same power as, say, Bad Brains and Negative Approach, and there are a lot of young people making up those bands. It is unfortunate that hip-hop seems to have this essentialist discussion when approaching the generation gap, but I know that there are young folks who are doing their research about hip-hop and I'm sure will use that love to make some compelling work.

      Point being, it's important to know your history, but it's also important to progress and innovate. Getting hung up on pure nostalgia and holding a reactionary year-zero kind of intentional ignorance are both attitudes that lead to dead ends (and some really trite, boring music more often than not). Know your history, but don't be afraid of the new. Balance.

      P.S. (bonus thought)

      People say a lot about punk's rejection of the past, but even punk's "year-zero" approach, although a radical and distinct reaction against the overabundance of pretentious prog and lumbering radio rock, still included a pretty huge reverence for
      a lot of music that came before it (60's garage bands, glam rock,
      girl-group pop, and yes, even some prog). I mean, Black Flag were
      Deadheads and the Ramones based their modus on stuff like surf-pop and
      The Ronettes.