State of The Hip-Hop Union 2022
All Grown Up.
The topic of age in Hip-Hop music has grown a lot in the past decade-plus. As we get older, so do our heroes. And unfortunately, we are already at the point where Hip-Hop heroes are already dying.
But that's not why I'm bringing this topic up. I want to look at this from a more positive frame. (For once.) For the first time in maybe its entire lifespan, age is beginning to not matter anymore in Hip-Hop. It took nearly 50 years, but I think the statement can be made with confidence now.
Now it should be said that I have held this thought for the longest time. Because I hold the belief that artists and creatives in general never lose their ability to create. Creativity is not the same as being a sportsperson or in a job that requires manual labour. Bodies break down, creativity doesn't. (Yes, I know there are illnesses that can deteriorate the mind, stay with me.)
Sure, there are benefits to being young and hungry when being creative. I can attest to being 18 and wanting to constantly be better in my creative endeavours. I still do at 25. But there are also benefits when you're 30, 40, 50 that an 18-year-old won't have. The most obvious things: Knowledge and experience.
There are several artists that have gotten me to put this on wax. The first is Nas. Just think about this. This man created one of the greatest albums in modern music history when he was a teenager. And whilst we can all agree it's still his best work, the fact that he's still dropping heat over two decades later is something to behold.
But that's not unique in this day and age. There are many rappers and producers, especially producers, that are still great at what they do. I don't even need to look at the credits to know when a 9th Wonder or DJ Premier does a beat. They're just that good. Age hasn't stunted them in any way.
But in many art forms, the youth are the faces of it...
As with most things in life, it depends on where you look. If you look at the charts then, yes, a majority of artists are under 30. But look a little deeper. Look past the commercial elite and more towards the Hip-Hop middle/working class where the Independent labels and vets reside. The Vic Spencer's, (we actually talked about age in a recent interview.) the Benny's, Conway's, Backwood Sweetie's, Georgia Anne Muldrow's, I can go all day.
I'm confident you can name at least one artist you love that is over the age of 35 and are aware of several. Does that say anything to you? It does to me. The older Hip-Hop and adjacent music genres like UK Rap get, the better the variety of artist ages there will be. And for the listener, more variety in perspectives.
And it's refreshing to see an artist pushing 40 to be putting out worthy art. Listening to a Skyzoo or Nas or Arrested Development is something that has never existed in Hip-Hop.
As Hip-Hop gets closer and closer to turning 50 years old, something very interesting is happening before our very eyes. With the digital age continually evolving and offering people opportunities for their artistic voices to be heard, (arguments about whether it's good or bad can be discussed of course.) it is giving Generation X and soon Millenials such as myself the ability to do what artists in the other genres of note such as Jazz something they have done for decades: To continue making their art.