Whenever I hear someone utter anything pertaining to hip-hop being a youth culture, my conspiracy brotha kicks in: ‘See? They are just trying to keep the black man infantilized so that they can circumcise us whenever they want to.’ It’s ridiculous (not to mention hypocritical) to take shots at Jay-Z’s age when the Rolling Stones have a cadre of necromancers on staff to resurrect their carcasses once a year. Hip-hop is an adult; deal with it.
There have been many hip-hop journalists and academics—imminently more venerable than I—who toe the hip-hop is a youth culture line and issue proclamations akin to older heads having no right to judge what the younger heads are listening to, or how they are expressing their version of hip-hop. I call bullshit on this. We tell our kids what they can eat, who they can hang out with, and bust our asses to get them into the best schools—lived culture is just as important as these things. We need to become ital culture lovers, cultural-vegans. Wha’ gwan? Me fi’ only vibe off dat pure, mon. It’s as if there is an agreement that we aren’t allowed to expose youngsters to the Artist Formally Known as Mos Def, or put De La Soul is Dead on their iPods. This isn’t to say that we should be tethered to the glory days by a nostalgia leash, but we need to introduce greens to an all pork diet. From Fight the Power to Lil Wayne’s Every Girl…that is the very definition of devolution. I won’t even get started on the whole ‘Lil’ thing. To paraphrase Kool Mo Dee: Ya’ll ain’t living it, like we lived it.
Segue: In the first paragraph, I made an allusion to hip-hop being the sole province of black men. Nope, my Latino brothers and sisters were involved as well. It does not matter how global hip-hop is, it started how it started: Black Folks, Latin Folks, with a smidgen of Italians and Jews. Sorry thems da facts. And that’s the double truth, Ruth. It seems that every time black folks are involved with anything (either the creation or popularization of a thing) it quickly becomes world or global culture: see jazz, blues for context. Respect the architects. Hell, yoga is barely recognizable as an Indian cultural expression for all of the blonde and blue practitioners and proponents, but they still holla Namaste, despite the ubiquity of Lululemon.
Back to it: The landscape is not as dystopic as can be inferred from my words. There are tons of new kids in the yard who are doing it on their own terms, and making good music. But there is a jabbering and mewling host of market intern created culture leeches that conceal what is needed in the culture. Rick Ross casts a shadow large enough that Lupe Fiasco can’t get the nurturing Son he deserves. But what is the ultimate bug out is that this whole youth thing plays out only among hip-hop fans, and not so much (aside from a few jabs at Jay and Nas being old) among the artists as many older artists pander to what some focus group deemed hot with youth. If you are over twenty-seven and you still rhyme about the club, stop rhyming. Now. And related to this, I would like to declare a moratorium on the following words in hip-hop songs: club, brick (or any other drug reference that is not as clever as Rae’s or Ghost’s), bitch, hoe, popping bottles, derogatory remarks towards gay folks, references to the make and model of car you drive (rent), your jewelry, side-pieces, thanking God on the same album where you just killed a roomful of people, and any claims to being the next ‘Pac or Biggie. Thanks.
And for the bloggeratti—I’ll paraphrase KRS-One: Rap is something you do. Hip-hop is something you live. So, trying to parse ‘rap’ music from hip-hop music is a futile exercise. The hip-hop culture and music that the radio and television and shit sites like http://www.worldstarhiphop.com spew may suck, but there are people living this version. I have a cousin. I hate his fucking guts. He’s still family. Hip-hop needs to embrace its ugly. Once we do this, we can start having more critical conversations about hip-hop content, context, impact, and relevance. Just as trip-hop, jungle, and DnB are side-offsprings of hip-hop, so is Lil’ B (there’s that silly, infantilizing ‘Lil’ again).
I’ll admit I am older than the new-average hip-hop fan. But I remember the sights and sounds of the Genesis of this culture, and I still ache from the heartbreak when I was forced into a startling realization: the rampant materialism, and nihilism was here to stay. As long as I still feel this strongly about the music that emanates from this culture, I will wade into the fray. But in regards to what is popular in hip-hop, as Three-Stacks lamented, My stomach can’t digest it/Even when I bless it.