The problem with being a ‘cutting edge’ form of music is that everyone is so busy trying to find the next big thing that yesterday’s heroes quickly become relegated to ancient history. Unless you’re part of a particular era that’s on-trend for this years retro throwback nostalgia (aka the nineties for the past couple of years), you’re shit outta luck. On the other hand, it’s tough not to feel sympathetic to younger rap fans–and indeed younger rappers–when they’re constantly harassed by Joe Budden types for not ‘paying respect to the pioneers’ every five minutes…especially considering that it’s more than likely that Leather Vest Joe considers Fabolous to be an ‘old school legend.’
Context—and timing—mean everything. A kid who grew-up on Run-DMC, Super Mario Bros., and WWF will swear black and blue that 1986 was the epitome of everything that was great in entertainment. It’s fair to say that whatever a twelve year-old kid watches and listens to will stick with them forever, which explains why Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles still hold so much sway with aging internet warriors who are determined to troll to the death anybody who dares attempt to sully those treasured childhood memories. Naturally, the rap tapes that you had at that tender age will undoubtedly old a certain reverence over your lifetime.
I will forever argue that Ultramagnetic MC’s Critical Beatdown and Boogie Down Production’s Criminal Minded are the epitome of rap music perfection, but that’s just because they were released either side of 1987—the year that I first developed my longstanding addiction to this glorious combination of loud drums, abrasive scratching, and beats to the rhyme. For rap fans who were first turned on to the simple pleasures of hip-hop in the nineties, Nas, Biggie and the Wu-Tang Clan are clearly going to the benchmark of audio supremacy. Why would a teenager in 1995 trouble themselves with the genius of Ced-Gee when the delights of Only Built For Cuban Linx…were so readily available?
The legacy of rock and heavy metal weigh heavily on those genres because they were perfected a long time ago and now eternally attempt to recapture and reinvent the classics for modern audiences. Rap music, however, is never content with standing still and looking back at it’s past. Beyond the occasional aforementioned nineties rap fetishism adapted by the more self-conscious modern rappers, the fundamental concept of rap music is still all about ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’ and pioneering ‘The New Rap Language.’
If ‘Bad and Boujee’ is the first rap song you ever sang along to, what possible interest are you going to have in old Public Enemy and EPMD songs? Rap has changed so much in the past thirty years that it’s barely recognisable in its current popular form. And yet, that’s the exact reason why it’s still relevant and important to teenagers in 2017. Rap is youth music, and therefore the tastes of that same youth shape and dictate the direction of new rap. As both the creators and consumers, the young ‘uns call the shots. Only a fool would forget how our own parents once dismissed the rap we grew-up on as ‘noise’ and a ‘fad.’ Who are we to judge Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, and Rae Sremmurd?
Every time some rapper my age gets mad because they heard a new rapper dude getting interviewed on the radio and failing to pay respect to Bone Thugs N Harmony or some shit I immediately think two things: firstly—why is a man of your age listening to commercial rap radio, and secondly—nobody gives a shit. DJ Premier is that old guy trying to chat-up the broads that no one else wants backstage and tours with an effin’ live band of all things, while KRS-One is now an apologist for kiddie fiddlers. Fuck you and your heroes, new rap is still making hawt chicks dance and helping young dudes get rich. What else really matters?