Washed Up Rap Fan
What does a hip-hop old head look like you ask?
Is he the 49-year-old man on a basketball court wearing knee socks and an Everlast cutoff? Sitting on the sideline because his team has just lost, undoubtedly because they would not implement the zone scheme his junior high team won city with. He nudges a dude next to him who looks just old enough to have heard of Rakim and mutters something about “shortening attention spans.” When his complaint falls on deaf ears, he turns his indignation towards the speaker in the corner blasting Trippie Redd:
“Forget rapping MAN, even Phife Dawg woulda beat this fool’s ASS!”
After it’s pointed out to him that the outcome of a fight has little to do with the quality of its combatants’ music, he disgustedly throws on his LRG hoodie and heads for the door. A young man casually says, “Later OG,” and the man scowls at what he thinks is a jibe. Later that night, as he watches Juice for the eighth time in a lopsided recliner, he drifts off into a light sleep, still wearing his gym socks, smiling at his luck of not being born into a “soft ass generation.”
Now, as a mid-90s baby, I may have missed the '90s exceptionalism boat, but I feel like I’m slipping into a purgatory in which I really don’t like the rap music that is widely accepted by young people as cool. It’s not just that I think the music is bad. That alone hasn’t bothered me in the past. I knew as a 12-year-old that Dem Franchize Boyz were not the most talented rappers around. I remember thinking to myself that there were surely other rappers that deserved the airplay much more. But that did not stop me from replaying "Lean Wit It Rock Wit It" five times in a row on my portable XM radio. The music was cool, and I was just happy to be around for it.
No, substance is not the sole requirement for a young old head like me. If I like it, I will listen to it. I just find that in today’s streaming landscape, “actual good music” is so readily accessible — not to mention continually being churned out — that I can only indulge my “guilty pleasures” for so long.
For example, for a long time I considered myself a HUGE Playboi Carti fan. Definitely not a rapper’s rapper. But his songs were catchy and fun and he had this aura of coolness, one so strong that even my washed ass was hip to it. His first album: fantastic. Second album: spotty, still good. But Whole Lotta Red, his most recent release, is red hot shite. And after listening to it the day it was released, I knew that I had begun the slow descent into being an out-of-touch loser whose opinion on hip-hop matters counted no longer.
I waited for Pitchfork — which I find trustworthy in general — to review the album, praying that they would roast it like they did Greta Van Fleet's album…. 8.3. “Wildly innovative and strikingly consistent.”
At this I experienced true and utter shock, a reaction not easily elicited in this fucked up world. My response to the events at the U.S. Capitol in January — men and women of Congress hiding under desks as glass shattered around them — was, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” But this…this was egregious. Humor me for a second when I offer the comparison that Toy Story has an 8.3 rating on IMDB. So by some counts, “You Got A Friend In Me” and “JUMPOUTTHEHOUSEJUMPOUTHEHOUSEJUMPOUTTHEHOUSE” are on even footing.
After my senses returned after this jolt to the system, I reasoned that it was preordained that whatever Carti put out was going to be the wave of the future, one that obviously didn’t include yours truly and those not hopelessly enmeshed in the hype cycle.
In the end though, the path to being uncool/not lit is one that we all shall trudge one day. In the waning years of my 20s, I have to remind myself that my generation has been shoved from the steering wheel back to the middle seat of the pop culture-mobile. And that’s okay. I’ll do my best to not become bitter and crusty about My Music falling from grace and to find something positive about what comes in the future. And of course, I’ll be around to kick game to those that want to hear (or polite enough to not tell me to shut up) about the rap music in my day.