What happens when the only bottles being popped are the ones the with nipples? When the champagne is gone and the lights of reality shine bright — what are you left with: adulthood. We all have to grow up sometime. Fatherhood puts all of that into perspective. But what happens when the culture you embrace doesn’t really want to embrace you? You reshape it to fit your reality. You become a different kind of pop culture. You become counter culture — which is the most hip hop thing you can do. While others are popping bottles, you’re making bottles and being the man your family deserves. There is space in hip hop for that, right?
Hip Hop is a young culture that has transitioned through multiple iterations since its inception in the early 70s in the Bronx. It’s entering a phase where we are finding our place in a culture that is youth centric. There aren’t many examples of hip hop artists aging gracefully and still being culturally relevant. When you survey the landscape the names that come up are: Jay-Z, Nas, Snoop, Dr. Dre and maybe LL Cool J (a few others – I see you Bun B). But that’s it. With that group only Jay and Nas’ music has progressed as they have gotten older. What do you do when it’s time to grow up? This is the dilemma that my generation is facing.
The 70’s babies (78 kid here) we now have children, 401ks, careers, wives/husbands etc… We’re uncomfortable wearing the skin tight jeans but we have pulled our pants up to our waist and we aren’t wearing overly baggy jeans. We’ve had to abandon our homophobic rhetoric that plagued early rap music and be more inclusive. Our tastes have matured where we know there are better brands than Tommy Hilfiger, some of us are wine connoisseurs, smoke cigars minus the marijuana (we also still smoke weed but our white friends have put us on to things like bongs) politically conscious and have really diverse non-hip hop centric interests.
Being the trailblazers is exciting but you have to be able to be comfortable in your own skin. That’s what we all struggle with. We don’t understand why Young Thug is popular or even “get him” and we have been trying to fight that “kid get off my lawn” attitude about new age rap music. But we fail miserably and instead of educating the generation behind us – we’re abandoning them. Ironically, we’re doing exactly what the generation before us did that we hated so much.
The generation before us ,those that are in their late 40s, who were really there from the start; most have abandoned the culture because as they progressed their taste changed. It could be because their rap heroes started making bad music. “A Taste of Chocolate” was a terrible album and it got worse for Kane. Rakim went on an extended hiatus until he dropped that solo project in the mid-90s. (“Don’t Sweat the Technique” album was horrible).
Thanks to Spike Lee in the late 80s and early 90s most of the listeners gravitated to jazz. When they started having children most found the church. My generation is overly skeptical of the church, because we are more in tune with history. We don’t really like jazz except when it’s flipped in a sample. We’re in this weird adulthood limbo where we want to stay connected to a culture that has given us so many great memories but that same culture – at least musically, has left us feeling disenchanted.
I think that’s why Nas’ “Life Is Good” resonates so much me with as an adult as Illmatic did as a kid. When I hear that album (do kids even still call them that anymore?) it sounds mature, it details the up and downs of relationships, fatherhood, but still not abandoning his street roots by reflecting on project tales. Jay’s “Glory” has been on repeat since we knew MiMo was coming. That song encapsulated our parenting journey so well, especially the first verse. That’s not to say that the newer rappers aren’t making great music or music I can identify with – J Cole, Wale, Kendrick, hell of all of TDE, Phonte, the list goes on are making great music that I can listen to. Their music coincide with my true school sensibilities.
We are all navigating this grown up world in our own special way. I think it’s important that we don’t abandon the culture. The very first song my daughter heard after she was born is “Verses from The Abstract” by A Tribe Called Quest. In her first three months of life she was put to sleep to music by Common and Talib Kweli. As she gets older I want to share my love for the culture with her in various ways. I want to teach her to recognize samples, producer styles etc. For Christ’s sake I named her stuffed bunny Bun B – I am influencing her as much as possible. But knowing my luck she will like whatever is hot at the moment and doing some weird new seizure inducing dance that is taking over the world. Parenting Fail.