Monday, December 4, 2023

Jay-Z's 54th Birthday is Today and it Got Me Thinking About Rap Growing Older

Shawn Carter, or as he is also known, Jay-Z, turns 54 years old today. Hip-Hop was considered by many to turn 50 this year. A lot of rappers who once were young and edgy to the degree that parents protested them now are grandfathers who hang out with Martha Stewart (Snoop Dogg), popular mainstream movie or television stars (Ludacris, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, Ice-T and more), or releasing instrumental albums dedicated to playing the flute and other woodwinds (Andre 3000, who outright has said he doesn't know what a 40-something man might rap about). 

There are plenty of young(er) rappers out there who are immensely talented, without a doubt. We've got Kendrick Lamar amazing listeners still. Drake is hugely popular too. That said, you see a stark generational divide in Hip-Hop between the new young folks rapping about the go-to subjects of partying and sex versus older rappers who either have quit for other passions or seem past their prime (Eminem belongs on a metaphorical rap Mount Rushmore but his newer stuff has been lacking). Dr. Dre is about a billionaire thanks to headphones. Uncle Luke of the 2 Live Crew maybe once was as nasty as he wanted to be, but now he's a high school football coach--and actually quite a good one! Rap isn't just young folks anymore, it has older talent too and arguably is a genre in a bit of a aged-up/midlife crisis.

Rap can be about drinking, smoking weed, having sex, and being a troublemaker. Rap can be about politics, life's struggles, religion, and being true to oneself. For a long time outside of some gimmick rappers, however, I don't think rap ever really thought about dealing with the subject of getting old. The idea was to live fast and die young, and that tragically did happen with a number of Hip-Hop stars. That said, Lil Kim arguably paved the road for today's raunchy lady rappers who proudly will discuss sexual subjects, but she's now almost 50 and while older folks surely have sex, she's dealing with other aspects of life like (unfortunately) trouble with the IRS

Rappers are getting older and so are their fans. Can someone in their 30s relate to Sexyy Red as much as the younger folks or do we need the older rappers to touch on subjects relating to us being older? I'm not saying Andre 3000 should finally release a rap album with a track about getting a prostate exam, but just as rap has covered a wide range of subjects, why not touch upon what it is like being middle-aged? Jay-Z once rapped about selling drugs to get by, now he can rap about being a parent. He's grown and parts of rap have grown too. There will always be space for the younger rappers and the subjects the teens/20-somethings want covered. Let's give some space to the older folks too.

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