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Ageism in Rap

Ageism in Rap

James Fleming

Recently in the rap/hip-hop community there has been a growing disparity between the veteran traditionalists (old-heads) and the new wave of rappers. Many older rappers and fans of old hip-hop have voiced their vehement disapproval of modern rappers, specifically their messages, lyrics and the way they carry themselves. On the other side of the coin, many artists today label their rap predecessors as “haters” or curmudgeons with a strong bias. Both sides have legitimate gripes with each other, some more truthful than others, but who really is at fault? First let’s look at today’s generation of rappers, two in particular: Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert. Both have the common title of “Lil” both have dyed hair, and both have been besmirched by older rappers for their different take on artistry or as some critics describe it: mumble rap. Lil Yachty has constantly been criticized for not only sounding awful but also for being a complete dumpster fire lyrically. His voice has been described as a squeaky floorboard trying to imitate Andre 3000, and his lyrics can range from quizzical and acceptable to confusing, disappointing and baffling in a hot second.
New Era Rap vs Old School
With most of his critics pointing out his laziness and unintelligible bars as his biggest problems. Lil Yachty is also infamous for not knowing any songs from legends Biggie Smalls or Tupac Shakur; which on one hand is considered inexcusable but on the other is very understandable, considering the fact that he is only 19, and wasn’t really even around when either of those rappers were at their peak. He has been quoted boasting about his ability to make good music saying that he could make a song repeating the word yeah a few times and put it over a great beat and it would become an instant hit. Could this be a legitimate boast or indicative of a major problem in music? Lil Uzi Vert gets similar criticism but to a somewhat lesser extent. Like Yachty he has a ton of older critics and has been criticized for his lyrics, however, he resonates more with some people because he seems to have more care for what he is doing artistically. Uzi was heavily criticized for his lack of enthusiasm to freestyle on a few radio shows, which to some non-believers means that he is completely trash when it comes to “bars”. His name has also become synonymous with throwing out ad-libs constantly in songs, every other verse it’s “yeah” or “what”. One critique that has followed him his whole career is his appearance. Uzi sports frequently dyed dreadlocks, skinny jeans and occasionally a satchel that is a bit like a purse. I personally think the critique comes from this outdated idea of masculinity in rap and this notion of being “hard”. While many of these critiques are valid, the main counterpoint I have to this is; things change. Music changes, to some for the worst to others for the best. I remember when some of the rappers nowadays that rip on the younger generation received just as much flak for being different in style appearance and melodically.

Is Hip Hop Dead?
Also, a number of these so called “legends” and old fans tend to keep those magic nostalgia goggles on and gloss over some parts of the past, so when I hear an older fan say that rappers today are killing hip hop, I’m quick to remind them of popular artists of their time like MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice. Or when someone says “rappers nowadays dress too effeminate”; which I think is a bit homophobic, I bring up Camron’s pink polos or Andre 3000’s lavish robes. We value things differently nowadays as well, some fans aren’t heavy on lyricism and others are. Another important thing to remember is that some artists change as well, I’ve seen artists like Young Thug, who early on in his career and to some extent still does get the same types of criticism that both Uzi and Yachty get. But, I’ve seen him change, I’ve seen a bigger emphasis on message and artistry lately, something that has really made him stand out. Many people often say that real rappers don’t exist anymore when there are tons of rappers who have messages that can appeal to both young and old or who are incredibly gifted if you really listen to their message, but unfortunately people more often than not love to typecast and say everyone today sucks. The criticism of a lot of new artists receive is very similar to how a lot of people get upset over slang just because it doesn’t appeal to your tastes or you don’t understand it. So before you pigeonhole the artists of today, ask yourself; “am I out of touch”.
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