Rap always seems to be a topic of discussion with my friends: even with those who don’t actively follow the genre. One point that always comes up is how the music out now pales in comparison to the songs we came up with. It’s at this point where people don their rose tinted shades and reminisce on the “good ‘ol days” when “dope” records were a radio dial away. Now, heads not into today’s rap music shun it entirely.
We don’t realize it. But we often attach a song we heard in our youth to a memory when the world didn’t seem so bad. Nowadays, that connection to music isn’t there since a flat out lack to relation and/or overall enjoyment towards today’s music takes over. That’s not a bad thing at all. Honestly, no one reasonably expects 30+ year olds to turn to the likes of Wiz Khalifa or Lil Wayne. Some do, but they’re not expected to take part since they’re outside the target demo.
But what if you’re tastes don’t reflect those of your age group? For instance, the “rap brain trust” I mentioned earlier is mostly in the early-mid twenties. However, for different reasons, we molded our rap tastes to the likes of Nas, Biggie, Wu-Tang, Tribe and other rap artists who were popular throughout the 90’s. You may say, “So what? That’s me too.” Well we may share a similar taste in music but that wasn’t music of our generation. I remember interning at MTV and seeing my higher ups, who were at least 6+ years older than me at the time, surprised I knew Snoop Dogg’s first single from Doggystyle, how I initially heard it in elementary school (sorry mom & pops) or the fact I could keep up in a convo about music from years past.
I remember looking at them sideways and saying to myself, “Wow, they really expect my generation to not know much about yesterday’s records.” I’m far from a hip-hop encyclopedia but I can hold my own in a conversation covering rap from various eras. And then I realized they’re not off base for making that assumption. People my age and younger who solely dig those style of records have their ears tuned like the aforementioned 30+ somethings. Notice how I said solely, as liking tracks from the past and present aren’t mutually exclusive. But I digress.
Therefore, our tastes don’t reflect those who are consuming today’s music at large. The biggest consumers mostly don’t care for the structure of rap songs that permeated airwaves two decades ago. At least that’s what they’re spending and consumption habits suggest. If they did, many of today’s popular acts wouldn’t be eating like they are right now.
Music, like so many things in life, moves in cycles. With every cycle, the old generation’s tastes get replaced with the new as sounds evolve or, at the very least, change. For instance, do you really think heads that came up on the orchestral-heavy R&B cuts of the 70’s universally fell in loved with the genre’s shift to electronic sounds in the 80’s? Or did you notice when a generation of hair metal diehards were hung out to dry for grunge bands with sudden success? Now, the following is my favorite. How about when your parents heard a rap song with a noticeable sample of a song they liked growing up only to dismiss it just because “they stole the record” or “made it sound worse?”
Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps our taste in music is immaculate in our own minds and everyone else is in the dark. Or, more realistically speaking, times have changed but our reference point for “good music” hasn’t. Truth be told, people always complained about music in every era and thus compared to the records they came up on. Besides, it’s that same holier than thou mindset that helped make jazz music, once a staple in American society, irrelevant to much of the populace. I’m not saying we all should hold hands in a big circle and celebrate whichever rapper is next to make it big. Instead, it’s just “our” turn to voice displeasure to most popular tracks these days. And quite frankly, we’ve been at it for more than a few years now.