I can’t say that I’m a fan of Lil Yachty’s music, but the 19-year-old earned my respect when he stepped up to the plate and apologized for calling Notorious B.I.G. “overrated.” Rather than dismiss it as an “Old School vs. New School” conversation and chalk it up to old people hating what young people are doing, Yachty sat down with Ebro and gave his honest perspective.
“The only thing I kind of hate is that I kind of spoke so quick on (Biggie), saying I don’t know this I don’t know that before I gave him a chance and listened to him…. Before I said that I was in the blind. I feel like I owe an apology. I didn’t think before I spoke on that topic. I know now how important and just how serious it is to some people. I didn’t want people thinking that I was disrespecting him because it wasn’t a disrespect thing. That’s just my personal opinion. My dad did not play Biggie or Tupac so I had never heard it. And I just now, to this day, I feel like I was wrong for speaking about something like that without taking a second to listen.”
It was fascinating to see an emcee under the legal drinking age respectfully debate his position. And while some may see this as an age thing, it’s really not. It’s about maturity and a young emcee that is doing his best to be understood. What we tend to forget is that old people are just as gotdamn ignorant as young people. Lil Yachty was just as ignorant for calling Biggie overrated without listening to it as a 40-year-old trashing Young Thug without giving him a listen. But the biggest takeaway that is up for debate is the fact that he never heard a Biggie or Tupac song. With so many avenues to get information, how could you not listen to two of the greatest rappers of all time?
It’s easy because the informational highway is often congested with distractions that range from engaging in social media debates to Pornhub. Even though everything you could ever want to know is on the internet, you have to be determined to actively look for it. And, frankly, most people don’t take the time to look up things they don’t necessarily deem important. And the history of hip hop is one of those things. It’s an unfortunate truth, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fact.
But that’s about as far as age goes in hip hop. Emcees young and old create beautiful poetry over production just like rappers young and old make party music that isn’t here to stimulate brain cells.
I’d be remiss to not quote Robert Sylvester Kelly here by saying Age Ain’t Nuthin But A Number (in hip hop, not in the bedroom. But I digress). Some simply have a taste in a certain kind of music. Experience usually comes with age, but some just don’t appreciate certain aspects of music, ever. You know, like lyricism. I haven’t met too many people who liked party music until they hit 30 and now all they listen to is “conscious rap.” Maybe I’m wrong but your core is your core. It doesn’t really change as much as it expands and evolves. If De La Soul wasn’t your cup of tea in the 90s, chances are that you won’t be checking for them in 2016.
Which leads me to the purpose of this column.
For the most part, the Old School vs. New School argument is a bunch of bullshit. It’s an excuse for people to use words like “hater” without comprehending that you can’t be called a “hater” if you have an educated opinion. That goes both ways. From the Lil Yachtys to the Lord Jamars, there is a blind hatred by both parties that is loaded up into a canon and carelessly fired into a crowd. Whomever the venom coats is simply collateral damage.
It’s funny because I’ve finally reached that age that is on the other side of the fence. You know, the age where I’ve been in this industry for over a decade and I’ve got people that come up to me and say that they read my columns when they were in middle school. That age where your journalistic peers refer you to as an O.G. I can’t masquerade as a “new school” cat nor will I be mistaken as one walking down the street. When I write my columns about politics and hip hop, I get accused of being an “old head” who just wants the young kids to get off his lawn.
Funny shit. But abso-f*cking-lutely false.
My taste in music has nothing to do with my age. If you have been following my work for the last 14 years from my days at HipHopSite and HipHopDX, you’ll realize that my overtures are the same today as they were back then. I’ve always liked my music with substance and am only impressed with emcees that pen verses that I couldn’t come up with on my finest day at the office.
I was mesmerized when Ras Kass used to lyrically undress emcees with bars like the ones he dropped on “Come Widdit” in the early 90s. I was a teenager but those bars had weight. Fast forward to the emergence of Eminem and I got a good laugh out of him saying “I’ll bite your motherfuckin’ style, just to make it fresher” on “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” or when Royce Da 5’9” threatened to “Murder you then come to your funeral service lobby and strangle your body to confirm it.” Today I get a kick out of Childish Gambino when he manages to brilliantly sink an onomatopoeia reference into “Sweatpants.”
As you can see by these examples, I’ve liked the same type of emcee for two decades. The same goes for emcees who look to educate with their “conscious rap” lyrics. From KRS-One and Chuck D to Mos Def and Talib Kweli to Lupe Fiasco and Immortal Technique to J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, I’ve always gravitated to an emcee that rhymes about social issues. It had nothing to do with age. Yet, whenever I talk about what I don’t like, I’m made out to be an “old hater.”
To quote Common from “The 6th Sense”:
It’s arguably one of the truest lines ever uttered in hip hop.
What gets lost in translation is that I have disliked the same music at 21 that I dislike today. It has nothing to do with old school vs. new school, but it has everything to do with taste. Or, in laymen terms, it’s dope shit versus wack shit. And my definition of what is wack has never, ever changed. An emcee’s age has nothing to do with it.
For example, I enjoy the music of, Vic Mensa (23), Chance The Rapper (23), Mac Miller (24), and Vince Staples (23) but I’m not a fan of Future (33), Lil Wayne (34), Rick Ross (40), French Montana (32) and Gucci Mane (36). It’s the subject matter that turns me off.
I don’t like Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan or Lil Yachty today, I didn’t like Nelly, Lil Jon, Dem Franchise Boyz, D4L, Mike Jones, 50 Cent, Yung Joc or Ying Yang Twins a decade ago, and I wasn’t a fan of anything No Limit in the late 90s. That’s just how I rolled. But now that I’m older, it can be chalked up to me being an “old hater.” But what about the 20-somethings who dislike the same things? Is it really and old school vs. new school argument?
It can’t always be that simple.
To act like every rapper from the 80’s and 90’s was a lyrical dynamo that rocked gold medallions and deprived themselves of pork is just as ignorant as believing that the rappers of this generation all mumble, do drugs and are less lyrically inclined than their predecessors.
Again, it’s strictly a matter of taste.
What I can understand is that students aren’t educated on the history of hip hop like they should be. It is (unfortunately) relatively normal for a 19-year-old to have never heard a Biggie or Tupac song unless they actively sought it out. The same can’t be said for kids who love Rock music. Although some traces of “Old School vs. New School” exist, there’s an appreciation for Metallica and Nirvana. Schools teach the history of music from a certain perspective and the different prisms of hip hop are often left out. Just like how the civil rights movement is reduced to Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful protests in school books. Everything from Malcolm X to the Black Panther Party are barely a footnote. So how can you expect what’s selectively omitted to be embedded in the DNA of the new generation of music lovers?
You really just have to hope that somebody introduces it to them or they are hungry enough for knowledge of the culture that they look themselves. Because, obviously, everyone has heard of Tupac and Biggie. But it’s not like knowing Biggie, Pac, Rakim, Ice Cube, Snoop, KRS-One, MC Shan and the rest is part of the test to get a rapper’s license. Actually, there are no requirements to be an emcee. But I digress…
The art of emceeing has evolved but the premise of successfully stringing words together in rhyme still exists. Just like in basketball where the object of the game is to put the orange ball in the hoop with the net. Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest because of “old heads,” he’s the greatest because he decimated his opponents and has the stats to prove it. You’ll be hard pressed to find an emcee who is as brilliant with his words as Christopher Wallace was. The production and references in the songs may have aged but those bars have not. Just because the game evolves doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate what happened in the past. Hell, that’s what YouTube is for! You can go back and watch Michael Jordan crush his foes at any time and appreciate what he accomplished. You can write down the lyrics from Biggie’s Ready To Die or Nas’ Illmatic and they still hold up against what any other emcee writes (or doesn’t write).
There will always be a difference of opinion between generations. However, it’s just not as black and white as people make it out to be. Being wack knows no age and neither does being dope.
Stop making it something that it really isn’t.