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AGEISM IN URBAN MUSIC: Over It.

Enough already with the old school versus new school. Everyone can eat, really. But will artists finally get this point, or will the rivalries between a-likes such as R. Kelly and Trey Songz, or Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim continue to rifle through the industry doing more harm than good? @TrevBetter goes in with today’s lesson.

Words: @TrevBetter

I just heard the comments R. Kelly made on the Tony Sculfield morning show regarding Trey Songz. I was somewhat impressed with Kells for taking the high road and not falling into the temptation to make war. Not because I necessarily believe in keeping the peace, I just didn’t feel like hearing Kelly making music with the impetus to keep up with Trey in his prime. After having to listen to a full year of shots fired between Nicki and Kim, I’m happy somebody broke the cycle. Even though a slew of R&B riffs between Kells and Songz wouldn’t really tarnish their careers, yet fan a fire that has little to do with beef and everything to do with ego, age and mortality.

Robert Kelly is a gifted singer and songwriter who happens to embrace the spirit of ghetto love but can write for the likes of Celine Dion. Tremaine Neverson is obviously of the same cloth minus the controversial sexual deviance and long list of music composed for others. Usually when the student contends the master it comes from an emotion of being neglected or slighted in some way. Most times, beef brews behind the scenes due to multiple unreturned phone calls, excuses and abuse of power, not to mention who slept with whom. This happens way before public insults are exchanged. Part of the reason there’s so many collaborations is because it’s easier to swap spit on tracks than to have another artist annoyed at you for not getting on a song.

Times have officially changed and music no longer holds value without 360 deals. OG’s need to find means of relevant persevering other than expressing anger that a new YouTube sensation didn’t pay proper homage to those who were trailblazing when the teenie-bopper was in kindergarten. Don’t blame them for their date of birth. Blame the program directors and DJ’s for not mixing up the playlist, then recommend albums to download. Hip-Hop influence has a different type of zeitgeist than Rock & Soul cause its references are so rooted in the “now,” which quickly becomes the antiquated “then.” In addition, traditional music doesn’t have explicit language which allows crooners to age with timeless lyrics. The ode to the thong will soon be replaced by giving thanks to the Spanx. Unfortunately, we’re all going through the growing pains of watching, not just the music artists, but the culture move from an unapologetic adolescence to arthritis. Sometimes forgotten artists get so happy when a youngin’ mentions them that they instinctively jump on an unofficial remix just to say remember me. Yeah, there are definitely times when an OG should (Milk D), but most times they shouldn’t (fill in the blank). Even the OG’s who are still thriving can’t help but over reach to keep residency in the house that they built. And It’s awkward for all parties involved…. Does there need to be an Adult Contemporary Rap countdown to discern an ignorant bliss fanbase? All the Busta and Missy masters of energy over drums could, technically do what they do forever, but most teens to twenty-somethings would rather see masters of ceremony of their own reflection.

Which rappers over 40 will we want to still hear from 10 years from now? Will we accept their chosen subject matter and dress code? Will father and son albums be the next trend that will pack concerts with the banger sisters and their daughters? “His seeds, marry his seeds, marry his seeds, that’s how we keep Wu-Tang money all up in the family.” What happened to that prophecy? I came up on Cuban Linx but Cuban Linx 2 didn’t get a lot of rotation in my car, and not because it wasn’t good, it was very good. I just didn’t want to hear Raekwon talking about crack. I want to hear him make crack music du jour like the recipe from Kanye’s cookbook and Jeru’s jungle. I realize I’m closer to doing the Electric Slide to Biggie’s “Hypnotize” than I am to doing the next Rain dance; yet strip club culture might be the best contemporary parallel to the Rap game (that used to remind us of the crack game).

The truth is, the girl Common used to love is an unfaithful, serial-dating nymphomaniac who yearns, yet still deserves to be treated like a lady. For the OG’s, it’s like watching an ex-girlfriend be mistreated by a string of bf’s. She’s a bombshell who rock wigs and got GP (Good P—y), but are you considerate of her wants, needs and proud to sport her like a trophy wife even when she wears her hair natural?

This leads us to the other perennial problem of artists versus posers. Tats used to mean gang, jail or R.I.P., now it’s just fashion ID. So many public enemies, rebels without a publicist; artist development is dependent on stylists and good engineers. Paying dues will never be the same from one generation to the next. Being a DJ use to mean so much more from record shopping, blends, mixing, scratching (not getting a scratch on the vinyl), and getting people to help you carry those heavy-ass milk crates. Now there’s an App for that. Every Hip-Hop album used to have an annoying, but sometimes masterful track devoted to the DJ. A legendary emcee launched his career nominating his DJ for President. For a while people thought Eric B was Rakim since his name came first on the marquee. A gesture of a status so respected that the Fresh Prince had to distinguish himself as “the rapper” for their debut album. I guess one can argue that the evolution shows proof of progress because DJ’s now have albums. Not like it’s a new trend, it just became a chess move where you don’t have to be Kid Capri, just scream louder, lockdown radio and have a dominant record pool to practice legal payola. Rappers come and go, DJ’s always have a job. The rites of passage are ever-changing. We all leap frog careers and someone will always reap the benefits of timing over talent. We shouldn’t judge worthiness, but in general, we like when an artist can play an instrument. It shows respect for craft and helps us to separate quality from the hash-tag sideshow. The age divide is as much about wrinkles and botox as it is about discontent from lack of content and substance coming from the new G’s. In the hardest economic times we’ve faced in several scores, nobody’s starting verses saying, “I know how it feels to wake up fucked up…” Where are all the crack baby rappers with some Riddlin rhymes?

Everything becomes a dinosaur; we leave our vestige but have a harder time controlling which fossils will be in corporate controlled museums. Even Eminem is uncomfortable being crowned the king by Rolling Stone because it comes from a false authority in the tradition of Elvis or any other great White hope. He knows, he is, whatever you say he is, but he also knows that the R, the A to the K-I-M was never bestowed that title by a magazine that doesn’t understand the hidden reference in this sentence. Ironically, a week after writing this, Eric B. & Rakim were nominated as inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Point being, history is biased and the more lessons are unselfishly passed down, the less likely youth will be wasted on the young (Shaw ya right).

In a weird way, we had the right to date our elders because we were inventing something new that had no blueprint. Four foundational elements plus a whole lot of beat-boxing. We explained to our parents that their Godfather James Brown was old until Eric and Ra came out with “I Got Soul.” Then every other artist took a loop and made us appreciate the JB. I want to cite the Jungle Brothers for clever context, but too few will get it because they are, yet another heirloom we mishandled. I know it’s a lot to learn, so we try to help you by sampling Soul for dummies and naming the song “Otis” because we understand the importance of sharing the source of inspiration in its purity. Jay even had to sample himself – proof. You ’90s babies (aka Weezy’s cult core) are the first recipients of Hip-Hop’s inheritance and there’s always going to be people old and young who are uncomfortable with you having something you technically didn’t earn; you must learn—truth.

So, are we purveyors of chivalry, rivalry or domestic abuse when it comes to Common’s ex? Are the young bloods good students or dumb jocks who know how to Doug E but not how to study? Does Kim hate Nicki or does Kim hate herself for not being in a position to sign her heir? Will Kells and Songz do a song and call it “The Remix to the Remix of Ignition”? Will Kim and Nicki rhyme on it? Trey is actually the perfect product of proper tutelage but now that he has learned how to fly, can Kelly just teach him how to land? How quickly we play each other out; ex to the next; they’re the new you, and the same way Trey cites Aaron Hall as a cycle of shitting, his songs, eventually, inevitably, will need TP-too 🙂

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