(ThyBlackMan.com) We’ve all witnessed the sad sceen before: once spry and energetic rappers who have overstayed their welcome to the genre and now, well, they’re just old.
Looking at an old rapper that has clearly seen younger days and is now trying to catch their breath in between lyrics is like being a witness to elder abuse. There’s just nothing cool about seeing someone who is, in many cases, a grandparent trying to recapture the swagger of a wild-eyed and foolish teenager.
This is not to say that older rappers don’t necessarily have anything to say. On the contrary. A lot of times age and wisdom help to temper the tone and the message. Well, they should help to calm down the message.
A prime example of this is Mr. William Leonard Roberts II, rap name Rick Ross. In one of his songs this former correctional officer thought it would be a good idea to wax philosophical about rape. In ”U.O.E.N.O” he said, “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it./I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Molly is the date rape drug. The overwhelming backlash that he received from many different communities of women forced him to make an apology.
The visual of Rick Ross is equally as offensive as his lyrics. For the most part if you can imagine Jabba-the-Hut with a b-cup, give him a beard, drop him in hot boiling oil until he’s nice and crispy, then dress him in baggy jeans and a wife beater t-shirt (nowadays he’s sporting a much smaller frame thanks to losing a lot of weight), you’ve pretty much nailed it.
To top it off, he’s almost 40 years old and worked in law enforcement. He should know better! As a matter of fact, he does know better. Pacing around back and forth on stage is a high intensity cardio workout for him!
Women aren’t immune from this spectacle either. Kimberly Denise Jones, aka Lil’ Kim, with her multiple attempts, and fails, at plastic surgery has succeeded in making herself look like the abandoned love child of Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson. At 40-years-old she should be the respected den mother for all of the female rappers coming after her. Ironically, maybe she is.
Rap music is primarily an extension of urban youth culture. Why? It is no accident that the newest trends in fashion, art, literature, music and other forms of artistic expression come from the bravado and counter-culture that is often embodied by the creativity of young people. As you get older you mellow out. It’s just nature, and sometimes nature is the best judge of when it’s time to hang up the mic, or at least seriously consider doing so.
There are some artists who have maintained their timelessness in spite of their age. It’s rare, but not impossible. But to every Jay-Z and Eminem (both of whom are over 40) there’s a gaggle of old wheezing rappers running around in oversized t-shirts that look more like a circus sideshow than artists who should even be considered being taken seriously.
Unlike other forms of music, rap demands a certain type of authenticity that is often weighed more heavily than training or ivory tower pedigree. In other words no one cares if you graduated magna cum laude from Harvard majoring in classic English literature. Additionally no one cares if your daddy was Curtis Blow. All that matters is what kind of skills you have on the mic.
Old rappers, at least the good ones, never stop learning. The older they get and the more they do it the better at rapping they become. Couple that with the fact that many of these rappers became household names when rap was becoming the national and international cultural force that it is today. Leaving the spot light is not a very easy task for many of them.
People seem to forget that many of these rappers hit it big when they were in their late teens and early twenties. Fast forward twenty-years and now they’re in their 40’s and 50’s. A lot of them, having pioneered an art form that celebrates the creativity of youth, have found leaving the limelight to be very difficult.
But that doesn’t mean that they should stay around longer than is necessary. Gray hairs poking out from underneath your dew rag, and sagging pants that show you’re wearing depends underneath is not a good way to go out. Be that guiding voice in the background, the one in the wings that says “do this, don’t do that.” Let the new generation have their turn.
The LL Cool J’s, Ice-T’s, Ice Cube’s, Common’s, Queen Latifah’s and Will Smith’s of the world have provided invaluable guidance to a host of young rappers on how, after a few years, it becomes necessary to reinvent yourself. Running out of breath after jumping around on stage, taking your shirt off to show a big ole belly and tripping in heels that are too high (and have been for the past decade) is not the most dignified thing an aging rapper can or should do. Pass the baton before you pass out.
Staff Writer; Steven Robinson
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