Appreciate all of rap’s generations

Published 8:32 pm Monday, December 5, 2016

The “old school” versus “new school” rap debate has been going on for eons, and I think it will continue due to the polarizing stances on the matter.

The older generation will always say the MCs (masters of ceremonies) from their era are better than the current generation. This may be true, in some cases but I think it can be a blanket statement.

I’m sure the generation that primarily listened to Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five would argue their collection of rap artists were some of the greatest to grace the mic.

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This may not always be true.

Mind you, these artists were the pioneers of the genre, but that doesn’t mean they were the best MCs of all-time. Yes, The Sugarhill Gang gave us one of rap’s most recognized songs in “Rapper’s Delight.” But think for a moment, are records like that the best rap has offered?


Not when you’ve got the rappers such as Biggie Smalls, Nas, Rakim and Jay-Z who come about a decade or two later.

Although I am a ’90s baby, I’m not biased in saying that that era was the “golden era” of rap. It’s almost a known fact in the hip-hop community.

The list of classics that flowed from this time period is interminable.

The name of the game for most rappers in this era was lyricism. This doesn’t negate the fact that there were wack rappers from this decade, but it was few and far between.

Now, addressing this generation is a double-edged sword because where it lacks in lyrically gifted rappers, it makes up for in its innovation.

The majority of mainstream rappers today fall into two categories: trap/mumble or lyrical. The introduction of rappers such as Future, Young Thug and Gucci Mane fits the first moniker.

There is nothing wrong with liking these artists — even I listen to them from time to time. However, these artists tend to lack lyrically but still manage to make it to the radio. This probably wouldn’t have been the case in previous generations.

But, artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper have also made it to the airwaves. These artists are all strong lyrically and each has their own unique styles. However, in this generation, these types of artists are rare and aren’t as ubiquitous as previous generations.

In the realm of innovation, Chance the Rapper is the torchbearer for this generation. He infuses rap, gospel and electric synths into his music, all of the music he has released to date is free and he has done it completely independently — not to mention all of his community initiatives.

In fact, the amount of independent rappers has grown significantly. Of the 75 rap albums that topped the Billboard Rap charts from 2010 to 2014, nearly 15 percent were produced by artists considered outside of the mainstream, according to a Harvard Political Review article.

Artists like Chance probably wouldn’t have made it to the airwaves in previous generations because of his unorthodox flow and beat selection. But, due to rap’s growth into a global phenomenon, this has enlarged the funnel of artists into the rap game.

With this comes new styles, new topics and more genre-blending. The rap game is no longer pigeonholed by its founding principles.

Rap was birthed by combining different genres — jazz, funk, gospel, calypso and others. So why get mad when the rappers of this generation are reinventing the wheel?

So, I think while the debates of which generation is the strongest lyrically will continue into oblivion, we should not overlook the contributions and influences the artists provide to the industry and the culture.

The 1970s brought us hip-hop, the 1980s and 1990s brought us some of the best hip-hop has to offer and the 2000s brought us innovation.

However, I feel some rappers from this generation would give the rappers of previous generations, in their primes, a run for their money.