Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
My 14 year old cousin & I had a conversation last week about rappers. It started with me asking him if he heard of Chief Keef, then abruptly cutting him off – mid-answer – telling him I know he has because he’s always online.He told me that Keef has a cool following at the school, but most of the kids were stuck on Lil B.
“Based God?” I said, realizing that this was the first time I’d ever said that phrase out loud, in real life. He confirmed it with that lazy, shiftless teenager nod. A couple days down the line, I heard him listening to Tupac on his iPhone. The day after, Rick Ross. Then I heard him listening to – the most surprising, easily – Notorious B.I.G. The day after I had the GKMC listening party with Sean Esquire, my cousin was quietly banging it on the computer. I asked was it Kendrick, he said yep, & we simultaneously sang along with “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” Kendrick & his robot voice included.
At some point, I even asked my cousin the most dangerous question in Hip Hop: Tupac or Biggie? He literally bellowed a girthy “HA!” like I offended him on Twitter & said “Pac, of course!” This caused for me to dispatch a brief pocket of information to the pup on the vast differences between the two rappers & how it’s almost like comparing apples to motorcycle engines.
When I was fourteen, there were no “old school rappers.” At the very least, there were current rappers who happened to be old-er in actual years, not “old” as in relevance or lack of. So the fact that my cousin can squeeze a couple of great (albeit deceased) rappers among his Kendrick, his YG, & his Maybach Music is pretty amazing. It’s the perfect example of the longevity & staying power that Hip Hop has at it’s command.
For my generation, there was no “throwback,” because we were there when it all began. My cousin wasn’t even alive when Pac & Biggie were murdered, so when people scream that “Hip Hop is dead!” bullshit, brush that dirt of your shoulder & know that it’s alive & well in the hands of the youth. (The jury’s still out on whether that’s a good or bad thing, though.)
Long live…eh, you know the rest.
Words by Tony Grands