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Hip-Hop's generational gap & the responsibility we all share

One of the most interesting things to see in hip hop culture is a veteran hip hop artist discussing the state of hip hop music with a younger star. It is a fascinating view into human emotion.

Every couple of years this will occur. Like in 2008 when Soulja Boi and Ice T went back and forth by way of video and on over Ice T’s comments about Soulja Boi’s skill level.

In 2016, Complex held together a panel with acts such as Raekwon, Vince Staples, French Montana, and legendary producer Pete Rock. Although this panel was meant to bridge the gap and bring together a meeting of the minds of different generations, which may have been accomplished in the conclusion of the panel, the tension that existed between the respective groups was obvious.

The latest iteration of this is a conversation that occurred between Lil Yachty and Joe Budden on Everyday Struggle, a daily talk show with Joe Budden, DJ Akademiks and moderated by Nadeska Alexis on the only platform that would be in the middle of this (You guessed it) Complex News.

Some background: On the Youtube show, Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks discuss daily happenings in hip hop culture and music in a style similar to ESPN’s First Take.

If any of you are fans of sports or music, you understand two things. First, most of the time those conversation come down to yelling and extreme hyperbole. And secondly, everyone involved often deliberately exaggerates a point in order to obtain an advantage in a fictional competition that only exist in one’s mind. I have done that countless times (Don’t tell my friends and keep this between us).

In this context, Joe Budden had some critiques about Lil Yachty and his label and how they are not a true representation of hip hop. Lil Yachty a couple of episodes later, came to Everyday Struggle to discuss this with Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks. While the two remained cordial, some moments of intensity occurred. I won’t get into the specifics, you can view the exchange in the video below.

What is the most fascinating is how this was perceived by the fans. On one side you have fans that clearly sided with the younger acts like Lil Yachty.

They come from the perspective of, let the new artist enjoy themselves and do them. Allow them to grow into their own and stop placing them into a box. They also view the older artist as simply bitter and state that there is an element of jealousy in all of these scenarios. Other fans view it as, the older artists are simply trying to impart knowledge into the younger artists. They view it as younger artists should be more respectful and show the predecessors the respect that it deserves.

The truth is more complicated than that. There is a fine balance and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Hip hop music is one of the youngest genres of music that exist.

There are not a lot of examples of older artist that age and grow and move into a different realm gracefully. This iteration of Joe Budden coming from an active rapper to a commentator of sorts has never been seen. So when does it become an older artist hating or trying to give rise to the culture?

Rory, Mal, and Joe Budden during a recording of their Podcast (The Joe Budden Podcast)

The reality that a lot of us fail to understand is, that the older you become the more you feel it is your responsibility to impart knowledge. There is an overwhelming desire for you to latch on and speak to a member of the younger generation to teach them what you have seen, to make them understand what is ahead, and to assure a better legacy to be continued.

Eventually, that knowledge crosses over to self-righteousness, condescension, and moral superiority in a field it shouldn’t exist.

Younger artists do not care just like a younger adult at certain age is less susceptible to receive advice. Lil Yachty is 19 years old; At 19 years old, I felt I knew everything I wanted in life. I did not care for the opinions or the guidance of the ones older than me. This is where this disconnection comes from.

Lil' Yachty's performance at Rolling Loud 2016

How do you impart knowledge on a generation that for the most part does not want it? How do you give knowledge without getting to the point where you come across bitter because of the mistakes you have made in the past? How do you avoid living vicariously through the newer artist?

I don’t pretend to know everything. And as I’m not one for just issues but also solutions, here are a few pieces of advice for our “more experienced” (since women don’t want to be called “older”) cultural statesmen I believe would help give them more purpose as they reach out to more wide-eyed rappers.

  • A Hip Hop Academy: No, I know what you are thinking. We are going to have a “real hip hop” school where KRS 1 can finally really cement his alter ego as the teacher by being a part time teacher and principal of some new hip hop academy. What I mean by this is similar to the Academy of the Grammys. Create a panel of former rappers, industry insiders and tastemakers that their sole responsibility in this role is to vote on awards for artist. Create an award show with the prestige of hip hop’s most credible artist and execs. But there would be no fan vote.

  • Union for hip hop artists: The most underrated aspect of this issue is how the labels create rifts between older and newer artist. Older artist watch the amount of attention and support that certain artists receive and wonder why their own career was not meant with the same glee. Not to mention, the music industry looks at every possible advantage over certain artist. If there was a union to help artists better understand their deals, to speak on some artist, to set industry practice that major companies cannot take control of, to help artist better handle their publishing and masters. Like if the Writers Guild of America had a committee for music writers and/or a subcommittee for hip hop. In 2007, the WGA went on strike for the amount of money their writers were receiving from DVD sales and streams of their written work on the Internet. I believe if hip hop writers were a part of union it would create a stronger unity (hence the word) between artists of all aspects.

  • Hip Hop Hall of Fame: Artist should not have to wait for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to come knocking for legacy artists to get recognition. Some artist should be inducted and appreciated for their influence on the culture. VH1 tried to do this in the past, but this effort will not work if it is heralded by a major entity. It has to come from Hip Hop Culture itself.

I foresee more of these discussions taking place in the future which is healthy. Discussions without any actions or an implemented plan are just that: discussions. We will continue to go into circles and continue to rehash the same discussions. While we figure it all out, hopefully we get some hilarious memes for our growing pains. Video from:


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