Attention 70’s and 80’s babies: your age is showing…and we are becoming our parents.
The meme posted above is one that I arguably hate the most. What prompted me to write about this one was the popularity of the #RunningManChallenge: 90’s Atlanta bass classic “My Boo” by the Ghost Town DJ’s syncopated drums rattle and out of nowhere, people start shuffling their feet back and forth. I find it to be very entertaining. But since it’s the internet, everyone has an opinion and people whose age begins with thirty are starting to sound old. I’ll get there…
Back to this particular meme. Someone in their early twenties could have put it together; but the sentiment is often shared by people much older. A picture of hip-hop poster child, Nas, lighting a cigar while donning a white t-shirt, shades and adorning lots of jewelry. In comparison, one would say a leader in ever-evolving landscape of hip-hop, Young Thug, has blonde locs, tight clothing and his legs crossed. All of this insinuates that former pities and is lambasting the latter in what is “real” hip-hop. Clearly whomever made this meme and those that concur with its message have never looked at Melle Mel, Kurtis Blow, or any hip-hop act before Run DMC. The original emcees at the forefront of the movement dressed and their not-so-complicated rhyme schemes were more resemble Young Thug more than Nas.
Music is the soundtrack to life and rarel-if at all-does one genre define multiple generations. There’s only hip-hop and “classical” music (in which that’s an umbrella statement for various forms of western musical styles). What makes hip-hop unique is that it is a culture that is driven by music. So, we’re at this crossroads in which those of us who grew up with it are watching it continue to evolve at its rapid pace while we are beginning to slow down. It’s youth-oriented and the first generation to grow up where hip-hop always existed are now sounding smug, elitist, and like our parents who we once rebelled against; saying that they “just don’t understand.”
Back to the #RunningManChallenge that acted as the inspiration for this post. A few days after this began to pick up steam, here came the old people talking about “That’s not the running man!” There have been memes and videos reprimanding and lampooning these kids for having a little fun. My peers pointed out that the running man was a dance made popular in the late 1980’s and early 90’s that looked a little different. They’d say “These kids have the nerve to do something simple, jack the style, and call it the running man?! The nerve!” They sampled it.
Twenty years ago, the complainers grew up with hip-hop in which many of their favorite songs lifted portions of r&b, soul, and disco records, rearranged them over looped drum breaks and called it sampling. Their parents who grew up on Motown, Philadelphia International, Stax, etc. heard these songs and said “That’s not music!” They just didn’t get it. Maybe they bought “Rapper’s Delight” or “The Message” when they were released; but the genre still had roots in disco and was more reminiscent of the music they grew up with. Because it’s youth driven, the next generation-us-made our own interpretation and pushed the genre forth. The less recognizable it became to our parents, the less worth they saw in it. My father is a professional musician who has virtually lived in a studio for forty years. With all of his knowledge of music: theoretically, technically, and historically; he could never sample and manipulate and Earth, Wind, and Fire record like I could.
Nineteen years ago, twenty year-old Harlem rapper and shiny leather enthusiast, Ma$e released his first single “Feel So Good.” The track sampled Kool and the Gang’s 1973 hit “Hollywood Swinging” and Kelly Price word-for-word sings the chorus of Miami Sound Machine’s “Bad Boy.” What’s the difference between this and some twenty year old’s shuffling their feet back and forth in place and calling it the #RunningManChallenge? The same people who immediately blurt “What you know about goin’ out, head west, red Lex, TV’s all up in the head rest?” are being subjective and hypocritical.
We often discredit this newer incarnation of hip-hop and its purveyors and pity it. Saying that it’s not “real” hip hop. Our parents said the same thing about hip-hop in comparison to the music they grew up. Fifty years ago, the parents of Baby Boomers said the same thing about The Beatles.
Do I like everything that I hear nowadays? No. I’m not supposed to. I listen to some of the music my almost ten-year old nephew, five year-old daughter, and fourteen year-old cousin like and this “This shit is dumb.” Am I gonna doing some of these dances they do? Nope. But I’m not gonna knock it, either. I remember being their age and my parents not “getting” Wu Tang; but we could find common ground in Method Man’s incarnation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
I guess I say all of this to say to those of my era: let the kids have something. It may not look like what we know and love; but be happy that the music and culture we love and call our own is still at the forefront…when people just knew it would die before most of us were born.