Putting 'Old School' Aside and Arguing the Case for 'Classic Hip-Hop'


The BET Hip-Hop Awards remain the biggest and best event in the rap game, a highlight of the early fall and an opportunity for hip-hop culture to flash and floss. "Queen Bee" Lil Kim received the "I AM HIP-HOP" , an honor offered to some of the genre's most achieved legends. Other 2000s legends including as Lil Jon, Rick Ross, and singer T-Pain were in attendance, as were more recent artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Chance the Rapper, Offset, Lil Baby, Dababy, Rapsody, YBN Cordae, and Anderson. Paak. To be sure, it was a spectacular performance.It's odd that there isn't much appreciation of anything prior to the late 1990s on what has presumably become hip-greatest hop's night in terms of awards presentations. Sure after all, you can't possibly expect an audience that now consists largely of fans born after 1999 to be all that invested in music made in 1989, but with no Hip-Hop Hall of Fame induction ceremony to celebrate legends from various eras, and no "Grammys Salute to Def Jam" on the horizon, one has to wonder where the culture (and industry) goes these days to honor its lineage? How can we keep vintage hip-hop alive?  It's revealing that "classic hiphop" isn't as commonly heard as "classic rock" or "classic soul." Considering the genre's present standing and historical relevance, hip-classic hop's period should be promoted. And the classic period must understand that the six years preceding Chronic are just as important to how we came to regard hip-hop as a genre of music as the popular hyper-visibility of the post-Death Row world. It's past time to truly acknowledge vintage hip-hop as an era and elevate the period from 1986 to 1998, which shaped so much of the music. And it's past time to abandon the label "old-school hip-hop" as a catch-all for everything that occurred before 2Pac and Biggie rose to prominence.

It's already been 40 years when "Rapper's Delight" signaled the shift of hip-hop through Bronx block parties to the mainstream charts. Even the most casual rap fan can tell you the cliff's notes version of why that track is significant, yet so much early hip-hop has been let to rot. Even "Rapper's Delight" was the pinnacle of over a decade of hip-hop evolution as a live artform performed at uptown block parties and, subsequently, downtown nightclubs. Those who produced this art before it was recorded — names like DJ Kool Herc, Coke La Rock, Lovebug Starski, Grandmaster Flowers, and DJ Hollywood — have been almost erased from history. Our fondness for "old-school hip-hop" is either arbitrary or motivated by nostalgia. because the word itself brings to mind of antiquity and uniqueness. After decades of dismissing hip-early hop's days and "golden period," perhaps it's time to reconsider — and possibly abandon — the concept of "old-school hip-hop."Casual fans and media are using the word "old school" to refer to the "yes, y'all" energy of early hip-hop; instead, it often refers to Golden Age hip-hop that emerged in the aftermath of Run-D.M.C. Def Jam acts like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, launching the rap industry to more consistent and visible heights. Though characterized as rap's "new school" at the time, late-'80s artists like Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, and MC Lyte are now considered "old school," and with them being much more well-known to casual fans than the late-'70s/early-'80s wave of hip-hop artists like the Cold Crush Brothers or Spoonie Gee,They've become "pioneers" for an audience that didn't pay attention to hip-hop until it became uber-mainstream in the late 1990s.

However, the erasure of those same acts from hip-early hop's days on wax  as well as the stigma of "old-school hip-hop" as a catch-all term  has harmed hip-canonization. hop's That is why the term "classic hip-hop" should be more widely used and accepted. Because we need to repair the damage.As hazy as the difference may be, "classic hip-hop" is appropriate because hip-hop's "classic" duration is as diversified as classic rock's or soul's. Recognize hip-first hop's wave (1970s-1984) with the same reverence as 50s rockers, and recognize the original "new school" or "Golden Age" (1985–1992) as the first half of its classic period, as classic rock did from 1966 to 1973. The post-Chronic years, from the rise of Mafioso rap, southern rap, and the shiny suits of mainstream's "jiggy" phase (1993 – 1998), are the second half of the classic hip-hop era, mirroring the latter half of classic rock's reign (1974 – 1980), when the music became more hyper-commodified, rock star excess became cliche, arena rock reigned supreme, and albums broke sales records.From Run-commercial D.M.C.'s new discovery in the mid-1980s to hip-pop hop's culture ascension in the late 1990s, this literary a decade and a half in which the genre moved more into album-centric territory (with widely acclaimed, stylistically-broad classics), hip-aesthetic hop's and sound diversified and splintered into various subgroups (gangsta rap, political rap, pop-rap, alternative rap, etc.), When one looks at all the changes in production, fashion, rapping, and music videos, it may appear that 1998 is a world away from 1985 in hip-hop, but that difference is no greater than the three-minute songs and jangly guitars of 1966 in rock vs. the leather pants, heavy drums, and light shows of 1978. 

Our perspective on rock music continues to remain broad, whereas our perspective on hip-hop eras is distressingly narrow — too often based on superficial signifiers and personal nostalgia.Apart from rock music, the appearance of hip-hop has stayed undeniably Black from its beginnings to the present — as it go onto popular culture and pushes an entire industry. White institutions embraced rock's edification as white rock artists came to dominate the genre's mainstream face. Stars like Paul Simon and Eric Clapton were not only on the cover of Rolling Stone, but also of People. As rock became less counterculture and more American pop culture, it was viewed through a broader lens by media that fully recognized its stylistic and generational nuances. By the 1980s, a "rock fan" could be a 45-year-old Baby Boomer or a 15-year-old Generation Xer – and they could both find their favorites on the most visible platforms.  

Classic hip-hop has not really been culturally raised in the same way that classic rock has, particularly the first half of classic hip-hop from the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a result, a new generation of hip-hop fans has little to no attachment to it; they can only celebrate these specific artists from a place of historical gratitude — rather than having a genuine connection to the music. The gap between the earliest rappers and modern audiences is much more pronounced. It's easy to see why: pre-Run DMC hip-hop was largely a New York City affair, and many of those artists barely made music videos and were rarely heard on national radio. Today's fans have no idea who they are.And the proof is that there is. Early hip-hop artists have small fan bases on streaming services like Spotify. With the exception of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (over 545,000) and Kurtis Blow (over 170,000), most do not exceed 100,000. Essential behaves like The Funky Four+1 (24,105), The Duplicitous Three (4,510), The Cold Crush Brothers (7,918), and even mid-80s artists like Whodini (207,991) Fat Boys (84,339) simply haven't received enough mainstream attention for fans to flock to their catalogs en masse.

Classic hip-hop radio also hasn't been a viable genre in the very same way that classic rock has been around for decades — and with younger viewers obtaining their music on-demand through streaming services or YouTube, they are much less engaged in platforms that would present them with music they would not have known to search for on their own. So much classic rock and soul was kept in the ears of younger generations through popular compilations of music from the 1960s and 1970s, but it's a format that no longer exists. There will be no TV commercials for collections of early or "Golden Age" rap classics.Changing the language would go a long road ahead to recalibrating our perceptions of the early and classic years, so we must also start changing the strategy of hip-hop media. When 70-year-old rock legends like Bob Dylan and Neil Young can still grace the covers of major mags but 50-year-old hip-hop legends like Chuck D and Rakim can't, it says loudly about how we perceive this music. When the Eagles can still play arenas but Bone Thugs-N-Harmony can only play theaters, it's a sign that even multi-Platinum-selling hip-hop acts aren't being held up as generation-spanning icons in the same way that the rock generation has.