2018 marks ten years since the first "old head vs. youngin" beef I was privy to. Back in 2008, I was at the peak of my music snobbery. When it came to music, I almost exclusively listened to 90s "golden era" hip hop. Having a preference in music is one thing, but to me this was hip hop. I was so passionate in my narrow definition of what constituted "real" hip hop music, that I refused to even acknowledge anything that existed beyond those parameters. To put it in perspective, I once got into a fist fight because a kid in my homeroom claimed that Lil Wayne was a better rapper than Big L.
2007/2008 was also the peak of the Soulja Boy era. Crank That had just released, and more than ever it seemed as if hip hop was changing before our very eyes. While everyone else was happily doing the Superman at our middle school dance, I stared disapprovingly from the sidelines. I think what was so frustrating to myself and many others at the time was that this new trend in hip hop was markedly different from anything else that had hit the mainstream. Like any other genre, hip hop had evolved and changed over time but its core elements had typically remained constant: lyrically-driven content complimented by an interesting instrumental. Suddenly, however, much less emphasis was being placed on the lyrics. A catchy beat, hook, and viral spread were now the more favorable elements in a popular hip hop track.
I cannot express how happy I was when I first heard the above clip. Here was Ice T, an oldschool rapper that I had huge respect for, backing up everything that I had been feeling for the past year. I remember sending this clip out to half of my school like "See! Iceberg feels the same way!" Then came the response...
I remember being pissed when Soulja Boy dropped this response. I'm pretty sure I didn't watch any more than a couple minutes of the video because I was that tight. How dare Soulja Boy be so disrespectful to such a legend? This video really increased my newschool hatred - something I wouldn't snap out for years.
The only thing is, Soulja Boy's response was 100% spot-on. From about 4:18 on, Soulja puts together one of the most insightful, intelligent responses I've ever seen. He articulately broke down exactly why Ice T's initial callout was wrong, and the proper attitude that old heads should have when offering criticism. Ice T eventually followed up with a response to Soulja's response in which he doubled-down on his original message, claiming that Soulja Boy was "supposed to accept" being told to eat a dick and to "keep it moving". Looking back from a more objective point of view, Ice T comes across as nothing less than an angry, out of touch old man in this situation. The reality is, the older parties in these "oldschool vs. newschool" beefs usually do.
For 2018 and beyond, I'd like to apply this lesson to my daily life. For starters, I think it's important to keep in mind that hip hop is a genre of music like any other, meaning it's subject to change over time. Even though we may not like the direction it's heading in, attacking the youngins who do enjoy this new style is non-productive and counter-intuitive. If you truly do consider yourself to be a proper old head, then it is your duty to educate the new generation on the culture and history of hip hop. Acting like a "gatekeeper of the culture" will only serve to push the new generation away and make you look straight up geriatric. Nobody's saying you have to like the music, but going on and on about how wack it is just becomes pathetic after a while.
As a takeaway, the new generation of hip hop is here to stay and much as I hate to say it, the genre is never going back to what it was. I would hazard a guess that the same people who were hating on Soulja Boy back in the day (myself included) would much rather take him over the current influx of today's "Lil" rappers. Despite that, you'll never catch me mindlessly hating on another artist simply because I think hip hop was better back in the day. As an artist, you can either adapt to the new style, or continue making music you're comfortable with while fully accepting that your art may not have any mass appeal. What isn't an option, however, is to sit back and blame everyone else when your music isn't resonating as well as you think it should.