Written by: Jermaine A. Shoulders
I decided to speak my peace after I had recently read a Twitter post by Kevin Powell, a writer from Brooklyn, NY. He and I are both a part of the Hip Hop generation, the musical phenomenon that has taken over the world, and has been such an influence on so many cultures. Watching the world embrace an art form that I saw blossom right in front of my eyes, literally, like outside my window, is simply amazing. To watch the millennials and this newest generation totally live in this culture is something we never thought about. Especially, when all we knew was the turntable and the microphone.
I am Hip-Hop through and through, and so is Kevin Powell. My kids tease me all the time about it, not even realizing it was my generation that gave them their style and language. Are we that disconnected? Is the generational gap that wide? No, I don’t think so. But, what we are as a generation in this day and age is not “old school” but “classic.”
Classic is defined as: serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value. Traditional, enduring”. (Webster’s Dictionary). When you think of Hip-Hop as a culture, not just the music, you cannot deny its influence. Hip-Hop is full of creators, innovators and game changers. From the way DJ’s scratch records and create mood and rock a party, to the way emcee’s use words to evoke every emotion imaginable to the listener, to the style of dress and speech that is imitated the world over.
I think the term: “classic,” is the perfect way to describe Hip – Hop music. Much like other genres of music (rock, R&B/Soul, jazz, classical), Hip Hop has more than solidified itself in the fabric of American music culture, but also a seminal offering to the rest of the world. Kevin’s premise in his tweet was that the term “old school hip-hop” is outside the realm of what the music truly is. And I would have to agree.
There are classic Hip-Hop songs, lyrics, sounds, vernacular, dress styles and movies. Not to mention dance styles, that vary from region to region. That element of Hip-Hop is still alive and well. Our overall “get down” indeed serves as a standard of excellence and is recognized for its value. When you use the term “old-school” there tends to be a negative connotation that creates an idea that it is out-dated or old. The culture itself is so fluid and it’s always evolving. Therefore, it can never get old. In today’s day and time, lack of respect for the art form and lack of overall creativity from some in the culture only slightly threatens Hip-Hop’s constant evolutionary existence.
We have created other terms that could be synonymous with classic like “foundation” or “essence” or even “roots”, but none of those terms holds the weight of classic as it is undeniable in its influence. When something is considered classic, people tend to listen. People tend to give that thing, whatever it is, a little more respect.
It takes a lot to be considered a classic and think Hip-Hop has earned that right, especially, with many of our classic artists, namely, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, NWA and Beastie Boys, Run DMC and Public Enemy, now sitting and honoring Hip-Hop in the Rock in Roll Hall of Fame.
So let’s do away with that term “old-school” and embrace the term “classic”. Once again the fluidity of the culture demands things change and embrace a new view, a view worthy if it’s name.
Check-out the The Art of Hip Hop Trailer, which is a documentary spearheaded by rapper “Ice T” to paint a better picture of my passion for the culture.