Ageism in Hip-Hop

Ageism in Hip-Hop

Ahmed Sabi Abubakar


Andre 3000 of Outkast recently said “I’m really more focused on what I am going to be doing 10 years from now. And I hope to God it won’t be rapping.”
The 42 year old artist also said “Rapping is like being a boxer,” he continues. “No matter how great you are or were at a certain time, the older you get, the slower you get—I don’t care who you are.”

How the hell can rapping be like boxing?

Justin Hunte formally of HipHopDX did a piece on his YouTube channel, ‘The Company Man’ titled “Andre 3000 is wrong and finally sounds old”. He made reference to various Hip-Hop artists who are still active in their 40s, and particular reference to Royce da 5’9 whom has been improving with age.

Is Hip-Hop truly a young person’s genre? Well, official Hip-Hop is as old as I am and I’m not yet 40. I was born the same year Sugar Hill Gang released Rappers Delight, and the genre has come a long way since then. This year, Hip-Hop & R&B outsold Rock ‘n’ Roll for the first time in history. We can see it’s big, but who is making it big? Who’s buying and who is selling? Let’s take a look at these questions.

There are a lot of demographics, stuff like; race, nationality, income, location, sex and age are to be considered if we are going to answer the above questions thoroughly, but for the sake of not going out of context, I’ll stick to the demographics that are age related.

Let’s start with the fact that very few people in the Hip-Hop demographics are over 65. That isn’t a surprise as Hip-Hop itself as a musical genre is less than 40 years old.
So who else comprises of the Hip-Hop demographic?
Currently, the core audience is between the ages 25 and 34, with about 34%,
followed by the 18-24 demographic with 27%.
The 35-44 demographic doesn’t come far behind with 23%,
and then we have 12% for those between 45 and 54.
Lastly, with slightly over 4%, we have the 55-64 demographic.

These age demographics seem fairly well distributed to me. To make it easier, let’s just use two categories; 18-34 and 35-64.
18-34 has a total percentage of 61%.
35-64 has a total percentage of 39%.

Not so bad, is it? We can definitely say hip-hop is more young than old, but it isn’t exclusively young. No one has the right to discriminate against so called ‘old heads’. And sure, these demographics are accurate; they were sourced from the Media Behaviors & Influence 2017 Study.

Ok, so we’re clear on the audience right? What about the creators, the artists in particular. Is it just for the young as Andre 3000 said?
As I write this article, I’m listening a track by Kool G Rap featuring Lil’ Fame of M.O.P and Freeway, titled ‘Wise Guys’ from Kool G Raps album ‘Return of The Don’ which just came out. Kool G Rap is 49 years old. Let’s go more mainstream, everyone knows Jay-Z right? I’m sure most Hip-Hop fans on this planet, that haven’t been in some form of captivity, are aware that he just released his 13th studio album titled ‘4:44’. E-40 released a double disc last year; by the way, he’ll be 50 in November. The groups A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul both released critically acclaimed albums last year; De La Soul even got a Grammy nomination for theirs.

There are so many more examples of active artists over 40, artist like Nas, every living member of Wutang, Rass Kass, Eminem, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz and so many others. These artists are not just touring and performing old material, they are also releasing new music and selling between high and decent records to the demographic that is in line with what they offer. Some artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, Rick Ross and 2 Chainz are still very relevant among the under 35 demographic.

Hip-Hop might be dominated by young men and women, but it isn’t just for them. They are definitely a majority, but, the older Hip-Hop gets, the older the audience and performers would get.
Or do we think Hip-Hop wouldn’t perform like other genres? Do we think our artists wouldn’t be performing like blues legend BB King did till he passed, or like Miles Davis the jazz legend who created musical works consistently all through his 65 years on Earth? Isn’t Hip-Hop beautiful enough, and loved enough to have artists like LL Cool J and Public Enemy keep touring in their 60s like Mick Jagger?
I think it is, I think as the genre gets older, so will the artists, and the audience. The love for Hip-Hop isn’t going anywhere. Its true lots of younger artist aren’t producing timeless music, they wouldn’t agree till they sober up though. Some people argue that with the quality of their output, Hip-Hop is unlikely to last. I can’t be sure that wouldn’t be the case, but I highly doubt it. It’s already obvious that some artists can’t be stopped, apart from Public Enemy’s tours, they are planning to drop a new album this year. The two front men, Chuck D and Flava Flav are 57 and 58 years old respectfully.

And it wouldn’t be right for me to end this write up without mentioning the 52 year old first time rap artist, 52 Savage. He just started rapping and went viral, can you believe that? And some of you are still talking about someone being too old…please.

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