AGEISM IN HIP-HOP
Ahmed Sabi Abubakar
A few years ago, Andre 3000 of Outkast 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 then 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 who has been improving with age.
Is Hip-Hop truly a young person’s genre? Officially, Hip-Hop is 41. as it was born in 1979 when Sugar Hill Gang released Rappers Delight, and since then, the genre has come a long way. In 2017, 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; 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 as a musical genre is less than 42 years old.
So who else comprises the Hip-Hop demographic?
Currently, the core audience is between the ages of 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 the 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, what about the creators, the artists. Is it just for the young as Andre 3000 said?
As I write this article, I’m listening to a track by Conway the Machine featuring Elcamino, Havoc, Llyod Banks, and Flee Lord, titled ‘Juvenile Hell’ from Conway’s ‘From King to God’ LP which just came out. Conway is 38 years old, one of the hottest artists in the game, and is relatively new. All the other artists on the track except Elcamino are over 35, with Havoc of Mobb Deep at 46.
Let’s go more mainstream, everyone knows Nas right? I’m sure most Hip-Hop fans know that at 47, he just released his 13th studio album ‘King’s Disease’. So did Busta Rhymes, Public Enemy, Arrested Development, The LOX, Common, Black Thought of The Roots, and many others.
There are so many more examples of active artists over 40, artists like Masta Ace, every living member of Wutang, Rass Kass, Eminem, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, and these artists are very relevant. Not just performing old material, but releasing new music and being successful at it.
Hip-Hop might be dominated by young women and men, 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. It is arguable that lots of younger hip-hop artists aren’t producing timeless music, and that, with the quality of their output, Hip-Hop is unlikely to last. I can’t be sure that wouldn’t be the case, I, however, doubt it,