What Happens When You Make An Old Head Listen To New Hip-Hop (Video)

Last November, Long Beach, California hosted ComplexCon, a two-day event featuring performances, panels, and more all devoted to music and culture. As part of the convention, veteran radio personality and Hip-Hop artist Angie Martinez led a discussion focused on the so-called “generation gap” in Hip-Hop. The group of experts who took part in the conversation represent at least two generations of Hip-Hop: French Montana, Pete Rock, Raekwon, Scarface, and Vince Staples. Together, the group touched on what (if any) responsibility MCs have in bestowing the knowledge of previous eras in Hip-Hop onto up-and-coming generations of talent, Pete Rock’s infamous “mumble Rap” statement, and much more.

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Heads may recall that in 2015, Vince Staples made some comments regarding “the Golden Era” of Hip-Hop, saying “the ’90s get a lot of credit [and] I don’t really know why,” adding “the early 2000s is where it’s at,” among other things. Unsurprisingly, these comments elicited some backlash, with many claiming Staples was uneducated and unappreciative of the work done by previous generations. He since cleared up his comments, saying he felt his words were misquoted and saying to his critics “if you don’t feel like the ’90s was the greatest era of Hip-Hop—which isn’t what I said—but if it’s not, then it’s just ‘fuck you’? What if I like the ’80s? What if I like the early 2000s? You sayin’ that nobody else’s art-form matters unless it’s in the ’90s? That’s corny.”

Perhaps unwittingly, Staples ushered in a reinvigorated focus on today’s Rap versus yesterday’s, and Pete Rock has been one of the most vocal artists to get involved in the debate. Taking particular offense to Lil Yachty’s disparaging comments about “old MCs,” Pete started using the term “mumble rappers” to describe many of today’s biggest names in Rap (including most of XXL‘s freshman class of 2016). As such, his appearance alongside Staples in this panel was particularly fitting.

However, it was Raekwon who started things off, with Martinez asking him if he finds it offensive when somebody “comes into the game” not knowing Wu-Tang history. “Nah, ’cause you might not have came from that time when we was doing our thing,” says Rae. “It’s the same how I’m up on Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, but I don’t know his [entire] generation like that. I had to learn it, I had to do my homework, but I was only looking at what I felt I wanted to look at.” When asked to comment on it feeling good to have somebody young recognize him for his contributions, Rae says he chooses to focus on those who already do. “The whole thing is that I might run across ten that don’t know but 50 that do. It balance itself out.” He emphasizes that focus on the positive, saying “it’s not personal. It’s just that if you don’t know, you don’t know. If you choose not to know, then you choose not to know.”

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Scarface echoes Rae’s comments about learning what came before him, calling himself a “student of the game.” He says he felt it was particularly important for him to study up because, being “from the bottom of the map,” there wasn’t much Hip-Hop at all near him to become a part of. “When I first heard it, it was like life” he says near the 5:00 mark. However, when asked if he feels he has a responsibility to do the same for younger MCs, he’s hesitant to say yes, 100%. “You gotta want to grasp it. I feel like it’s up to the parent or the OG to educate the young on what came before ’em.”

Pete Rock is asked to expound upon his “mumble Rap” comments, which he says are because he comes “from a music aspect,” adding “I want them to understand what good music does for the soul.” It’s at this point Martinez says “do you feel like nobody in this new generation of artists is doing that?” Pete’s response is “nah,” which elicits laughter from the audience but which can be understood as a slight to Staples – who is sitting just three seats away. Staples chooses that moment to make his entrance into the discussion saying “somebody listening to the music, going to the concerts, paying for the album – they listen to the history. The difference is, if somebody say ‘oh, I like Derrick Rose and not [Carmelo Anthony],’ you can’t say ‘that’s not basketball.’ They on the court. If a nigga on the court, he play basketball,” Staples says looking directly at Pete Rock.

Staples’ sentiment is captured perfectly in a video by Cycle, titled “When You Try To Make An Old Head Listen To New Hip-Hop.” It shows the proverbial 90s Hip-Hop fan waxing on about how terrible today’s music is, while lauding the music of his era. It even has a hilarious cameo at the end that shows this generation does not take itself too seriously, and, perhaps, neither should previous generations.

When you try to make an old head listen to new hip-hop.

A post shared by Cycle (@cycle) on

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At the 12:02 mark, Raekwon comments on Hip-Hop’s history of inclusivity, and how we should be keeping that in mind before criticizing artists for their interpretations of the music. “This platform that we got here, this culture, it allows us to do whatever we wanna do. So it ain’t never to where you’re alienating somebody’s style. I feel like everybody in the room got talent, number one. Now, however you do it and however you freak it and find it, it’s on you to find it,” he says.

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Other topics touched upon include freestyling, the subjectivity of taste, similarities between Ol Dirty Bastard and Desiigner, the importance of teaching young artists how to save their money, and more.

This is also available in the Go90 video player.