Jay-Z Turns 48: Does Hip-Hop Have an Age Limit?

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JAY-Z turned 48-years-old on Monday (Dec. 4), which easily makes him one of the oldest but still relevant rappers in hip-hop.

Although he may not be the first person that young people think of when it comes to the hottest rapper, he’s still part of today’s musical discussion with his acclaimed “4:44” album, the successful tour behind it and his other accomplishments.

Regardless, JAY-Z is often dissed by young and older fans alike for still rapping in his 40s. Throughout the years many have called hip-hop a young man’s sport, but with the genre and its fans getting older, is that still the case?

According to Paul Iannacchino Jr., who made the documentary “Adult Rappers” — about aging MCs who are trying to maintain a career — hip-hop isn’t just for young folks anymore, it’s for everybody.

“Generation X grew up on hip-hop as a major part of pop culture, and you don’t just grow out of being a fan of the music that speaks to you most,” he told the Washington Post in 2015. “We’re at the point on the historical timeline where there’s a big group of people who crave new hip-hop but aren’t necessarily looking for the new Tyler, the Creator, album.”

Pete Rock also rejected the idea that hip-hop is only for younger people. In fact, he expressed frustration about rapper’s only making music for kids.

“Problem is also, ya’ll want us to accept music that don’t move nothing but the young,” he wrote on Instagram. “When you making music, it’s to inspire everyone not just your era.”

Some may say that Pete Rock has a point, because many of rap’s most successful artists, who aren’t in their 20s, have been able to reach younger and older fans alike. Artists like Kanye West (40), 2 Chainz (40), Pusha T (40) and Gucci Mane (37), for example.

The 42-year-old rapper Killer Mike can be thrown into that category as well.

After he dropped a number of quality solo projects, the Atlanta rhymer not only caught major success with his group Run the Jewels, some might say he got even better, in terms of his flow and overall writing skills. It’s something that he talked about a couple of years ago in an interview.

“This isn’t athletics where your joints slow down, it’s about your mind,” he explained. “You expect to become a better writer with age and wisdom. Musicians like Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters got better with age. As long as my mind stays young, alert and active, I’m going to attack.”

As far as JAY-Z, he had two different opinions about rap only being for the younger ones. 

In his recent interview with The New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Jay said that he viewed rap as a young person’s sport. But in 2010 he said something different to “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, who asked him if he’d keep performing until 65 like The Rolling Stones.  

“I don’t know about 65, but I’ll get close,” said Jay. “In order for rap to have that sort of longevity, we have to stop viewing it as a young man’s sport … We have to view it as a serious art form.”

But people like the rapper Young Thug have a different take.

“If you’re 30, 40 years old, you’re not getting listened to by minors,” he stated in 2015. “Like, JAY-Z has some of the sickest lyrics ever, but I would never buy his CD, just because of my age and because of his age. By the time I turn that old, I ain’t gonna be doing what he’s doing … I’m pretty sure JAY-Z don’t wanna rap right now.”


 

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But not all of the older rappers share JAY-Z’s success, nor have their newer projects gotten as much attention as “4:44.”

Is that due to their core fanbase no longer being interested in rap, because they’re getting older and don’t care about hip-hop as much? According to Jeanette Gantt, a 45-year-old mother of three from Stamford, Conn., it could be that but it’s other things as well. 

“I keep up with hip-hop as much as my kids listen to it,” she told Atlantic Black Star. “I hear it in the house occasionally or in the car. Do I personally enjoy listening to it anymore? No. There are very few artists that I would listen to because I feel they’re actually saying something that means something, which is what I was used to hearing in the ‘80s and 90s, where rappers actually said something to move something forward.”

In addition, Gantt said that it’s not her age or a rapper’s age that keeps her away from hip-hop these days, it has more to do with the content.

“I don’t really feel that age has that much to do with it,” she stated. “Only because music is music. As long as it’s good it doesn’t really matter … Maybe what I think is good at my age has just evolved.”

Surely, the debate whether rap is truly just a young person’s game will continue on, but for now we’ve listed five rappers in their 40s who are still relevant, released incredibly solid albums recently, yet still seem to be overlooked because of age. 

Snoop Dogg

In 2016, Snoop released his fourteenth studio album “Coolaid” to incredibly strong reviews, and some have called it his best work in years.

Despite that, the album didn’t get the attention some might say it deserved. Is Snoop a victim of ageism? The way he sees it, “Coolaid” not being fully embraced was more about the style of music he creates.

“A lot of DJs wouldn’t take that chance and say, ‘Well, I’ma play this Snoop Dogg record, because I know it’s dope and it’s fly,'” he explained. “[Instead, they would say], ‘I can’t play it, because it don’t go with everything in the club.”

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Nas

Even though he’s arguably one of the most respected lyricists in rap, Nas seemed to be a victim of ageism when the Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball dissed him.

“Y’all outdated, man. Don’t nobody listen to Nas no more,” said Lonzo on his reality show. “Real hip-hop is Migos and Future.”

He later doubled down on those statements.

“So I’m like, ‘Nobody listens to Nas no more,’ which I think is true, because of my friends ain’t nobody bumping Nas no more,” Ball explained. “No disrespect to him, he had his time. I just think it’s a new time.”

Tbt

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E 40

It seems that E-40’s solid LP “The D-Boy Diary Book 1:” came and went and didn’t get the attention it deserved. Especially since the legendary rapper hinted the release would be his last full album.

Moving around

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Pete Rock

Yes, he may play his own part in starting the back and forths he’s had with younger rappers, but the legendary producer hasn’t received the respect that he’s due. At least that’s what some may conclude.

Gift of Gab

In April of this year, the veteran Bay Area rapper from the group Blackalicious released his impressive solo LP “Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again!,” but it fell beneath the radar. That could have to do with Gab and Blackalicious being from the underground, but it could also have to do with his age.

Heading up to Somerville, New York and Syracuse this week! Grab your tickets here: blackalicious.com/tour

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