Whether it's love, loss, celebration or despair, the world we live in is constantly reflected through the music of that era. It's what makes the great pieces of art - paintings, plays, Black On Both Sides - stand the test of time. No matter how many years pass, classic art remains just as fresh and new as it did when it was released.
On the other hand you have Jay Z saying "planking on a million."
Art imitates life and since life is full of fads, trends, and streaks, so is music. Things that are popular one day are completely forgotten the next, but thankfully, we have rappers to immortalize them, making sure we never forget about planking, reality TV or antiquated ways of communication. A great pop culture reference can kill in the moment, but you run the risk of your reference becoming as stuck in the past as your reference. One day people are talking about your dope punchlines, the next you end up as the subject of a snarky blog get potshotted by someone who’s not wearing pants and has never rapped in his life. Fuck classic. Fuck art. Let’s take a look at some of hip-hop’s most dated lines.
It feels appropriate to start with Jay Z’s aforementioned line from “Gotta Have It.”
It’s the one that birthed this beautiful article baby, but it’s also the perfect example. I had completely and totally forgotten about planking. It was a whole thing. Also, it’s fitting because Watch The Throne is just like planking. In the moment it was a huge deal and everybody was all over it, but now it has no lasting cultural value. Although, thanks to Breaking Bad, you could argue that Hov's planking on a million line has been given new life.
Believe it or not, Jay's line about planking isn't his only outdated reference. Apparently he loves them almost as much as he loves counting things. On “Blueprint 2,” he raps, “I got my mojo back baby, oh behave,” word to Austin Powers, he references exercise fad Tae Bo on “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and on “I Just Wanna Love You,” he encourages his ladies to hit him up on his Motorola Two-Way Pager. Surely, this is a favorite of Samsung execs.
Jay is hardly the only emcee to break out the pager though. Ice Cube had a little bit of gold and a pager that only paged one way, and Pimp C, being the wise entrepreneur that he was, put money into two sure-fire, never fail investments - pagers and real estate - on “Coming Up.” Going even further back, Tribe's "Skypager" is still a classic of telecommunications rap. Still, it’s Three 6 Mafia and Fabolous who really have the antiquated methods of the technology market cornered. Both took things to the next level by basing entire songs off the Nextel “chirp.” Three 6 Mafia accomplished the feat on “Roll With It,” but it was Fabolous who did it first and best on his 2001 breakout hit, “Young’n Hollaback.” The video adds a much needed dose of “holy shit that was a thing?!?”
Could you really just touch two pagers together and exchange data? Could you do it on a train? It’s 2016 and my phone can order a car with the press of a button, but I still can’t get a connection on the Metro. I have a hard time believing that transferring data from one pager to another on the F train was actually possible. As outdated as that is, compared to “Get Smart,” off the same album, “Holla Back” sounds like it was ghost written by Steve Jobs. Dude has three terribly antiquated lines in one verse.
Did you catch them all? If you were born after 1998, you might have missed some, so let’s count ‘em together. First, Fab opens with, “Cause now I pull out, leave 'em lookin' like models for a Got Milk ad." This is followed by, “And promise to buy them some of them Razor foot scooters,” and then just in case he wasn't already properly shackled to the moment, rounds out the verse with “You are the weakest link, Goodbye." Three terrible references and two of them refer to oral sex? There’s got to be some kind of award for that.
While the beat on “Breathe” is timeless, shout out to Just Blaze, some of the bars come equipped witn an expiration date. Fabolous, again hopping on the cell phone technology train, spits, “So I know it's one of them every time I flip my phone,” later rounding things out with, “Gripping on a toy that you won't find at KB,” which, again, won’t make sense if you were born after 1999. Pour one out for KB Toys.
Fabolous might be the king of outdated references, but Eminem is coming for the throne.
Let’s count ‘em: Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson, Tom Green, Will Smith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Carson Daily, Fred Durst, downloading an MP3 and Viagra. Come to think of it, early Eminem is one big outdated reference. As Em was rising his schtick was shitting on boy bands and pop acts; there was so much shock value in it at the time. Now? He’s on ESPN, he’s in national commercials and he makes cameos in Adam Sandler movies. It’s crazy to think think about how Marshall used to legitimately infuriate people. Fabolous may have the actual outdated references on lock, but Eminem embodies them himself.
Nostalgia, too much nostalgia. There’s so many more - shout to Rick Ross’ Tebow reference - but I really can’t handle looking back any longer. Instead, let’s look at some lines that are poppin’ right now, that may not be so hot in a few years.
Yo Gotti’s “Down In The DM” feels dangerously ephemeral. Why Snapchat me that pussy, when in a few years we'll be able to 3D print our own vaginas? Also I can't help but feel like Drake’s “I got bitches askin’ me about the code for the Wi-Fiiiiiiiiiii” is going to be laughable when Wi-Fi is surgically implanted into our brains, and 2 Chainz’ “Emoji, sad faces” is already kind of outdated because everyone knows Bitmoji is the wave of the future. It won’t necessarily be outdated, but the context of “Rae Sremmurd’s “Up Like Trump” will be completely different come November.
Still, when it comes to references that will be outdated sooner than later, Kanye stays winning. No matter how many times he updates the album, Life Of Pablo will still be losing on the rap lines tip.
- “On the field I'm over-reckless, on my Odell Beckham” - Come to think of it, "Facts" is kind of one big outdated reference waiting to happen.
- "Did he forget the names just like Steve Harvey?" - I've already forgotten that whole Steve Harvey thing was a thing.
- “I know it's corny bitches you wish you could unfollow” - Waits for Twitter to die...
- “Expedition was Eddie Bauer edition” - Walks the line between outdated and dope vintage/old school reference.
Not to get all think-piecey here, but it’s pretty crazy how much time affects how we perceive the raps we listen to. One minute one of these lines jumps out like a 3D movie and the next it seems like the special effects in Land of the Lost. (See, bloggers can make outdated references too.) So enjoy the popularity your Vine and Snapchat references get you now rappers, it won't be long until they go the way of the Furby.