10 years ago, Nas released an album that doubled as a statement about his feelings on the state of hip-hop at the time.
Hip Hop Is Dead was both a requiem and a challenge to the industry during a period of time much like the present day when the scene was ripe with a defeatist “chicken little” mentality regarding the health of the culture.
Back then, a fear of youthful trends eventually destroying a storied culture were perpetuated by T-Pain, D4L, and Dem Franchize Boyz, rather than Lil Yachty and the like, but the mentality was the same, mostly because it’s a timeless argument in hip-hop.
Now, 10 years later, the culture is still very much alive and prospering, and there’s an entirely new cast of heroes and villains within the hip-hop mythos. In a recent sit-down with Revolt, Nas was asked about his feelings on the current state of hip-hop in 2016 and who some of his favorite “new generation” emcees are.
Nas’ response is mostly typical of a '90s legend—J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake are all present, and for damn good reason. All three artists are true torchbearers for the core tenets of hip-hop culture and should be praised. Nas’ last two picks, however, made me run the video back in confusion.
Lil Wayne? Rick Ross? I don’t want to be overly harsh toward a legendary emcee that probably just responded to a question he gets asked 1,000 times a year without full consideration of his answer, but how exactly are those Wayne and Ross “new generation” artists?
Rick Ross, 40, is only three years younger than Nasir, 43, and his debut album Port of Miami was released back in 2006, the same year Nas released Hip Hop is Dead. Granted, Nas still has 12 years on Ross musically, but it's difficult for me to think of Rozay—who rose to national prominence a decade ago and who is gearing up for the release of his ninth album—as anything resembling a “new generation emcee” in 2016.
Wayne, on the other hand, is only 34 years old but has been rapping for damn near 20 years at this point. In fact, the first Hot Boys album (Get It How U Live!!) came out in 1997, just three years after Nas’ iconic debut Illmatic, so while Wayne as a solo artist didn't gain steam until the early '00s, is Weezy really that far off generationally? How far does this "new generation" go back?
As previously mentioned, this may have just been a hastily assembled response to a question Nas is likely tired of hearing, but it is indicative of a larger problem within hip-hop culture, which is the overwhelming lack of support for true new generation artists by previous generations.
Nas is one of the fathers of the “hip-hop is dead” mentality, something he felt strongly enough about to title an entire album based on it, and he’s not alone. There’s an entire generation of pioneers that love to hate on the contemporary artists they don’t like, rather than prop up the plethora of artists that work hard every day to balance the scales of hip-hop’s representation.
Yes, it's Nas' opinion, but is there not a single name from, say, the past five years of XXL Freshman covers who is making better music than a past-their-prime Lil Wayne or Rick Ross? Isn't Nas' Mass Appeal signee Dave East a pretty prominent member of the current generation?
Now, I'm not trying to paint Nas out to be a hater of current hip-hop trends, just earlier this year he praised Future for pushing flows forward. But, when well-respected legends like the original Esco have a golden opportunity to praise "actual" new generation artists making positive strides in hip-hop, it's a little disappointing to hear those shout-outs go to established stars like Wayne and Ross.
It's Nas' opinion, and Nas likes who Nas likes, but someone needs to make him a Spotify playlist mixtape so he can start shouting the praises of the many NEW artists that are deserving of the torch.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Tumblr