"I Got Shit to Do": Mos Def Tackles Being an Adult In Hip-Hop's Digital Era

The balance act between adult responsibilities and a never ending stream of content is nearly impossible to perfect.

As any adult will tell you, there comes a point in life where the pressures that accompany the reality of adulthood begin to encroach on the ability to enjoy all the leisurely pursuits that once dominated everyday life. At some point, things like paying rent, raising children, going to a day job and making car payments tip the scale of dedication to the side of responsibility, ultimately leaving less time for the hobbies and interests that occupied so much of our youth.

In a recent interview on Hot 97, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) aptly highlighted his struggles to keep up with a culture that seems to have expanded exponentially right alongside the technology that currently supports it, and it’s a reality many of us have had to face in our own ways.

"How are people even supposed to focus on your shit if it's a million and eleven niggas that got new shit every day? I can't listen to all this, I got shit to do! I have things to do, it's not a fuckin game, my life is not a joke. The more you become an adult you realize, 'I'm a fuckin adult, I'm not sitting here, I'm not listening to all of these things!' Why?"

Frustratingly, when Mos actually does set aside some time to listen to new artists, he says the result if more often than not disappointment.

"But even in the course of a day for the artists that I do like, how much time—if I'm trying to develop myself as a useful human being—do I have to sit and be enter-fucking-tained? And if I'm gonna just be sittin' there and opening myself up to be listening to some shit, what is it doing for me? You know, what did I learn at the end of this? What beauty was expressed, skill and technical efficiency, any of that shit?"

As a full-blown adult speeding towards 30, Mos’ observations regarding his relationship with the culture really hit home. Over the years, my relationship with hip-hop has undergone several monumental shifts. What started out as a surface-level appreciation of a genre I had zero ties to has become a decade-long pursuit of knowing everything possible about a culture that has since given my life a purpose and focus I was never able to experience elsewhere.

Throughout my journey into adulthood, however, I’ve found my interaction with an exponentially growing hip-hop culture strained by everyday responsibilities. Where I used to be able to spend hours scouring record stores and websites for the latest offerings, I’m growing increasingly lucky to dedicate a couple hours on a weekend to pouring over recommendations from my fellow DJBooth contributors and attempting to formulate opinions on issues I’m becoming less and less up to date on.

The time constraints imposed by everyday life on my enjoyment of hip-hop have only been magnified by the ever-expanding pool of content from which to draw from, a struggle Mos perfectly encapsulated in his comments. When there actually is time to sit down and really listen to some new music, who do I choose? Do I take a chance on one of the thousands of developing new artists who seem to be more concerned with doing things for the ‘Gram than creating sustainable bodies of work? Or do I stick with the artists that reigned over my listening hours when they were more plentiful, only to become outdated and confused by the tides of change within the culture?

The struggle is real, and while it’s different for all of us, I can confidently say that I now understand why adults tend to become trapped by the tastes they developed in their younger years. The battle to expand those tastes steadily leans more uphill as the years go on and all the while, the responsibilities only mount.

It’s sad to think that one day I’ll have as little in common with hip-hop culture as I did when I first encountered it, but that might just be a part of growing up.



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