Hip-hop may be a young man’s game, but there is still a grip of OGs who have seen consistent mainstream success.
Speaking with Billboard ahead of the March 16 release of PRhyme 2, Royce da 5’9’’ broke down how he believes ageism really works in hip-hop.
“It's just the cool factor,” Royce told writer Andreas Hale. “I think the main objective for every kid in America and the rest of the world is to fit in. If you’re an OG and you realize that, you'll have less of an issue. They never talk about Pharrell's age because he's so cool. 2 Chainz is cool. Give them a reason to think you're not cool, then they’re gonna crack on your age.”
In layman’s terms, age is only a factor when your actions make it a factor.
Artists like Pusha T, Kanye West, Juicy J, 2 Chainz and so on haven't lost their edge, nor their connection to the current wave of hip-hop over the years, which is why everyone gawks when they learn Chainz is 40 years old. Even Lil Wayne, who appears inseparable from youth culture, is closer in age to some of his fans’ parents than he is to his fans.
Consider the flip side: when an artist releases a weak body of work, makes a public statement that disregards what's popular with the current generation of artists, continues to rely on out-of-fashion trends, or has a bad day on Twitter, the first thing people take note of is their age. Once you err on the wack side, you’re suddenly too old to be in the game, or in the case of younger artists acting out, you’re too young to make an impact. In reality, young or old, ageism exists to stunt hip-hop's growth.
The moral is: when you have your finger on the pulse of the genre, whether you’re a living legend or just starting out in the game, your age all but disappears as long as the music is tight.