OPINION: Breaking Down Rap Barriers - Ambition Beats Age
OPINION | By Alandra Peabody
When it comes to the entertainment business, age all too often dictates one’s ability to break into (or remain relevant in) a fickle and ever-changing industry. Despite the myriad ways one can be deemed “unmarketable”, it seems the 20-somethings of the rap game are losing their stronghold in the mainstream as more mature, introspective rappers gain notoriety and respect among hip-hop heads who worry less about Molly and more about Mortgages.
The pop-rap market is, by its nature, likely to favor the young and conventionally attractive. However, consumers of rap are definitely not restricted to young adults. For someone who has been revelling in the world of hip-hop for the past 20 years, depth of lyricism and originality in sound resonate far more than flashy outfits and lazy performances from attractive youth.
A large factor common to truly successful hip-hop artists is their intense dedication and passion for the craft. This, far more than age or any other common determination of “marketability”, is what sets an artist apart from the crowd of half-hearted SoundCloud rappers asking for free beats, favoring posturing and perception over passion and persistence.
It cannot be overstated how much drive, humility, and enthusiasm play a part in one’s success in an overcrowded scene of apathetic-but-technically-skilled artists. Though flash-in-the-pan memes gone quasi-famous and disappointing fads are not going to stop trying to cash our patience outside, the artists who remain relevant beyond the Vine-length careers of others are ones who have true respect and appreciation for the craft coupled with the drive and ambition to execute and remain active in an ever-changing environment.
One pitfall that rappers who have been making music for decades will fall into is that while they indisputably have the technical acumen and love of making music, they fail to adapt to changing market strategies and an ever-pressing need for relevant media in the digital space. One cannot ignore the power of social media for networking, community engagement, and talent discovery.
Willingness to retain a timeless, true-school style while successfully navigating the online future is the real recipe for relevancy in hip-hop beyond your 20s. Acts well into their 30s and 40s such as Chuck D, Run the Jewels, Jay-Z and many others prove that heart and hustle will ultimately prevail over youth and apathy.
This is not to say that young rappers are all unmotivated. Many rappers barely old enough to enter the clubs their music blasts in are pouring their heart, soul, and money into what they do. Chance the Rapper is very vocal about education and other important issues and is extremely philanthropic - continually assisting Chicago, his hometown, in tackling a variety of budget issues. Born in 1993, Chance is a great example of a 20-something rapper with the humility and respect for the craft needed to maintain and grow a fanbase for many years to come.
The message is this: if you are talented, driven, and willing to continually put your heart and soul into what you do - your age doesn’t matter. Love of the game, the music and the hustle is the common thread that ties hip-hop heads young and old together and bridges the generational gap.