Veteran Rappers: Do You Really Need to Continue Making New Records?

Categories: Hip-Hop

KRS-One-2.jpg
KRS-One: Great live, but the records aren't what they used to be.
​There was a time, back in the late '80s, when the legendary Bronx rapper KRS-One was a candidate for the title of Greatest Rapper of All Time. Twenty-five years later, though, the self-anointed Blastmaster's latest long-player, The B.D.P. Album, suggests that compulsory retirement from the recording arena after 10 years in the rap game would be a good thing. At the very least, putting a cap on an artist's album count would stop some of the music's icons from continuing to release projects that make them come off like the genre's outdated uncles.

KRS-One still puts on one of the few vital live hip-hop experiences: His voice is commanding, his rap recitation skills are still sharp, and as long as he sticks to his hits -- whether those recorded with his Boogie Down Productions crew or his early solo work -- he delivers a rousing set. (He had been scheduled to preach his righteous rap gospel tonight at the Red Devil Lounge, but the show appears to have been canceled.) When KRS-One airs out his anthems, it's like experiencing a journey through the golden era: "Criminal Minded," "South Bronx," "The Bridge Is Over," "My Philosophy," "Jack Of Spades," "Duck Down," Sound Of Da Police." But since his solo albums started to get sloppy -- 1997's I Got Next being the start of the descent -- he's released music that largely sullies his legacy. And he's far from alone.

The problem is hip-hop's struggle to balance respect for its own history while keeping up with new sounds. Veteran rappers whose music helped define a certain era rarely manage to stay relevant. The production style, the slang, the popular rhyme patterns -- even the regional hot spots -- change so quickly in hip-hop that artists are left in limbo: If they embrace the sound they pioneered, they're inevitably labelled as outdated and past it; but when they attempt to keep up with the kids, they come off as old and out-of-touch.

The situation is made trickier by rap's consistent embrace of the energy of youth. Upcoming rappers don't so much eat up the generation before them as chew 'em to bits, spit 'em out, and then swagger off. At times it can be exhilarating: A teenage LL Cool J's first recorded raps were cocksure stuff. But it can also result in a situation like, say, West Coast gangsta pioneer Ice-T engaging in a beef with poppy young southern oik Soulja Boy. No one wins, but the older artist usually takes more of a loss -- and usually choses to record their dis rhymes over the more lackluster beats.

Jay-Z's career is a rare exception to this trend. A lot of the credentials supporting his claim to be rap's greatest (greatest alive, anyway) come from his ability to continue releasing music that sounds modern and up-to-date. This has been helped, of course, by his wealth and position in the industry. But, barring a few perky moments on Watch the Throne, would anyone's iTunes stash of Jay-Z tracks really be all the worse off if he'd actually retired after dropping The Black Album? That project, complete with the bombast of the Rick Rubin-helmed "99 Problems," dropped seven years after his Reasonable Doubt debut. You can make a solid argument that Jay-Z's essential output came within that period.

There's nothing wrong with embracing and supporting hip-hop nostalgia. Public Enemy deserve to be able to tour around the world off the back of It Takes A Nation Of Millions alone. Likewise for the Wu-Tang Clan with Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Nas with Illmatic, and countless other iconic artists and albums through the years. But with most rappers unable exercise quality control for a full decade, and few able to claim five legitimately classic albums, wouldn't we all benefit from stronger but shorter recorded legacies?

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Red Devil Lounge - CLOSED

1695 Polk, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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9 comments
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Dustenwaxoff
Dustenwaxoff

Just stop creating? Artists age, evolve and grow. Points of view even change with age---but the point is that if you're a true artist, you continue to produce your art. It shouldn't matter your age or how long you been in "the game."

New York City Hotel
New York City Hotel

If you are saying these stories need to offer this up as far as generating and if you are saying KRS started getting inadequate in 1997 you are probably I would have to say a personal that goes to companies and likes top 40 music that contains simple wrinkles and no real attention or excellent idea or any idea for that concern.   I will be sincere I think you have your go up your ass and you cant be more than about 20 years of age and was even a glimmer in your daddys thoughts when Hiphop came out.  My think would be you use restricted bluejeans and aged up experiencing pet crates later selections about being sad and emo and you probably have alkaline team tatted on your ass lmao Get some real experts in pay attention to this guy is a hack into into 

Sean Ruiz
Sean Ruiz

they let you write another article? lol

Hiphop for life
Hiphop for life

Simple is better in this case - this writer really has no understanding of Hiphop Culture or what it means to most of us Hiphopas. If you are saying these legends need to give this up as far as recording and if you are saying KRS started getting sloppy in 1997 you are probably I would have to say the kind of person that goes to clubs and loves top 40 music that involves simple lyrics and no real passion or positive message or any message for that matter.   I will be blunt I think you have your head up your ass and you cant be more than about 20 years old and wasnt even a flicker in your daddys brain when Hiphop came out.  My guess would be you wear tight pants and grew up listening to cages later albums about being sad and emo and you probably have alkaline trio tatted on your ass lmao Get some real writers in hear this guy is a hack

FART
FART

FIRE THIS WRITER!

TYBO2020
TYBO2020

I DON'T THINK KRS-ONE OUTPUT HAS BEEN BAD..HE JUST PUTS OUT 2-3 PROJECTS A YEAR AS OF LATE..AND IT'S FOR HIS CORE AUDIENCE..IF YOU'RE NOT A FAN/FAM..DON'T LISTEN/BUY..IT'S NOT LIKE HE IS MAINSTREAM OR COMMERCIAL..AND MOST NEW COMMERCIAL OR UNDERGROUND ARTIST ARE WEAK IN COMPARISON..

TO SUM IT UP..HIP-HOP LIVES(2007) WAS DECENT,SURVIVAL SKILLS(2009) WAS GOOD,META-HISTORICAL(2010) WAS DECENT;

GODSVILLE,ROYALTY CHECK(BOTH 2011) AND THE BDP ALBUM(DONE 2011)..MEHH..(AND THEY HAVE DECENT TO GOOD TRACKS ALSO) BUT I BET YOU JUST LIKE THAT(2012) & RETURN OF THE BOOM BIP(WHENEVER HIM & PREME RELEASE IT) WILL RAISE EYEBROWS..

AND JAY-Z IS OVER RATED TO ME..HE'S JUST A GOOD HUSTLER AND BUSINESS MAN..HE NICE ON THE MIC..MOSTLY FOR BOASTING THO..I COULD CARE LESS..

Harry Grimes
Harry Grimes

spiritual minded? come on!

TYBO2020
TYBO2020

IT WAS WHAT IT WAS..(AND WAS'NT AS BAD AS PEOPLE IMPLY..AND WOW..YOU NAMED ONE ALBUM OUT OF 20 SOMETHIN'))..IT BOILS DOWN TO TASTE AND WHAT I PREVIOUSLY STATED..IF YOU DON'T LIKE..DON'T LISTEN..I'M NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT DRAKE,LIL WAYNE,RICK ROSS OR NONE OF THESE RAP ARTIST I DON'T LISTEN TO..I JUST DON'T SUPPORT THEM..BUT TELL ME THIS..HOW MANY ROCK GROUPS/ARTIST THAT DON'T MAKE SONGS THAT ARE GOOD AS THEIR LEGACY WORK??..PLENTY..

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