Hip-Hop is a little over 30 now and very often in a state of confusion about how to deal with it’s age…and the growing ages of its artists. Not too long ago, rappers were given an unofficial burial once they hit a certain age by the consumer base that seemingly preferred the trends brought forward by the younger and fresher artists. An artist’s shelf life was very short.
Fast forward a decade and we see a paradigm shift in the attitude towards the aged. Hip-Hop is still of course a young man’s game, but the age of “retirement” has been raised to much higher levels. We see many people who are over 35 either continuing to sell large amounts of records, or they are making critically acclaimed albums and eating well off of tours and really finding creative ways to own their title of elder statesman.
Case in point, Jay-Z, who is over 40, has taken a firm grip once again of Hip-Hop and Pop culture with last year’s release The Blueprint 3. Q-Tip, a man whose voice, face, and energy seem ageless isn’t in his 30’s anymore and I doubt anybody will say his most recent album wasn’t anything other than awesome. The Beastie Boys are all over 40, with MCA being 45, and they will always draw large crowds to their shows while selling a solid amount of records. Raekwon, 41, has enjoyed a reinvigorated career with the release OB4CL2 and the recent EP (yeah, I’m not calling it an album anymore) with Meth and Ghost…with Ghost being 40 now himself.
Method Man, Common, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Mos Def, Scarface, Snoop, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Nas, Mos Def, Black Thought, and will.i.am, are all examples of Hip-Hop artists still having success though they are now in the age range of 35-39.
50 Cent, Ludacris, Kanye West, Young Jeezy, Talib Kweli, and Rick Ross are great examples of rappers 30-34 that didn’t have their rapper pass taken away from them just because there is a “3” as the first digit of their age.
I think that it’s fair to say that ageism in Hip-Hop has been greatly reduced, thanks in no small part to the fans of Hip-Hop themselves aging and not giving up on the music or the artists that they grew up with.
Some Milwaukee Hip-Hop artists are even seeing the benefits of this new attitude towards those who have been around for a while. The Rusty P’s continue to rock shows and put together music, with Phantom Channel also finding sans P’s success recently with The Lab Partners release.
Another hardworking artist that has been around for a while is D. Ellzey, one of the former members of Black Elephant. Ellzey had been focusing his time most recently on mentoring younger artists because of the experiences he gained through years of touring and hitting the studio. During that time he began putting together what is now the album A Shift In The Wind, a true example of grown up Hip-Hop.
From the very beginning of the album, you completely understand that this isn’t an album that chooses to pander to the younger generation’s specific tastes. Ellzey immediately attacks BET for their programming while stating they he’s not going to allow his 4 daughters get caught up in the negative stereotypes the network has been called out for pushing into the brains of those who watch the it.
Many of the Hip-Hop artists that choose to speak about faith typically leave that sort of message for the end of their album because the front end is loaded with what they hope will be seen as being “bangers”. Ellzey, in having crafted an album before and not just hits plus filler, knows how to arrange tracks for the flow that he conceived, and so we have a track about faith as the 3rd song.
As every track goes by you truly understand that this is an album with a purpose…many purposes. Ellzey is not only airing out his thoughts on certain topics, but he is truly giving you his life’s philosophies and soul. He’s letting you in to who he is and doesn’t give an ounce of thought to whether or not he should try to appeal to the swag generation. Again, it’s part of the well calculated truth D. Ellzey set out to give listeners.
This truth is capped off by “The Huxtables”, a very intelligent song that uses familiar characters in an alternative reality’s view of the legendary family. Everything is symbolic and the song requires you to think, as do the other songs on the album, which is something the current swag generation of artists and fans seem to refuse to do.
If thinking hurts your brain, don’t listen to this album.
Lastly, the music on the record is fantastic. Ellzey put together a sound that is a wonderful mixture of organic and inorganic textures. While so much rap is looking closer to how technology can be manipulated for the greater destruction of musicianship, Ellzey decided to enlist people who can blend the soul sample style with the progressive instrumentation needed to give many of the tracks the sound that was required to match the lyrics and delivery Dame brings to the table.
This album comes out tomorrow, via digital methods only, and though the old album collector in me isn’t thrilled about that aspect, that shouldn’t detract anybody from getting this album. Whether or not you go to the party at Stonefly to experience the release and the veteran performer’s dynamic stage show, you should set several dollars aside to purchase A Shift In The Wind.