The 90's were my golden era, as everyone's high school and college years usually are. The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire, Nintendo (aka NES), Saved By The Bell, Michael Jordan and Used Jeans. The 90's were also a revolutionary time for rap music, so I can't help but feel nostalgic when I hear music that reminds me of my younger years. For that reason, I'm absolutely a fan of hip-hop's "Golden Era" by default. That isn't the only reason however. Especially when most rap music we hear on the radio today sounds cheap and superficial by comparison to music from that era. Does that mean we're "trapped in the 90's"? In order to answer that, allow me to qualify the question by explaining its origin.
It was Nas. He made comment at the end of the song "Locomotive" on his latest album, Life Is Good.
"This is for my trapped in the 90's ni***s".
"What does he mean by that?", I thought. Did he say that specifically to ease the pain of his "stuck in the 90's" fans who were clamoring for another taste of hip-hop's golden era? Is that why I loved the song so much? Or was it just a great song? Am I trapped in the 90's because I love this song?
The album has been out well over six months, but I never let go of that comment. Out of a small handful of artists who owe their entire career to that era, Nas is among the top five who continue to succeed. Yet he is giving us "trapped in the 90's" fans a song for what? He's moved on and he felt the need to quench the thirst of those of us who are "trapped" and long for the incredible sound and lyricism that era had? One song? Nas is wrong. This isn't about thirsty followers, it's part of a bigger issue we face with fans and "artists" being trapped in the music business.
"You're old, you need to open your mind", "Be more progressive", they say, "you're scared of change", they tell me. When it comes to the discussion about being "trapped in the 90's", I've heard it all, but you're all wrong. Look at Rock & Roll. No, no, I mean real Rock & Roll. Before labels would buy a magazine cover or launch a multi-million dollar marketing campaign. I didn't grow up in the 70's, but I'm very aware of who some of the legends of rock are (as are most people). Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Aerosmith to name a few. All of it was before my time, but I realize that it's real Rock & Roll, there's no disputing that.
Fast forward 10 years and people couldn't get enough of it. In the 80's Motley Crew, Poison, White Lion and others were considered Rock & Roll and dominated the radio. It was a bunch of record label A&R prep school valedictorians that claimed "Rock & Roll", but none of them actually were. They were nothing more than a caricature of the musical Gods they worshiped. It was superficial, lazily crafted music riding a wave of corny lyrics, catchy hooks and instrumentals. The same happened to Punk, Alternative and one of hip-hop's favorite elements, rap music. It's sad and as a person who is a fan of hip-hop's golden era it's down right frustrating.
Don't hate me though, just because I'm not drinking today's current flavor of the proverbial Kool-Aid, doesn't mean I'm old and scared of change. It just means I'm not buying it. I don't have to accept cheap music simply because the radio is playing it. It's not a "hit" to me because billboard has it at #1 on the chart. Just because Angie Martinez says its amazing, or XXL placed them on the cover doesn't mean it's good. All of these venues and personalities are paid to tell you it's "good" music. To say otherwise is to bite the hand that feeds them. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers take what they say as gospel and then accuse people like myself of being "scared of change".
So this begs the question: Am I actually trapped in the 90's or are my accusers simply trapped in the music business?
Do me a favor and queue up some of the most amazing artists you can think of from the 90's and some of the most amazing artists of the year 2000 through today and see what you think.
This isn't the progression of hip-hop, it's outright destruction.