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New American Songbook: Marathon Music


Hip hop is getting old, which no one in the early days really expected it to do. Sure, there was always the expectation that hip hop would be around in an archive—you could look back on it fondly, pull a dusty cassette out and take it for a spin—but I’m being more literal here: hip hop is actually getting old. Its practitioners are aging—some currently recording are closing in on 50 years old. Chuck D from Public Enemy is 56.

What has been a music primarily focused on the concerns of the young adult is now offering a greater portion of its cultural space to the adults in the room. Not that they don’t deserve it. Hip hop is perfectly willing to eat its own, like any other art, and maybe even more than others, and you always have to continue to prove your worth.

But it’s a different sounding hip hop, stripped of the ornament of youth and much more potent, whether it’s KRS-ONE’s intensity in teaching from the Temple of Hip Hop, or Dilated Peoples minimalist brand of Golden Age sound. Or, the incredible glossiness of Snoop Dog’s verse on Pain, from a recently released De La Soul album.

This new De La Soul album is so good, but I wonder if younger ears will be able to hear it. It’s marathon music, where the point isn’t keeping up, but staying in the race and finishing strong.