In a youthful art form such as hip hop, age does not seem to be well received. Rappers seem to only be getting younger these days. For instance, arguably the most talked about rapper of 2012, Chief Keef, is only seventeen and on his way to a promising career if he can keep himself out of trouble. Careers often fade away as an artist gets older while only a select few can still come around and continue to have some sort of an impact in a game that is ever-changing. While a lot of young newcomers began to make a name for themselves, 2012 proved to be a great year for veteran rappers as well. Many put out very good material while a specific few were able to reinvent themselves and show they still have much to accomplish.
The Academy Award winning Juicy J has been a recognizable name since the mid 90s as a member of Three Six Mafia. During the last few months of 2011, he signed to Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang imprint and put out Blue Dream and Lean, a mixtape that made him a household name. This momentum carried him into 2012 as he was featured on a multitude of songs that cover all ends of the contemporary rapper spectrum, crossed over to the younger generation with the help of Wiz Khalifa, and put out one of the biggest songs of the year, “Bandz a Make Her Dance. He also jumped into the world of streetwear by being featured on one of Supreme’s widely popular shirts that feature a celebrity in their trademark box logo; currently, this shirt can be found on eBay for double its retail. It is really hard to go on a social networking site and not see “I’m Trippy Mane!” at least a couple times throughout the day and it is all because of thirty-seven year old Juicy J.
When people think of 2 Chainz, they may not realize he has a lengthy past. Before being everywhere this year, he was on the widely popular single back in 2007, “Duffel Bag Boy,” as a member of Playaz Circle and even had a stint at Ludacris‘ DTP record label before that. This year he was literally EVERYWHERE when it came to guest appearances (which loosely translates to: Justin Beiber’s “Boyfriend”), became a member of the esteemed G.O.O.D. Music, gained three Grammy nominations, and put out his debut Based On a TRU Story that sold 147,000 copies in its first week. Not only is that a solid number in today’s climate but it shows that hard work ultimately pays off. Not until the age of thirty-five did he see the fruits of his labor.
As an artist, Jay-Z has preserved a seventeen year legacy that has always found a way to leave a mark on music. While he may have been relatively silent in terms of releases this year, the Brooklyn emcee used his entrepreneurial skills to keep his name very alive within the world of music. In one year alone, Jay-Z headlined a festival which he became the face of, sold out eight consecutive concerts in a matter of minutes to celebrate the opening of a stadium he partly owns (by .01%) in his hometown and executive produced one of the most popular video games of the year, NBA 2k13. Just recently, he turned forty-three. It really is only a matter of time before he runs for president.
There were many other veteran artists that also put out good material but none really made as much of a dent as these did. Essentially it boils down to the fact that they have transcended their older identities. They may sound reminiscent to their older incarnations, but have found a balance between the two to point their material away from becoming stale. The subject matter of hip-hop will never really dramatically change. The “what” will always be there, but the “how” is never constant and that is what makes music interesting and keeps us listening to these artist ten years later.
-By Adrian Gonzalez