The Golden Generation: A Criticism
The phrases golden era and golden age are thrown around like confetti in the hip-hop world nowadays, yet if you were to ask 10 listeners, the specific years these eras occurred you would likely get 10 different answers. Nonetheless, the most prevalent opinion suggests that the golden era covers the period between 1989-1999.
The decade saw hip-hop find its feet in the music industry, building on the success of the acts of the 80s. The 90s were a pivotal time for hip-hop, the style and sound shifted tremendously from that of the 80s and some of the biggest names in the genre emerged as, not just superstars, but legends. A lyrical revolution took place and the genres growth was shown through the development of vocal and lyrical devices such as: metaphors, similes, storytelling, clever cadences, changes in tempo and word play.
It is undeniable that the 90s were a revolutionary time for hip-hop, still, this time was not without its faults. The main aim of this article is to uncover some untold truths and ultimately set straight some problems I have with the idea of a “golden era”.
The first issue I have with the golden age or more accurately the people who champion it, is the insistence that it will always will be the best decade in our genre’s history, the sound is still in its relative infancy and the thought that the best hip-hop music ever created has already been recorded, fills me with an unshakable sense of sorrow. Fortunately, this view is proved wrong time and time again with classic albums being produced every year. I believe the biggest reason Hip-Hop from the 90s is held in such high regard is how easy it was to access quality music. Imagine artists such as Nas or The Wu-Tang Clan breaking into the mainstream in 2016, these days, nine times out of ten you have to delve a lot deeper to find a higher level of artistry but do not be mistaken it’s there yet the masses are simply too lazy to seek it out.
Next I believe the Gangster rap style which seemed to be the theme of the age while integral to the culture and popular, drove The more politically driven, conscious rap of the mid-late 80s out of the limelight. How great would it have been to have an act similar to Public Enemy come through in the 90’s.
A further point to make is that the focus on the golden age takes the light away from the surrounding decades. Where would hip-hop be if the rapid rate of evolution hadn’t taken place in 80s, the years that laid the foundation in terms of style and sound. How about the 00’s which for people my age should be considered an extension of the golden age. Even the 10’s have seen a renaissance in the importance of lyrical content (with a few exceptions of course)
Nostalgia, is a funny thing, we look back over time with rose tinted glasses subconsciously sifting through memories discarding those that aren’t as pleasing. Let’s not forget that all 90’s was all that great. Right at the dawn of the decade MC Hammer exploded into the charts, selling almost 9 million records in 1990 alone, this wasn’t an isolated incident either, Vanilla Ice found astronomical success in hip-hops best decade.
I have a confession to make as I have been writing this article slating the decade of my birth I’ve been listening to a playlist of 90’s hip-hop and although my grievances with the era are numerous they are similar to an argument with a best friend rather than a fight with an enemy.