ARTICLE: Old school

Old school (By Timid)

Old School is a term thrown around in the hip hop community quite often. It is also a heavily debated classification. What is Old School? Does Old School encompass the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and the Fat Boys or does it go even further back into Marvin Gaye, Patti Labelle, and the Temptations era?

The Rap industry today is a pretty solid music industry that has accomplished such feats as taking the title of ‘fastest growing music industry’ that was long held by Country Music. This genre has grown to the point now that we have our celebrities, superstars and even legends of the game but it wasn’t always this way.

Back in the beginning days of Rap it was referred to as a passing fad and wasn’t expected to last much longer. Record deals were nil; nobody wanted a part of it. Emcees were stereotyped as doing nothing more than ‘spitting’ on a microphone while making ridiculous gestures; a characterization that came from beat boxing stylists. The haters were in full effect but Rap was not going to be held down. What we know today as the largely successful Hip Hop industry was made that way by a grass roots movement of individuals ‘just trying to do their thing.’ The most notable of course from Rap’s younger days is entertainment mogul Russell Simmons and his Def Jam records. Def Jam went from two turntables and a microphone to a top level entertainment business with successes in the clothing, television and movie industries and a growing legacy of music artists.

Being around during this time I was able to see the changes and the growth in the industry and in the skills of the emcees as Rap became a staple in America’s and the world’s culture. As time went on and the industry grew and ‘everybody and they mom’s’ wanted to rhyme, Rap become more commonly called Hip Hop and the term Old School was used to describe the beginnings of this music. This is where I have a problem. Nobody wanted in on Rap in those early days but when it achieved the status of having a large mass appeal everyone wanted his or her piece of credit from it.

The generation that begat Rap music is often dismissed as a failed generation that dropped the ball from the previous one. Such praise is given to those of the 60’s and 70’s for what was accomplished and make no mistake there were many substantial accomplishments. The civil rights struggle was started and moved with an incredible and unbending force. It was something of their very own; markers of a generation if you will as all generations have that certain thing.

The post 70’s generation didn’t do marches or sit-ins or numerous protests. By time we came into an age of our own those of that movement had subsided and reduced to smaller factions. The peace lovers and the militants graduated college and entered into the workforce and so such activities dwindled, families had to be raised and bills had to be paid. The subsequent generation grew up in a different reality than the previous. Marching and protesting wasn’t the reality of the day and as such wasn’t followed upon hence the lost generation. Then came Rap. This was something new born from our generation. It was our thing and we embraced it with open arms. Nobody on the outside wanted a part neither did the previous generation.


As the shine started to grow and it started to become clear to the doubters that Rap was not a phase or a fade and was something that was here to stay and profitable everybody wanted a piece. People from the ’60s and ’70s started saying things that are still repeated often today; “Aww Rap ain’t nothing new, we used to do that back in our day. We started Rap.” Umm no you didn’t. What was done back in their day was different than what we know as Rap. If back in their day they had started Rap then by time the Sugarhill gang dropped they would have had a warm welcome from those besides the youth. Ours was distinctly different and as such didn’t fit into the realm of what was being done at the time; after all it was just spitting and waving the arms around.

This was ours. This was something that we did. Our mark. When our mark began to be hugely popular and influence mainstream culture, corporate pockets and the masses worldwide, their culture wanted to get some of that shine back that had shone so brightly in their day. As a member of that lost follow up generation that has heard too often; “You kids today need to have something of your own. Make a difference.” We do and we did and started to use the term Old School endearingly to pay homage to those in the beginnings of our movement.

So, as much respect as I have for the music that came out of my parents generation those artists are not Old School. We don’t attempt to take away the thing of your generation so please leave ours alone. For a failed generation that has nothing, it is sure being divided up among those that told us it would only be nothing. Please, you may ride the bandwagon but don’t swear that you bought it. Don’t praise the lighting and steal the thunder at the same time. Don’t tell us we need to accomplish something then try and take what we’ve done. This is ours, with all its problems, controversies, achievements and successes and you can’t have it… nyah!

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