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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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The Myth of The Golden Era
Friday, May 07, 2010

The other day I was having an in-depth discussion with a group of people regarding arts and entertainment and one prevailing conclusion that we all came to regarding “the good old days” of anything, whether entertainment related or not, is that reminiscing is almost always done through rose colored glasses. In other words, everything looks better in the rearview mirror. With this in mind I started thinking about the supposed Golden Era, or Golden Age, of hip-hop. The conclusion I came to is that regardless of what years one has falling under that distinction, The Golden Era, as we consider it now, is more of a myth than a reality.

Before I get a ton of angry emails telling me how great A Tribe Called Quest was, please continue reading. I know how great Tribe was. I was rockin to their albums when they first came out, and even bought The Love Movement (which was not good). The artists of that era are some of my favorites of all-time. The idea, however, that hip-hop was on a higher level, or that we had better rappers during that time and it was more pure and more representative of the culture, is ridiculous, and more to the point, it’s incredibly lazy.

When people try to reason that there was a Golden Era of hip-hop they’re essentially showing people the lack of effort they’re putting in to find the great hip-hop of today. In the years most people consider the Golden Era there were a ton of great artists, no doubt, but there were just as many awful artists flooding their airwaves and music video shows. While we may reminisce fondly over tracks such as “Rump Shaker” and “Whoomp! There It Is,” if we honestly took a look at those songs we’d see them for the trite nonsense they were. Yes, they were our trite nonsense, but that’s where those rose colored glasses come in. It's easy to think of any era as great as long as you only focus on the aspects of it that you liked.

Another contributing factor to the fallacy of the Golden Era are the number of artists who use the phrase to try to convince people they’re something they’re not. Most artists who claim to be “channeling the Golden Era vibe,” and the writers who far too often use such a phrase to describe said artists, are really just reasoning the fact that their production sounds fifteen years old and they have nothing new to say. I’m sorry, but if everyone who is claiming A Tribe Called Quest as a huge influence actually listened to Tribe back in the day, Phife Dawg and crew would have gone diamond.

The Golden Era of hip-hop is a misplaced concept. People want to attach it to the music, but we have just as much good music coming out today as we did then. If you want to attach the Golden Era tag to anything, it should be hip-hop radio. I firmly believe the years that many consider to be the Golden Era of hip-hop were really the Golden Era of hip-hop radio. Atmosphere, MF Doom, P.O.S., Homeboy Sandman, and a litany of other artists could easily go rhyme for rhyme and song for song with our favorites from the past, the only difference is they’re not getting the airplay, and that’s the main difference between then and now. It wasn’t that the artists were better back in the day, it’s that we were able to hear more of them and be exposed to their greatness. If radio played more of what was coming out today people would realize there’s no such thing as the Golden Era of hip-hop because it’s something that’s ongoing.

Artists are doing new, creative things in hip-hop right now, the masses just aren't hearing them, and since people have become accustomed to having their music spoon fed to them they have no idea of the breadth of what's really out there. The sad fact is it’s easier to be disgusted with the present and reminisce about a “better time,” a time that people seem to forget also included A LOT of wack rappers, than take the time to find the greatness that’s out there today, hence people created, and now long for, a Golden Era that’s more myth than reality.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:55 AM  
  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Othello said…

    I guess the issue becomes that the rappers that you are talking about that are making good music today operate on the fringes of the industry and the lack of exposure that these artists receive affects the overall cultural context in which hip hop is perceived.

    I teach high school and most of my students aren't checking for Atmosphere or Homeboy Sandman, they ARE checking for Wocka Flocka Flame and Nicki Minaj. Therefore, these artists become the iconic hip hop figures of this era and, as such, represent the totality of hip hop culture. Clearly that is not the only thing happening in hip hop, but if that is the perception that people have about this music and the culture that it represents, that is not a good thing.

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