Age is just a number. You’re only as old as you feel. As long as you’re young at heart.
There’s a laundry list of clichés I’ve uttered to friends, coworkers and relatives whenever another birthday rolls around and the conversation steers itself into talking about how old we’re getting.
I’ve long poked fun at myself about being a crotchety old man; probably since I turned 30, but it was always done in jest.
“These kids today don’t know good music."
“Back in my day, we actually talked to people in person, none of this Facebook stuff."
I’ve never really been much of a trendsetter, but I’ve always been pretty tapped into the zeitgeist, and while it’s fun to joke about being out of touch, I’ve come to realize that it was somewhat of a defence mechanism I would use to mask that I may actually be falling out of touch with what’s “cool”.
Music has always served as a measuring stick, not just for me personally, but for popular culture as a whole in terms of what’s trendy.
Hip-hop, or rap music has been at the forefront of setting trends for as long as I can remember.
The way people dress, the slang and the products that are highly sought after are largely influenced by the hip-hop genre.
I’ve been a hip-hop fan, scratch that, hip-hop nerd, pretty much since I was introduced to it more than 20 years ago.
I come from the golden age of hip-hop, and I know everyone thinks “their era” is the golden age of whatever genre they associate themselves with, but if you Google “golden age of hip-hop” it’s actually a defined era, running from the mid 1980s until the mid to late 1990s.
The ’80s stuff like Boogie Down Productions, NWA, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap was a bit early for me, as I don’t think my parents would’ve had me listening to “F*ck tha Police” when I was four years old, but those artists all get regular rotation in my playlists now.
My wheelhouse is the ’90s; A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, Big L, Mobb Deep, Black Moon, Tupac, Snoop Dogg and the like.
While these are my mainstays and will always hold a special place in my heart and music catalogue, I’ve grown with the genre and have kept an open mind and added more artists into my library along the way.
Artists like Eminem, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole and more have all made their way into the fray.
Recently a friend of mine sent me a photo of a promo poster for an upcoming hip-hop festival. The promo poster has always stood as the litmus test of how tuned into the genre you are.
How many lines down from the headliner can you go before you have no idea who these people are?
Going back 10 years I could easily breeze through these posters and at least name a song or two by about two-thirds of the people on the festival lineup.
Today? I can’t get through the second line.
Who is Pooh Shiesty? Apparently he has a song that has more than 120 million views on YouTube.
SoFaygo? Never heard of him, but he’s got 20 million-plus views on his song “Knock Knock."
Young Dolph? Another rapper I had never heard of before seeing his name on this poster (second line under the headliner) and he has 90 million views on his song “100 shots."
How has all of this slipped by me? Have I lost touch with the genre I’ve adored for almost two-thirds of my life?
It isn’t just not knowing who these artists are, it’s trying to keep an open mind when listening to their work and finding myself muttering, “this is absolute garbage."
Are my ears getting old? Has the genre outrun me and I no longer know what sounds good?
I feel like my parents when I was a rebellious 13-year-old and I used to blast DMX (rest in peace) “Get at Me Dog” and my dad would ask “why is he barking? How is that music?”
Perhaps I’ve finally peaked and my days of knowing what’s “cool” are over; you kids can have your fancy new rap music, just try to keep the volume down please.
Matt Durnan is a reporter at Sudbury.com, covering city hall and general news. He is a graduate of Humber College's journalism program. Matt spent time as a reporter in Thompson, Man., as well as Airdrie, Alta, before moving to Sudbury. Follow him on Twitter at @mdurnan. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.