Golden Age, Smolden Age
I can get nostalgic as much as the next person especially when much of hip hop culture was something I was seeped in as a youngblood. Like many of my peers, I participated in so many of the elements. I b-boyed and tagged my way through NYC. I rocked mics as I got older but I always return to my top rocking and getting up roots. Even at 38, I debate with my wife about my habit of tagging when we travel. When I hear any song by the Jimmy Castor Bunch or an old Rakim track, I get goosebumps. If I am with my children, I start blabbing away about growing up in NYC in 1981. We all get nostalgic especially when things aren't the way they used to be.
The other day, I had the opportunity to build with some teenagers. One of them bought up the concept of the Golden Age. He pointed out that hip hop culture is about to hit forty and that it is too young to really have a Golden Age. At first, I was offended but I held my tongue. A few weeks back, I went off on an older cat at a comic book convention who was offended by the fact that I thought the Golden Age of comics (1930s until the 1950s) was extremely overrated.
For hip hop music, the Golden Age is considered the period between 1988 and 1992. Again, that is a relatively short period especially for the scant four decades that the entire culture has been around. I remember that during that time, even most black radio stations refused to play hip hop music. With the exception of stations like KDAY and Norfolk, Virginia's WRAP, most stations played hip hop music during the Friday or Saturday night mixes. Every now and again, a hip hop song would make it to an R&B chart and you might hear it during the day time. For most of us, we listened to hip hop music on pause tapes. Some of us were lucky to hear a tape of the Cold Krush Brothers if we leaved outside of the New York Tri-State area. Let's not even discuss that there were no academic pieces on hip hop culture. Most media outlets even claimed that hip hop culture would not last past 1990. Unlike today, there were no college courses or classes provided by community centers on anything hip hop.
Of course Hollywood attempted to cash in and released a slew of horrible movies on hip hop culture (until this day, I still find that "Wild Style" is the ONLY hip hop movie of it's kind). There was only one documentary released in the early 80's, Style Wars. There were only a handful of hard to find books on the topic as well.
I am not saying that we should say we are currently living in a Golden Age, even though looking back we might say that the turn of the century was a Golden Age for hip hop culture. I am just asking us to rethink what we dub the Golden Age. While it is true that during the period we are discussing, it was very easy to own every hip hop album release during that four year period and there was a diversity in what was being played, but I hesitate to say it was a "Golden Age." During that time, we saw an emphasis on the MCing aspect of hip hop while most of us ignored the rest. Most of the hip hop music being played and discussed only came from a certain region of the country. I find that calling that era the Golden Age neglects the rest of the culture and the country.
I have no doubt that many of my peers will shout me down. I understand, I was upset when someone pointed out the fallacy of believing when the Golden Age was. It's easy for us to assume that "our" time was the best time. I am sure that many of you might recall that many of our parents and elders lamented the missing quality of music during that period. I am sure many of you remember a parent or grandparent cussing about how hip hop music wasn't music at all. Sound familiar, right?