Old School vs New School: The Importance of Balance

It is apparent that Hip-Hop has changed dramatically since its birth. Production techniques, subject matter, mainstream influence, and more are in constant shift as the culture grows. Due to this change, we see a divide that separates fans according to time periods. Today we see “old heads” that are quick to express disdain for the current generation of Hip-Hop. Likewise, we see a new wave of artists and fans that dismiss the old school as played out. There seems to be a polarization within the culture. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my eighteen years on this Earth, it’s that strength lies in unity. We would get more out of the culture if elders supported the youth, and if the youth respected the elders. I’m here to offer a neutral perspective, and to promote the importance of balancing old school and new school within Hip-Hop.

Old school. The original. The blueprint. They’ve paved the road traveled on today. They’ve planted the seed for what is harvested today. What right does the new generation have to live off this hard work without paying due respect? “The kids today aren’t talking about anything.” “I’ll just stick to ‘real’ Hip-Hop.” It’s a common argument coming from what we call “old heads”, or fans devoted to the preservation of old school Hip-Hop. I can definitely understand this. You see the culture you celebrated from your days as a youth being transformed into unrecognizable form. It’s not uncommon to reminisce and yearn for the “good ‘ol days.” However, resisting change can turn out to yield an unproductive result. In order for Hip-Hop to last, change is necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I love old school Hip-Hop, but if the culture didn’t evolve it wouldn’t survive. Imagine if the U.S. still used World War II weaponry today simply because it worked in the past. It wouldn’t stand a chance against those that put more effort towards advancing. It’s fine to prefer a certain era, but be sure to remain a part of the culture. We still need the lessons of World War II weaponry, to build off of for future success. Value lies in the wisdom of the old school that is only beneficial if the culture is unified. I encourage the old heads to balance your listening, and find some new school artists that you can support. They’re out there, you may just have to go beyond mainstream radio. Grow with the music, so that the culture you once loved can live on.

New school. The wave. The future. They keep it fresh. They carry the torch. Why should we focus on the past? “Music is more fun now.” “That music is for old people.” “I’m not wasting my time listening to that outdated music.” It’s a common position held by the younger generation of Hip-Hop. This could have been me if I wasn’t exposed to old school at a young age. This is some of my peers. I can understand it. What’s the point of listening to music that came out decades before you were born? It’s fun to stay in the moment. However, you’ll gain a clearer perspective of where you’re going if you know where you came from. History provides a formula for success and a record of mistakes. As philosopher George Santayana stated, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” We know some negative events that have transpired within Hip-Hop’s history, and by learning we lower the risk of making these events cyclical. Trust your elders. They’ve seen similar obstacles, and can provide guidance. Continue innovating, but make sure you’re mindful of the rich history that precedes you. I encourage the new school to balance your listening, and find some old school artists that you can appreciate. They’re out there if you do your research. A flower doesn’t grow without roots.

Let’s unify the culture, so that we may be able to move on stronger. The “fad” they once called Hip-Hop is still here forty years later. At what point do we realize that enough is done already to divide us? It’s counterproductive to separate the culture based on time. Picture a relay race. Does the current runner reluctantly hand off the baton to the next runner? No, because it would only slow the team down. In order to be most efficient, the current runner has to confidently hand off the baton, knowing that the next runner will keep the team moving towards success. Likewise, the new runner wouldn’t be able to run without the efforts of the previous runner. The role of smooth transition is key for the team’s chances of success. In Hip-Hop, this smooth transition is done by understanding our teammates, or other generations. We have to balance our perspective, and learn to appreciate the other side. After all, we are connected.