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Hip Hop’s Dreaded “C” Word (Classic)

by Staff on March 23, 2010

I once explored the very same question years ago in a Poisonous Paragraphs post but as is bound to happen with the passage of time, things done changed. One of my main points was that it gets easier to call a classic album such with the passage of time. If the music can still hold up years later and not sound dated then it deserves the tag since classic material is supposed to be timeless.

However, the other issue is comparing modern albums to either (1986-1989 or 1992-1996) of the Golden Era aesthetics. This will be problematic whether or not you grew up during that era and remember it vividly or go back to listen to it a decade or two removed from it. Music didn’t sound the same, the culture hadn’t been as watered down by corporate interest. Also keep in mind that nostalgia is a bitch.Everyone thinks things were better when they were young regardless of the times.

You could say “Cartoons suck now, they were better back in the days” to a cross section of people from ages on a sliding scale three or four year apart from each other. They’ll all agree and offer up “better” cartoons and when the younger participants offer up selections the older cats will think those sucked and vice versa.I’ve gone back and watched some of the cartoons I used to love as a kid on those Generation X nostalgia fueled DVD box sets over the years and guess what? A lot of them sucked!

For that reason alone, in recent years I’ve decided to go contrary to the thinking of my fellow Hip Hop blogging sisteren and brethren and call an album I think is a classic one shortly after (as in the cases of Diamond District’s “In The Ruff” & Aarophat and Illastrate’s 2009 albums “Black Noise”) or even before it’s released (as in the case of Invincible’s 2008 album “ShapeShifters”) based on my 34 years of life growing up in the culture without fear. I can handle myself in a debate and defend my choices and opinions so why fear what others have to say?

For example, I called Blu & Exile’s “Below The Heavens” a classic Hip Hop release back in 2007 shortly after it’s release and many of my fellow bloggers told me to hold off on that statement because it was “too soon”. Since I know that classic material is timeless I paid them no mind. Fast forward to 2010, now it’s widely considered to be a modern classic. If I was right back in 2007 before most others then why should or would I wait for everyone else to realize what I already overstand or overstood? I’ll wait! © Katt Williams.

That’s why I’ll continue to use the dreaded “c” word that we as Hip Hop bloggers have been systemically conditioned to believe is thrown around far too often. Why? Because I actually know the meaning of the word and understand the gravity of the tag. I feel that I have the foundation and proper frames of reference plus an overstanding of the current era versus the old ones to be able to properly determine what a classic album is.

I called Y Society’s “Travel At Your Own Pace” a classic way back in 2007 and just now cats are universally agreeing with what I already wrote/said three years ago. Maybe it took them a while to hear it. Maybe it took them a while to hear or read enough of their peers say that it was a classic album before they could agree and seem cool. Who knows? Who cares?

…Oh, and Eric says:

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{ 8 comments }

Dart_Adams March 23, 2010 at 7:40 pm

That one, too!

One.

AG March 23, 2010 at 7:11 pm

This is exactly how I feel, it is always good to know that not everyone is an idiot. Always enjoy reading your articles Dart!

Vincent March 24, 2010 at 3:18 am

You’re a brave soul cuz that’s a heavy word to throw around when it comes to hip-hop. As a teenager, I remember calling albums classics weeks after they were released and actually getting it right. But I don’t think I’ll be using it any time soon when it comes to hip-hop since the last absolute classics i heard came out in ’96. What bothers me is when I hear people like my younger cousin (22) tell me that 50 Cent’s GRODT was a classic because sold a ton of records and had good videos. He doesn’t even consider what dude is saying in the lyrics.

Eric March 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Apollo sent it to us ….however, bad news..it’s gonna’ be a winter release….still the best album I’ve heard in some time

Hugh March 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Man what’s up with that Gas Mask album?? I’m still waiting to hear it.

Hugh March 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm

- Brother Ali – The Undisputed Truth
- Median – Median’s Relief

^^ 2 joints I’ve considered classic since first hearing them.

Travis March 26, 2010 at 3:23 am

I’m one of those that use the word “classic” very rarely, especially in these days. In my view, there is such a wide variety of hip hop and people digging so many different things. I think the days of a consensus “classic” have been replaced by personal classics. I have personal classics such as Blu & Exile, Archetype, The Smile Rays, El-P, Cunnin (APOS), but I know only the cats that listen to the same types of things I listen to will call some of those classics as well…

I think I’ll listen to The Left right now…..

Geoff March 26, 2010 at 10:36 am

No doubt. Frame of reference definitely plays a part in being able to call a contemporary album a classic. When you’ve listened to music for a period of time you just get “gut” feelings. The first time I heard The Roots “from the Ground Up” ep, I just knew… Below the Heavens, J-Lives All the Above, etc. Making good music ain’t hard. Its about respecting and identifying with old school cats with beats, cadence and content and constantly upgrading with the times.

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