Is Hip-Hop Still a Young Man’s Sport?

Will you remember where you were on August 3rd, 2021? For me, it will forever be the day that Verzuz debuted the battle the streets never even knew they wanted, The Lox vs Dipset at Madison Square Garden. Two legacy acts, that I used to sneak away to listen to at my older cousin’s place, were going head to head. How I couldn’t miss this? 

While watching the Verzuz, I witnessed Jadakiss go absolutely crazy (by crazy I mean he bodied* Dipset badly) with energy that you can really only get from someone that truly loves hip-hop. He’s someone that truly understands the importance of an art that uses vocals as an instrument. He made me realize that at 46 years old, Kiss can still do exactly what I appreciated about him as an artist when he was younger. He made me genuinely sit there and ask myself the question, is hip-hop still truly a young man’s sport? Here’s a short list of some elder statesmen in rap that have remained competitive or have even improved as they aged past 40. 

Jim Jones

essence.com

Yes, you read that correctly, there is no typo, “We Fly High” Jim Jones is on this list fam. If I’m being honest, I think Jimmy’s a better rapper now than he was back in the height of the Dipset days. When I heard Wasted Talent in 2018, I was like ayo hold up? This guy is going in for real and the beats are hard. I’m not from New York but I know this feels like New York. Then he followed that up with El Capo and I’m like this might be even better. Then this year he puts out The Fraud Department with Harry Fraud and I could not deny what this man was doing. We aren’t talking enough about Jim Jones because we think he’s washed*. He’s anything but that. I know I sound like I’m gassin’* this but this truly how it is. Listen to any of those three projects and tell me I’m reaching. 

“My n*gga got caught with a 30, they offered him thirty
Third time felon in court, he’s not even going on thirty” – Jim Jones

Andre 3000

pitchfork.com

Listen that Solo (Reprise) verse that 3 Stacks did on Frank Ocean’s Blonde was done at 41 years old! This guy might not be putting out albums but he’s definitely still competitive at this thing called rap. The pockets he picks, the flow he decides to use, the things he’s saying in his bars? This guy is still an alien in rap. 

“So low that I can see under the skirt of an ant
So low that I don’t get high no more
When I “Geronimo!,” I just go “Heh” – Andre 3000

Jay-Z 

revolt.com

An unofficial Hovenger, if you thought this man wasn’t going to be on my list, you’re mawd*. We’re talking about Jay-Z the rapper right? That’s who we’re talking about? The man found another way to evolve as a rapper and put out 4:44,  an album that’s in the upper half of his best albums overall at the age of 47. This man was 40 when Watch the Throne came out. Fam who do you think we’re talking about here?! He did a whole album with Jay Electronica at 50 and kept up with him. Even at the tender age of 51, this man was still able to put out a crazy verse on What It Feels Like with Nipsey Hussle. Put some more respek on this man’s name than you already do, please and thank you.

“Scorpion bricks, way before Aubrey’s double disc
.40 on my lap, clap, sound like 40 did the mix” – Jay-Z

Fat Joe

hiphop-n-more.com

Ayo Fat Joe released “All the Way Up” at 46 years old. You listen to that song and sing along when you go out right now. Four years later, you still do this. Joey Crack can still put out hit records people. “Make It Rain” was not the last one. “All the Way Up” might not even be the last one, he’s still doing his thing on “Sunshine (The Light)” at 50 years old. That is a full five and a zero fam. You starting to see what I’m trying to get at let?

“She call me top shotta, yeah I keep a few tings
Champion sound, yeah I got a few rings” – Fat Joe

Jay Electronica

scientificinquirer.com

This guy basically put out a collab debut album with Jay-Z (which is cheating to me) but I’d be lying if I didn’t say Jay Elect has to make this list. A Written Testimony is a crazy album and this guy Jay Elect is still an incredible emcee. He still says bars that I don’t fully understand until I sit with them and research them. He still rhymes words together that make me go “how did he find another word to rhyme with that word?” or “how did he come up with such a technical rhyme scheme in his head?” Now that he finally has an album out, I can finally say with conviction that this 44 year old rapper is one of the best to do it. 

“If it come from me and Hov, consider it Qur’an
If it come from any of those, consider it Harām” – Jay Electronica

Royce da 5’9” 

rap-up.com

Royce is another rapper that I think you can argue actually became better at putting out albums as he aged. The Book of Ryan and The Allegory are two incredible concept albums that I think “hip-hop purists” will hold in high regard, if they don’t already. I know personally, I didn’t expect what we got from either of those albums. I always knew Royce was a dangerous emcee and rated his pen, but I personally didn’t find he has other projects (besides PRhyme)  that I could sit, listen to and enjoy all the way through until his last two albums. He did those at 41 and 43 years old.

“The government injected crack into my natural habitat
Charged me with possession and arrested me for havin’ it after that” – Royce da 5’9″

Nas

billboard.com

This man finally got his first grammy at 47 years of age. Not for Illmatic, not for Stillmatic, not even for It Was Written. Nas got his first grammy win for King’s Disease this year. I know the Grammy’s get a lot wrong and disrespect hip-hop (in my opinion) but King’s Disease is truly a great album. He hasn’t always had the best beat selection on his albums but this one had no misses (bare ratings* to Hit-Boy). Now that I’ve given them their flowers, let’s do it all over again with King’s Disease II. It hasn’t been out for too long but I think it actually might be better than the original. This man is 47 years old and is potentially out rapping what he did on his grammy award winning album. I’m not gassing this. What they did with song’s like “Count Me In”, “Nas Is Good” and “Store Run” was special.

I’ll be honest, this list here can probably continue, there’s probably several other artists that you can add to this list. One way or another though, the point I’m making and the realization you might come to while listening to some of these albums is that 40 isn’t too old to rap. Hell 50 might not be too old to rap. As long as your skills are sharp, your content is raw and your delivery is of a high calibre, hip-hop might be a sport for anyone and I think that’s something to celebrate. 

“Like Rome came into Kemet and they stole the essence
Before they watered it down and taught us bogus lessons” – Nas

Glossary:

Bodiedto just outright massacre and overpower your opponent

Washed – too old, dated or no longer good (out of touch)

Gassin’ – to hype up something 

Mawd – crazy

Bare ratings – respect, much respect 

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