2 Hollywood

Published on April 6th, 2019 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


The Tributes Classic Rappers Need

Pop culture commentator Chuck Klosterman put forth some very interesting conversations about music in his book “But What If We’re Wrong.” The book investigates which of the things we take as certainties might one day be proven wrong, such as that a given person is the best athlete, or a given band is the most iconic. The book delves into a lot of different categories, but the discussions on who might one day represent all of rock music, hundreds of years from now, are among the most interesting.

Klosterman attacker this question from just about every conceivable angle, challenging the obvious answers (Rolling Stones, Beatles, etc.) and coming up with compelling reasoning for why people like Chuck Berry or Bob Dylan might one day represent most or all of what people remember about rock. It’s all worth reading if you like music in general, but if you’re a hip-hop fan it might also get you thinking about this genre. Fans tend to have a grasp on which figures should be considered classic or iconic artists. But really, because hip-hop has a shorter history and has seldom had as widespread popularity as rock, most people don’t think of it in the same way.

In other words, there’s little incentive for a Klosterman-like conversation about the best rap artists of all time or who might one day define the genre just because there really isn’t quite as much pop culture relevance, or at least hasn’t been for most of the genre’s history. Here, we aren’t trying to have that same discussion, but rather are looking at what hip-hop artists might need to gain a more widespread “classic” quality akin to that ascribed to high-level rock icons.


This isn’t a blanket truth by any means, but hip-hop artists seem to be more interested in sampling material than covering it. This is great, and can present old or classic material in a new way, but it also doesn’t limit things to hip-hop (ironically some of the best examples promote none other than iconic rock artists). Covers, meanwhile, do a better job of actually resurrecting old material, and keeping the best artists from decades past relevant to new audiences. It would be a nice way for some young artists to give something back to the artists that inspired them.


Rock biopics are red-hot right now, with the Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody having been nominated for an Oscar recently, and the Elton John movie Rocketman on the way. There was some thinking that the Tupac project All Eyez On Me would usher in a new wave of hip-hop biopics, but we haven’t really seen that wave yet – perhaps because the film got middling reviews, at best. If and when it comes though, and if the films are good, some of the biggest and best names in hip-hop will be elevated even among those who aren’t dedicated fans.


Rock games aren’t exactly everywhere, but where they are they tend to be very popular. “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” might be the two main examples, and though there have been attempts there’s never really been a satisfying hip-hop imitation that would allow fans to rap their way through popular hits. There are also some rock games, however, featured at online casinos. These games are becoming legal in more places, and the sites hosting them allow people to try playing some demo games to test them out, which ultimately means more and more people have access to them. Among the most popular games are titles celebrating the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Metallica. Hip-hop just doesn’t have that sort of game that openly celebrates a legend.

Radio & Streaming Stations

Radio stations may not matter as much for popularity these days thanks to streaming services. But it’s worth noting that “Classic Rock” and greatest pop and rock hits have entire stations devoted to them. There are undoubtedly some smaller stations based on hip-hop mixed in here or there, but they’re nowhere near as prominent. As a result, younger fans of the genre might not really be exposed to classic rappers unless they specifically seek them out. A widespread recognition of “Classic Rap” as a genre or subset of a genre might go a long way.

With tributes and acknowledgments like these, classic hip-hop artists could get their due, and we’d be better prepared to talk about which artists, tracks, and albums ultimately define the genre, or will in time.

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