No Country for Middle Aged MCs: Part 2
Recent deaths of hip-hop vets puts a focus what it means to be old in hip-hop
If hip-hop is a musical form, a cultural expression and an ever changing representation of the black working class experience in America (and it is all that and probably more), then the recent deaths of three middle aged MCs reflect a sad truth of black men and health care. DMX (Earl Simmons), Black Rob (Robert Ross) and Shock G (Gregory Jacobs), celebrated in their 20s, had thirty years later struggled, not simply to remain relevant in a young person's game, but physically and mentally healthy in a society that gives lip service to elevating old heads, but in reality doesn't may much attention to the vets until tragedy strikes. Behind their flashy brand names and iconography were men as damaged and frail as any of us.
I can't speak to the intimate details of each of these three men's lives, but I feel confident that the burn and churn of the entertainment business left scars. So did the particular drug culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The addictive culture of cocaine and crack left lingering marks on the minds, bodies and souls of those who experienced it, weakening immune systems and judgment.
Lacking insurance, yet dealing with the fall out of a feast and famine lifestyle, people fall into a pattern of self medication that provide no solutions. As a middle aged man I have seen how some peers cling to their past selves, refuse to evolve and change the behavior that can shorten their lives. You have to shed your old self image to get to the next stage in your life. That can be particularly hard in an hip-hop context since the world values your 25 year old self -- the bold, reckless, fearless rhyme animal -- a persona in direct conflict with the demands maturity makes on your time and temperament.
Lately LL Cool J has been traveling around New York, incognito in pandemic mask and hoodie, visiting iconic hip-hop locations and posting short IG videos. LL is, obviously, one of those who has successfully evolved from egotistical rap star to successful adult celebrity. It definitely helped that's he's always prided himself on staying in incredible shape. Yet, as his sentimental journey suggests, the power of hip-hop past is profound.
But, ultimately for middle aged MCs and their fans, embracing age and its responsibilities is the only healthy way forward. To me the lessons in these recent deaths demand that we go see a health and wellness professionals for check ups, eat right and work out regularly. Just important is to respect the (your) past while being fully engaged the present. I have long felt that hip-hop is no country for middle aged MCs, but it is a very welcoming place for comfortably grown ass folks.
#RIPDMX #blackrob #ripShockG