With rap burnouts DMX, Mystikal and Cassidy all re-entering the game it seems to be comeback season right now. The rap comeback, a concept first mentioned by LL Cool J in the 90s, is always a tough proposition. Unlike other genres that worship the elderly, case in point the nearly 50 year career of The Rolling Stones, rap has never been particularly kind to its forbearers. What would generally be considered ‘older’ in regular circles is amplified in the world of hip-hop, where if you are over the age of 25 you are considered a thing of the past.
When it comes to pro sports like basketball or MMA age is understandably an important factor but even these forms have proven more accepting to age, with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Randy Couture performing into their late 30s or older. If afforded the chance to keep performing on a high level and continue to flourish artists like Big Daddy Kane may have had longer lasting careers. A combination of poor career choices and an onslaught of fresh faces in the vibrant early 90s, similar to today’s scene, prevented that from happening. Plenty of rock stars have done worse than appear in Madonna’s Sex book but rap is not so forgiving. While things are turning a corner thanks to older hustlers like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg and Rick Ross, this has always been the case when it comes to hip-hop, a culture born out of youthful energy and adolescent angst.
Maybe we as rap fans are partly to blame thanks to our gluttonous consumption of new music on a daily basis and our overall short attention spans. There are generally two extremes as far as fans are concerned. First you have the trend jumpers that just move along with whatever is hot at the time and can’t even remember what came out last year. Then you’ve got those crying about how the game isn’t the same anymore claiming that certain artists or elements of the genre need to make a comeback. There is a fine line between a hiatus and a fully-fledged comeback (Nelly, jail victim Slick Rick). In some cases you could chalk it up as a rapper knowing when it’s time to bow out, choosing to make independent moves, but for the most part it’s a common trait that hip-hop devours its older performers when they outlive their ‘usefulness’.
The past victims of rap’s age discrimination could be chalked up to a lack of industry knowledge at the time and the fact that there was no internet to speak of back in the day. The future of rap careers and how long they last will be interesting to observe. We could see many rappers saving their money and retiring early. Successful comebacks are few and far between in these treacherous waters but at least past rappers can take solace in the fact that they have directly influenced today’s crop of stars (looking at you Lord Finesse). So we look at those that have succeeded and failed so far in coming back. Miss anyone? Let us know!