Friday, April 16, 2010

Thirty-Six in a Karate Class

Last year, despite my tepid reaction to 2004's To the 5 Boroughs, I anticipated the release of the Beastie Boys' eighth studio album*, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1. Nostalgia's funny that way. From 1986 to 1998, through highs (too many to cite) and lows (Ione Skye), the Boys were incredibly consistent while at the same time(s) pushing the envelope creatively. Six years after Hello Nasty, however, Misters Rock, D, and A delivered Boroughs, an album that partially succeeded in its attempt to mimic the back-and-forth fun of 80's hip-hop but failed overall because it lacked one key ingredient: youth.

Like punk, hip-hop is the sound of the young. When it isn't, it's pretty much a joke. Rappers age like NBA players; they start to lose their step around their mid thirties, and by the time they reach their 40's, it's time to retire. Nobody wants to see a forty-plus-year-old NBA veteran take the court except for nostalgia's sake or to win an elusive championship, and no hip-hop fan really wants to hear the MCs they loved back in the day try to reclaim past glories. You need look no further than the twilights of Michael Jordan and KRS ONE's careers to understand how legacy damaging they were/still are (in the Blastmaster's case).

So when it was announced last summer that -- due to MCA's salivary gland cancer -- Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1 was delayed indefinitly, I was more concerned with Yauch's condition than I was about hearing a new Beasties record. Not to sound callous, but that's what happens when you age -- ball players suffer nagging injuries, middle-aged folk get ill. Your career no longer requires your services.

Which is unfair. If you do something well, something such a small percentage of the world's population can do, of course you're going to spit in the eye of time. It's why so many child stars end up screwy, because by the time they're twenty they can't portray a six-year-old anymore. I want to live forever myself**, but once you reach a certain age, it's time to be honest with yourself and hang up the sneakers, drop the mic. You will never recaputure that magic. It's folly to try. The world has moved on.

Ad Rock (43), Mike D (44), and MCA (45) will never have the impact they achieved in their youth. They can make good music, yes ("Too Many Rappers," featuring Nas -- an artist who has for a decade struggled with his own legacy -- is one example), but they'll never hit with the force they used to have. The same goes for boxing and boners.

It sucks to grow old, but what sucks more is an artist/group denying the closing window of their artistic existence. The effort is noble, but the results are so often shitty.

We all have to stop breathing sometime.

* Their seventh if you discount 2007's The Mix-Up. I do.

** Sincerely, I never want to die. It's what has kept me alive for so long.

1 comment:

William George said...

Dare I bring up Johnny Cash and his end-life bringing of the "rawk"?

I don't see why geriatric rappers are unacceptable.