“I’m done, the rap game’s No Country For Old Men…”
Phonte Coleman said that in 2010, on Little Brother’s final album, Leftback. They were the words of an individual who was already tired of hip-hop, who deemed chasing five-mic clout a waste of time in comparison to making the adult contemporary R&B that had just made him a first-time Grammy nominee. In Phonte’s mind back then, there was nowhere left for rap to grow; the genre and the culture had said all they could say and it was time for the kids to take over.
Of course, that was before Jay-Z started making “dad rap” cool and the MCs that Phonte himself had inspired began having revelatory insights of their own into the rigors and trials of domestic life and maturing in a young man’s game. In the intervening eight years, Phonte buried four members of his family, became a writer on an immensely popular (but eventually canceled) television show about the early days of rap, and lived a life as full as anyone who never picked up a mic in their life. He’s a born creator, so he returned with his first solo album in six years, No News Is Good News to share his insights and growth with a generation of rap fans who have also aged and learned and grown and begun looking for music that speaks to their experience.
Rap has a reputation as a youthful genre. Labels seek out younger and younger acts as the years go by (because they are easier to exploit, maybe), while the permutations of the music can leave older fans scratching their heads at how different it is from the sounds and imagery they knew when they were growing up. Older rap acts have traditionally “fallen off” as prevailing tastes have changed and they refused to adapt to the shifting tides.