This past weekend, legendary horror producer John Carpenter returned to the franchise that made him a household name — and basically kicked off the enduring popularity of the slasher genre Halloween — with a fresh, 21st-century take that has delighted general audiences, genre fans, and critics alike. Needless to say, this is kind of a feat for a 40-year-old property which experienced slumps in three different decades.
Ironically — or fatefully, depending on whether you’re a hip-hop writer with a taste for both classics and their contemporary counterparts — the Halloween franchise is nearly the same age as hip-hop, the reigning most popular genre in American music. And while it may not seem like there any deeper lessons inherent in watching teen babysitters being stalked and dismembered by lumbering serial killers, in this case, there is something veteran creators and followers of the music and culture can learn from Halloween and its own creator: How to remain successful 40 years later through evolving, while still remaining true to the spirit of the original.
Also, there’s this:
When Carpenter was asked why he finally returned to the series after leaving it in the wake of Halloween III‘s lukewarm reception, and over creative differences with his producers, he told Rotten Tomatoes: “I talked about the Halloweens for a long time, the sequels — I haven’t even seen all of them… But finally it occurred to me: Well if I’m just flapping my gums here, why don’t I try to make it as good as I can? So, you know, stop throwing rocks from the sidelines and get in there and try to do something positive.” It’s true: The Halloween movies that followed the third iteration are often considered inferior rehashes of old formula short on scares, new ideas, and perhaps most damaging, the spirit of the initial film.
I happened to catch the new Halloween last week, and as a fan of the genre and the series, it occurred to me that he’d largely succeeded. Carpenter’s latest take is fantastic, borrowing hints and nods from the previous films, but not living off their nostalgia. It updates old tropes and finds ways to seamlessly work in social and technological changes from the 40 years since the original (my favorite is the way the movie dispenses with the near ubiquity of cell phones as modern horror plothole fuel). By accepting its characters’ growth and development and incorporating them into a loving homage to all the details that make the first movie work so well, the newest reboot/remake/sequel is the first that might actually live up to its legacy.
As a fan of hip-hop, however, Carpenter’s above quote reminded me of the shortcomings of my other favorite genre, along with a video that resonated with me, and got me thinking about how fantastically that reasoning applies to rap — and how many rappers, outlets, and fans are failing to meet that standard. On last week’s episode of Genius’ interview show, For The Record, guest Styles P shared a few critiques of modern hip-hop culture with host Rob Markman. The below clip, which was shared widely, drew an impassioned response from hip-hop heads who follow the show and also potentially offered the seeds of a solution.
Styles effectively reiterates Carpenter’s words above and shows exactly how Carpenter’s comments would practically apply to rap with his music. He and New York rapper Dave East recently teamed up to release their joint album Beloved, much like Carpenter did with a pair of younger filmmakers in David Gordon Green and Danny McBride to revitalize his franchise. Beloved combines the best of both worlds, old and new, by sticking to the rap purist formula on Styles’ side while updating it with elements of Dave East’s more new-school, trap-inflected New York swagger. He says, “We could have did some sh*t just to get a look or that had nothin’ to do with hip-hop… Nah, let’s make some authentic hip-hop.” That’s what they did, combining hip-hop’s Golden Era lyrical emphasis and roughneck style, with Dave East’s youth and vital, current outlook. However, their approach — like Carpenter’s — is a rarity.