Hip-hop’s generation war has raged almost since its inception. In fact, hip-hop itself grew out of New York teens’ rebellious need to reject their parents’ staid funk and disco tunes and establish their own sound. However, since then, every subsequent generation of rap fans has demeaned and disrespected the one before and after it.
LL Cool J dissed Kool Moe Dee as “old school” when the veteran battle rapper snuck a few subliminal shots into “How Ya Like Me Now,” New York heads booed the new jack Southern sound at the 1995 Source Awards, Pete Rock made Waka Flocka Flame the face of a rant against younger rap heads, and Waka Flocka himself upbraided colorful Floridian newcomer Lil Pump as an albino version of himself. Seemingly every time rap experiences a generational shift, grumpy old rap heads like Joe Budden are waiting to pounce on young upstarts like Lil Yachty for being everything they weren’t — or not being everything they were.
Well, according to a recently-published story in the New York Times about how music influences our tastes as we age, it appears science has some possible explanations. Using demographic data provided by Spotify (this is why they collect this stuff, BTW, nobody is trying to steal your identity), the Times established a correlation between songs’ popularity with older audiences and those same songs’ popularity when that audience was in high school.
The examples from the article are — unsurprisingly — pretty rock specific, but for one example used, the song “Creep,” by Radiohead, is the 164th most popular song among men who are now 38 years old. They would have been around 14 years old in 1993 when the song was a hit on Top 40 radio, a result that turned out to be consistent among age groups.
The pattern is established; the songs you liked in high school tend to be the songs you like as you get older, generally informing and influencing your tastes overall.
Musical genres, however, evolve over time, and almost none more so than hip-hop. There’s a prevalent theory in some rap fan circles that rap experiences a tectonic shift every 7 years with a groundbreaking album that changes the trajectory of the genre as a whole.