If you started early enough (bonus points if you have older siblings that aged you up so you began paying attention sooner), it exposed you to more generations of emcees and producers. The next key component in the present Rap generation chasm occurred between 25 and 30 years ago, it’s commonly referred to as the “Golden Era.” Some believe it was one continuous period that stretched from 1986 to 1996. Others (myself included) maintain that it was two separate eras with a transition period inbetween. The first period lasted from 1986 to 1989 and the second spanning from 1992 to 1996. The keys to understanding the widening generation gap in Rap music can be found by studying this period.
The main reason the Golden Eras are key to understanding the present day generation chasm is because the widely accepted aesthetics for what constitutes “classic Rap/Hip-Hop” were all established between the years of 1986 to 1996. So-called “Rap/Hip-Hop purists” cling to this era and many of them dismiss any Rap that doesn’t follow a similar formula or sound comparable as garbage. The first solid lines in the sand in regards to the many generations of Rap fans were drawn here.
A perfect storm of new recording and music production technologies, ground breaking production innovations and techniques, lyrical style evolutions and the fiercest level of competition coupled with Rap music becoming album centric between 1987 and 1988 all led to this explosion called the “Golden Era”. Most MCs or producers who are widely regarded as legends today either survived this era, thrived in it or were heavily influenced by it (I’m referring to either individual Golden Era or the extended period of 1986 to 1996).
This time period lasted more than a decade so there was time for between two or three new generations of Rap fans to either enter the fray or lose interest altogether. If you consider all the benchmarks and classic recordings made between 1986 and 1996 it’s no surprise why those who experienced this era would advocate for it so fiercely. Then everything in the Rap world seemingly changed overnight.
Beginning in 1997, the aesthetics of Rap transformed and a new era dawned that’s often referring to the Jiggy Era. It was a complete departure from the previous decade of Rap and it set into the motion the second half of the process that created today’s generation gap in Rap, the eventual separation between the Mainstream and Underground Rap worlds.
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