Are you ready for hip hop as oldies?
Ready to feel old? The hip-hop acts you loved in junior high and high school are nostalgia acts now.
Hip hop nostalgia is big this year. Nineties hip-hop culture played prominent roles in the recent comedy "Dope" and "Baby Got Back" rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot is performing next week at the Iowa State Fair. This week the NWA biopic "Straight Outta Compton" hits theaters.
Does it seem too early for a NWA movie? Consider this: Oliver Stone's "The Doors" came out 24 years after that band's first album. It's been 27 years since NWA's debut, "Straight Outta Compton," was released.
"There's a golden era of hip-hop that even a casual fan would say has passed us by," said Ryan Ford, a Des Moines native who served as the executive editor of the New York-based hip hop magazine The Source. "Every genre of music has that golden era; look at classic rock stations. When did rock become classic rock?"
Ford's estimate of hip-hop's golden era is 1988 to 1998, though he's willing to concede a few years to incorporate later acts like Eminem and 50 Cent.
Radio stations that identified as oldies stations (many have dropped that title) have transitioned over the years from playing songs from the '50s and '60s to songs from the '80s. Acts like Huey Lewis & The News and Rick Springfield are as likely to be heard as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.
Some stations, like WRWM in Indianapolis, have made the switch to focusing on classic hip hop. In that case it boosted the station to No. 1 in the market, but it's not happening yet in Des Moines.
"We're just not there yet," said Alan White, brand manager for 93.3 KIOA. "We're getting into the '80s, but nothing in the way of hip-hop. We have the original version of 'Walk This Way,' but not the Run DMC version."
89.3 KJMC is a community radio station that incorporates some classic hop-hop, including Kool Moe Dee, but station manager Larry Neville said the station tends to focus more on old school R&B, smooth jazz and even some gospel and reggae.
"We'll play some hip-hop sometimes at night time, but a lot of hip-hop doesn't fit in with what we're playing," Neville said. "We're old schoolers ourselves, so we aren't going to try to tap into something we don't know a whole lot about."
The Des Moines rapper Gadema (real name Jason Herron) thinks Wu-Tang Clan at 80/35 and Iowa State Fair hip-hop acts like Vanilla Ice, Coolio and the Ying Yang Twins have drawn big crowds because they're the acts his generation (Gadema is 35) grew up with.
He thinks there would be a market for classic hip-hop getting air time in Des Moines
"I think it should have been done a long time ago," Gadema said. "Hip-hop has always been integral to the culture and I feel like a lot of radio stations are ignoring that. Rock music is always immortalized on classic rock stations, there's no reason hip-hop shouldn't be immortalized in the same light."
A younger generation of hip-hop
If you're ready to feel old again, not a single member of the eight-piece Des Moines hip-hop act The Wayv was born when Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" (1992) came out. Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. were dead two years before member Ethan Anderson was born. The person who turned him on to Jay-Z? His dad.
But Anderson doesn't hear any disconnect from hip-hop that came out before he was born and the music being made today.
"I think the music from that era is very similar to the music from today," Anderson said. "It was very revolutionary in terms of what they were talking about and what people rap about today is still very revolutionary and against the grain. The only thing that has changed is the artists who are involved."
Sir Mix-A-Lot is performing at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 20. He joins a number of hip-hop acts who have done well at the fair, including a 2010 performance by Vanilla Ice and Tone Loc that drew 8,000 to 10,000 people to the Anderson Erickson Dairy Stage.
Next month hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash will headline the Maximum Ames Music Festival, performing Sept. 10 at DG's Tap House.
Maximum Ames organizer Nate Logsdon said Grandmaster Flash fits into the category of "Living Legends" that the festival tries to book. Past examples include Wanda Jackson and The Zombies. Like NWA, Grandmaster Flash's story will soon be told in the Bas Luhrmann Netflix series "The Get Down," focusing on the '70s New York music scene that gave birth to hip-hop.
Logsdon sees a lot of inspiration from hip-hop in the DIY scene he came up in with his band, Mumford's.
"The early days of hip-hop were completely DIY; it was a group of friends on the spot in small rooms doing something from scratch," Logsdon said. "That resonates with any artist who wants to put their own mark on art and create something with their own hands."
The next step for hip-hop
In the long term, Ford expects rap stars to follow the patterns of their forefathers in other genres of music. For now the Iowa State Fair is bringing in hip-hop as nostalgia acts on the free stages, filling slots acts like The Drifters and The Coasters played in decades past.
But acts like Vanilla Ice and Sir Mix-A-Lot are more or less one-hit wonders. What about the hip-hop stars who have shown some longevity? It's unlikely Jay-Z or Dr. Dre will ever be playing a free show on the east side of Des Moines.
Ford thinks Las Vegas residencies may be in the cards, similar to long stands by classic stars like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or more recent residencies by Celine Dion or Britney Spears.
"Whether it's Puffy or Snoop, someone will do it, the groundwork has been laid," Ford said. "When you're 45 and not going to the club, you still want to enjoy your music. Seeing a musical like 'Rock of Ages' or a movie like 'Straight Outta Compton' shows us how far we've come and connects us to our past.
"That's what we want as humans, to feel like we've been somewhere and done something."
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 20
Where: MidAmerican Energy Stage, Iowa State Fairgrounds, E. 30th Street and University Avenue
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 20
Where: Vaudeville Mews, 212 Fourth St.
When: 9 p.m. Sept. 10
Where: DG's Tap House, 125 Main St., Ames