To hear old heads tell it, you'd think that the '80s or early '90s were a rap paradise. Today's youth have fallen from grace. The music ain't what it used to be—blah, blah, blah. Today, it's more ignorant, more nihilistic, and at least when it was all those things back then, those artists were the first to do it.

Guess what? It's all a fantasy. Not only were the songs just as reprehensible from a moral perspective—go listen to the lyrics on a Spice 1 album—but the artists involved were a thin veneer away from the street life, if the recently-released Wu-Tang FBI files have any truth to them.

The fact is, when you hear an old head complain about music today, 90% of the time they're fantasizing about the production style: reliance on breakbeats and sample chops, jazz loops, and other signifiers of "worthy," classy music.

To many of these fans, the plinking sound effects of Jeru the Damaja's "Come Clean" is as hard, as gritty, as rap music can possibly sound. No matter how effectively Swizz slammed his Triton keyboards on "Money Cash Hoes" or how cacophonous the percussion on Luger's "B.M.F.," new records will never measure up to a dusty vinyl sample. At least not in their eyes.