You read it on Twitter and hear it in barbershops: the generation divide in hip-hop has been a particularly intense topic of conversation this year. At ComplexCon, host Angie Martinez dove into the topic during the "Music Generation Gap Debate" with a group of panelists who understand the issue firsthand.
Legends like Scarface and Pete Rock sat down alongside rising Long Beach star Vince Staples to share their takes on the subject. New York MCs French Montana and Raekwon rounded out the panel.
Martinez kicked off the panel by asking how much of a responsibility, if any, newer acts have to recognize the history of the genre. Pete Rock said it served as a marker of respect for those who paved the way, while Raekwon felt that music is less about a lineage and more about finding what inspires a specific artist.
Vince Staples questioned why when rappers are asked to pay homage the artist is always an East Coast MC and rarely someone from the West Coast, like Suga Free. "They don’t ever say people where I’m from," he said.
Scarface shared his feelings on what he feels is a watered-down industry. "The doors for great shit is closed now," he said. Vince Staples countered that acts like Kendrick Lamar are still pushing the music and culture forward while also going platinum.
Pete Rock made headlines earlier this year for his firm stance on the newer generation, and at ComplexCon he double downed on that by saying that, if a young rapper were to go to a radio station to freestyle, they shouldn't decline rapping over a Gang Starr or Wu-Tang Clan beat. This was in direct reference to Lil Uzi Vert recently opting out of a freestyle over DJ Premier's classic "Mass Appeal" beat.
The conversation also incluced recent events like the T.I./Lil Wayne exchange of words over Wayne's controversial Black Lives Matter comments (Vince: "You know each other’s phone number"), and the panel shared gems about what each of them learned about surviving in the industry, like planning for the long haul and surrounding yourself with greatness.
Even though they didn't always see eye-to-eye, the panelists agreed that it is important to have these conversations on a regular basis. It's less about determining who is right and more about finding a middle ground of understanding. "I just wanna learn about this new generation," Pete Rock said. Change has to start somewhere.