No one knows when the pandemic first struck. But at some point, every hip-hop head caught the Nineties Adoration Syndrome (N.A.S.). N.A.S. is characterized by intense feelings of nostalgia, hostility toward modern music, and an affinity for chest-high acid-washed jeans.
In severe cases, N.A.S. has been known to cause the deletion of genes responsible for forming new-music appreciation, causing vicms to start every statement with "Back in the day..."
2010 in particular saw a rise in hip-hop songs and albums heralding the so-called "golden era." Rapper Termanology and producer Statik Selektah joined forces to peddle "real hip-hop" on their collaborative disc, 1982. While 1982 was actually named after their year of birth, it was a musical nod to the songs they heard as kids in the '90s.
Buckwild and Celph Titled took it a step further by dusting off leftover beats from years of yore on their own tribute disc, Nineteen Ninety Now. Both albums were thoroughly enjoyable and widely embraced by Generation Backpack.
Why do hip-hop fans get such a hard-on for the '90s? The logical explanation is that today's fans have heard so much about that era that they've become conditioned to only associating it with greatness.
The further removed the "Golden Era" is from our memory the more we're likely to view it through the cloudy lens of perfection. Also, by embracing the '90s, we're simultaneously rejecting the vapid, marshmallow junk rapidly churning off the music-industry assembly line.
And, frankly, as an '80s baby, we can confirm that '90s hip-hop was all that and a bag of Keebler Chachos. That probably explains why today's artists strive for yesterday's magic. The aforementioned Nineteen Ninety Now was largely enjoyable and even wound up on many critics' year-end lists, including this writer's.
Generally, music boils down to taste. Taste is why some people love the trashy ways of Ke(dollar sign)ha and others prefer the soulful wail of Amy Winehouse. It's the same reason some favor chocolate pocky over the yummy goodness of almond-crush pocky.
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People like what they like, and there's nothing wrong with that. But few things in life are deserving of blind adulation. '90s hip-hop isn't one of them.
While '90s artists were mostly original in their approach, they weren't always as great as we make them out to be. After all, the same era that gave us icons like De La Soul and Ice Cube also produced lullaby MCs like Vanilla Ice and Blinky Blink. Pop music was even more embarrassing. Do you really miss the Backstreet Boys and Hanson?
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It's 2011, and we're awakening to a new era. It's time to give the nostalgic beats a rest. Well, unless your name is Pete Rock, then by all means, keep the dusty beats coming.
It's time to look forward, people. Stop whining about how there's no good hip-hop around anymore. Sure, there's a plethora of new rappers that have no business being near a mike unless they intend to strangle themselves with the cord.
But there's also a ton of insanely innovative, criminally underrated MCs out there pushing the culture forward. When you clog up your nostrils with the same ol' stuff, you miss the breath of fresh air right under your nose. If you're suffering from N.A.S., it's time to wake up and smell the promise of a new era.
Happy New Year.