By: Kathy Iandoli
If you’re a grown woman, then you know the first time you were called the female four-letter word: ma’am. Okay maybe you don’t remember the first first time, but you can pinpoint your exact emotions. It’s horror, it’s sadness, it’s the feeling that you’re…old.
I don’t really recall the first time I was called ma’am in life, but I do remember the first time I was called ma’am in my career…
I was interviewing a famous rapper (we shall not name any names). I was really excited to speak with him, being a fan of his music. We had an amazing interview – covered a range of topics, including his beginnings, his father, his fans, etc. At the end of the interview, we embraced and he said to me, “Thank you so much, ma’am.”
Eek! He wasn’t a Southern gentleman (unless New York City moved to the South), he wasn’t my maître d’, he wasn’t in the Victorian Age. Nope, he was 19 and I wasn’t.
I entered Hip Hop journalism in my early 20’s, which at the time was the median age for both writing about Rap and participating in it. True, guys like Jay-Z and Nas challenged that age limit once 30 crept up, but for all intents and purposes, Hip Hop is/was a “young man’s game.” Now, being a woman in my 30’s, I’m violating the two descriptors that arguably make up Hip Hop.
These days, the fictitious changing of the guards has opened up the gates to even younger talent. Odd Future has 16-year-olds in their collective. Throw high schooler Joey Bada$$ into the mix, and you see artists of all ages picking up a mic. While in the past Gen-Xers saw Shyheim the Rugged Child garner some entry level success, plus Lil Wayne starting at 15 and slowly running the game by 27, we have all gotten quite comfortable with the notion that everyone is welcome in Hip Hop.
When, however, is that welcome mat pulled from under you? For me, it was the day that I was called ma’am. It didn’t stop me from continuing my career, but it certainly changed my perspective.
It’s a weird reality to face. Some of these kids (look at me saying “these kids”) don’t know anything about Scott LaRock; they probably barely know who Biggie was. While it’s our duty as documentarians of the culture to immortalize these figures, it’s still an uphill battle.
There’s also that nagging topic of gender. Will Nicki Minaj’s shtick be as cute at 40? How well will her pink wig really hold up then? Even in the battle against Lil Kim, the below-the-belt retort was that Kim was “too damn old to be fighting Nicki.”
It’ll eventually catch up to the men in the game. 2 Chainz’ sciatica will someday prevent him from wearing even one chain around his neck, Chris Brown’s hips won’t swivel that well in 15 years. It’s all relative. What happens then though?
I remember every year showing up to the Rock Steady Crew Anniversary, watching the architects of this culture congregate to keep the essence of real Hip Hop alive. It was beautiful; it still is, but I just have stopped showing up to it. I don’t have any real reason, other than the fact that I feel completely detached now from Hip Hop’s past just as much as I feel detached from Hip Hop’s future. I’m a 33-year-old woman living Hip Hop’s present. Whatever that means.
So where does that leave me? I’m evolving into an elder stateswoman in the game, moving into a reporter of Hip Hop…no longer a member. Do I still love the culture that gave me my first sonic butterflies the first time I heard “Mass Appeal”? Of course! Am I forever indebted to rappers for giving me something to write about for the past ten years and beyond? You betcha. Do I still check for new talent and support accordingly? Always.
Will you find me in the pit with an iPhone filming a freestyle battle at 3AM though? Hell no. Can I speak with Earl Sweatshirt about the hottest clubs in New York City. Absolutely not. I’ll leave that to the new guard.
For now, I have a lane until I no longer have one, and will I ride that ‘til the wheels fall off?