I am, most certainly, a Hip Hop baby; born in 1976, right on the cusp of Disco making it's quiet transition to Hip Hop & rap music. I can't tell you much about the late 70's because I was too busy being a toddler, but my recollection of the early 80's spans back to the days when 1580 KDAY AM was literally the only radio station in Los Angeles playing rap music. & even then, the party didn't start until late at night. In those days, rap was more of a stigma than a culture. Rap wasn't even really considered music as much as it was viewed as a trend, much like the Internet before it become a cant-live-without. Obviously, those opinions have been moot for quite some time.
I'm blessed to have had the privilege of seeing Hip Hop grow & change & go through all the different stages one goes through on the journey of discovering themselves. Now, I can't say exactly what Hip Hop & rap music will be like in 10, 15 years, but I can vouch for the dozens of changes - both cosmetic & internal - that the Hip Hop culture has gone through over the last couple of decades. Apparently that makes me an "old head," but that's where the real knowledge is. (No pun intended.) Oral history is the most traditional way of passing along cultural propaganda, & for a subject like Hip Hop that's not always documented correctly, it's good to have cats around who've been around, if you smell my cologne.
There are plenty of times I'm on some random (Hip Hop) website, & I'll see commentors who have no idea about rap music pre-2001. For lack of a better term, these kids have never purchased a cassette, or asked their parent's for the Christmas day cardboard boxes to go outside & breakdance after all the toys are broken by noon. They don't know how icy Ricky Walters was, or how The Juice Crew was literally running rap music in the late 80's. These are the step kids of the Notorious B.I.G. era, some of which aren't even aware that Big Daddy Kane was running Brooklyn long before Chris Wallace or Shawn Carter. The point is, I've seen a lot more cultural adaptation than the average "rap fan," & it's quite been an interesting journey.
I've witnessed music on 8 track cartridges becoming vinyl albums, & watched vinyl turn into audio cassette & compact disc. Now, here we are in the age where we can pull music from the sky, on some modern-day witchcraft shit, a day which I never saw coming as a kid. Back then, we couldn't wait to hit the local brick & mortar stores to cop the newest releases, much like today's rap fan can't wait until the 12 midnight "release" of their favorite rapper's latest mixtape link. Sadly, the experience of opening the CD case has been lost in the process, though. The sound of crackling plastic wrapper & the smell of the linear notes booklet is something I still talk about to this day. Speaking of which, also gone are the days when a rap star needed a record label to blossom. Thanks to the 'net, fan bases & marketing brands are not only constructed at a moments notice, but transmitted worldwide as quickly as they can be uploaded. There was a time when it took months for songs & albums to be released. Imagine that.
One of the more interesting "advancements" has been the overhaul of what's considered masculine in rap music. We've come along way from those bald heads, Carhatt Jackets, & baggy outfits that defined the generic aggression & tough-guy image that every rapper housed. Now, the earrings as big as the egos they're attached to, & thanks to a Texas rapper named Dphill, lipstick has officially entered into the (rapper's) equation. On one hand, the progress & forward motion is understandable, because without it there's no progress. But on the other hand, I miss the days when men acted & dressed like men (or at least did a damn good job of hiding their secrets in imaginary closets). Where songs were once unapologetically homophobic & misogynistic, they are now unisex & politically correct (not that there's anything wrong with that). Perhaps one of the (many) reasons girl rappers lost footing in the rap rat race is because the men, themselves, started becoming inexplicably confused about orientation, but that's for another day.
If I've learned nothing else, I've concluded that rap music - & Hip Hop in general - isn't dead, it's just changing, just like everything else. Whether or not one is willing to adapt to said change is something entirely different, though.