21 Savage Weighs in on Hip Hop’s Generational Divide

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Atlanta trap star 21 Savage—capping an outstanding 2017, having released the underrated Issa album and excellent Without Warning with Offset and Metro Boomin—took to Twitter today to share his thoughts on one of the big conversations in hip hop this year: the generational divide.

Why does there seem to be so much acrimony between Gen Z artists and Gen X gatekeepers? Whatever the reasons, 21 knows the conflict well, having guested on Everyday Struggle, the show whose cohost Joe Budden soapboxes as one of those angry Gen X figureheads. Throughout his short career, 21 has faced criticisms that he can’t rap and that his music is too violent. But when he makes socially conscious music or tries new flows, he gets roasted. Maybe he feels like he can’t win, even though “Bank Account” is a hit and he’s on a creative hot streak.

21 isn’t even Gen Z—he’s a young Millennial at 25. But he’s had to endlessly defend himself against the old head party line: the kids can’t rap, don’t respect their elders, are all strung out on prescription/hard drugs, don’t respect human life, yadda yadda yadda. What seems on the surface like a typical disagreement between generations has felt in hip hop like something more. This particular gap seems pretty, well, savage.

21’s thesis in his statement is that Gen Z is being used as scapegoats for problems their parents and previous generations went through or created. Here is what he wrote in full:

His thoughts come on the heels of venerable producer Pete Rock and 2010-era trap disruptor Waka Flocka Flame going back and forth on the topic, with both parties perhaps agreeing more than they understood, but ultimately seeming to feel quite disrespected.

It’s understandable that Gen Z and young Milliennials see the world differently than older generations. Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all watched as the internet and social media ushered in a new phase of human history. Only Gen Z are truly native to that world.

As this conversation continues, advocates will be popping out on both sides. Right now it’s at least heartening to see artists putting their thoughts in writing. Maybe it could be the beginning of a meaningful dialog. Or maybe it’s just a sign that these issues are important to both sides. Being outspoken gets you headlines, but it’s good to know that something deeper than fame and ego is at stake.

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