Well, this is part of a much larger conversation, a conversation about media and artistic disenfranchisement, whereby a whole swath of music history — history that pertains to a particular demographic — is pretty much wiped out, left to disappear forever. Why? Because the people in power, people who have control over supporting this stuff, celebrating it, have no idea it even existed in the first place.

The bottom line is, rock history is held up by a giant tentpole called classic rock, which is a loosely-defined term for almost anything, at any time, that people in rock — usually white people, let’s be honest — have decided should matter. Which is to account for the enduring popularity of The Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, all that shit. I’m not saying that stuff isn’t important, because it is, and I’m not saying it’s only white people who like it, because it’s not. But it’s a byproduct of a whole cultural system that supports it.

Whereas with hip-hop, and other forms of music too — not just hip-hop, but disco, funk, techno, house, you name it — there just isn’t an underlying system that holds everything in place, pushes the music in front of you, when you aren’t even looking for it. But the Beatles, you can’t avoid that shit. It’s everywhere, even when its core audience seems to only be getting older and possibly even less interested in hearing music, period.

It’s definitely complicated and it’s definitely cultural. I just think, in general, America has a tendency to treat black art — in as much as they even acknowledge it at all — as disposable, not worthy of saving or caring about. If they didn’t, there would be more oldschool hip-hop stations (there are a few, and it’s a growing format, though it’s had mixed results), and there would be classic movie channels that just showed black films (kind of like AMC or Criterion Collection, but ya’know, black). But none of this exists, for obvious reasons.

Look, let’s be real, I’m not sure how many young kids even know who Nas is. It’s embarrassing the way we’ve done hip-hop and a whole generation of artists. It will disappear, I think, if things go the way they are going now.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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