Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
How Old is Old?
2008-05-05 09:12
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Last week, I read an interview with our pal Pete Abraham over at a Respect Jeter's Gangster, where he mentioned that he listens to Old School Wu Tang Clan. A few months ago, I had a discussion with a kid at work who claimed that Biggie Smalls and Tupac were Old School. Which leads me to this: What exactly determines whether you are from the Old School or not? Does it simply mean anything that is more than ten years old? Whitey Herzog is from the Old School. Ditto Robert Mitchum and Lee Marvin and Bix Beiderbecke for that matter. In Hip Hop terms, Old School means funk and soul records from the '60s and '70s and then the early days of Rap records, maybe through 1983. I guess you could call Run DMC Old School, ang go through '86, but I generally don't. However, a kid in his mid-twenties would think of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest as Old School I suppose. But Biggie, Tupac and the Wu? I guess that means Nas and Mobb Deep are Old School too. Or maybe I'm just getting old. What's your take?

2008-05-05 09:48:30
1.   Ben
I first heard De La in 1989. I was 15 or so. That was nearly 20 years ago. Now here's my logic. At that time, 20 years earlier was 1969, and i definetly considered that era old school. A kid today listening to 3 feet high and rising... yeah, that's mad old school. Same goes for Wu and Nas, at least Illmatic, and Tribe and the lot of that generation..

Sad but true. I still listen to the Beatles, right this minute. When I was 15 that was like some 30 year old guy listening to Benny Goodman or some shit... very old school man

2008-05-05 09:50:19
2.   Ben
Old school is also different from hard core. Illmatic was hard-core the minute I heard it. it's the real deal, which is how I think of Herzog, Mitchum, etc. The real McCoy no matter from what era
2008-05-05 09:52:56
3.   ny2ca2dc
Since I'm in my mid twenties (err, exactly what is the dividing line between mid & late? I'm just going to assume that 27 is still mid; and next year, 28 will be too), and I think Da La Soul and Tribe is old school. Kind of. Maybe a little borderline. Run DMC is definitely old school. I don't see how Biggy and Tupac could be thought of as old school though, I mean, "Mo Money Mo Problems"? That whole album was pretty nu. Nopes, Tupac and Biggy were gangsta, not old school. Maybe their early death and subsequent legend contributes to the old school feeling? Maybe people are just using "old school" instead of "early", as in, "I like 'old school' B.I.G." instead of "I like 'early' B.I.G."
2008-05-05 10:15:05
4.   williamnyy23
I've never heard anything by the names mentioned above (maybe perhaps in background on movies or television), but my music collection is dominated by Frank Sinatra, Dean Marin, Mario Lanza, Al Martino and Nat King Cole, so while I am not qualified to weigh in here, I think I now the real meaning of Old School!
2008-05-05 10:20:53
5.   Sliced Bread
Beatles, william. william, Beatles.

Yo, I dunno what's old school, but I think anyone who's genuinely old school isn't commenting on a blog.

2008-05-05 10:33:15
6.   Schteeve
I'm 35, just for perspective. I listened to Tribe and de La as well as Naughty by Nature in the 90s. To teenagers today, hip hop from the 90s is OLD SCHOOL.

Since hip hop and youth culture are so intertwined, I think your definition of Old School has to keep moving with the times. So yeah, I guess Pac and Biggie and certainly Naughty by Nature are old school. At least to me they are.

The more important point though, is that they are "Quality School." Whereas most of the new school or current hip hop is total garbage.

2008-05-05 10:40:58
7.   dianagramr
I'm 44 .... so I can remember the "breakout" hits of rap/hip-hop. I consider THOSE "old school".



And who could forget "Roxanne, Roxanne" or "Rapper's Delight"

2008-05-05 10:42:19
8.   Alex Belth
Or "Buffalo Gals"

"anyone who's genuinely old school isn't commenting on a blog."

How true you are...

2008-05-05 10:48:23
9.   murphy
i am a middle school music teacher, so this question is answered and redefined on a weekly basis. my 13 year olds (the target demographic for the insidious fake-gangsta hip-hop records that dominate Hot 97) have no choice but to consider things from BEFORE THEY WERE BORN old school. you should see them react when i tell them i was rockin de la soul when i was there age.

but keep in mind that old school, musically speaking, is relative to its genre. old school R&B is louis jordan or ruth brown (40's), old school rock is chuck berry, little richard, etc (50's). for a music so young (hip hop) is it really that out of the question to call the 80's old school?

2008-05-05 10:48:30
10.   Chyll Will
C'mon man, KRS-ONE said it best when he was schoolin' Melle Mel back in 1987:

Rapping is an art, and no one's from the Old School,
'cuz rap is still a brand new tool; I say
no one's from the Old School, cuz Rap on the whole
isn't even twenty years old!

Fifty years down the line we can start this,
cuz' we'll be the Old School Artists...

That would put us in 2020 if you start at 1970 with Kool Herc. We're closing in on that, but to say that Tupac, Biggie and Wu Tang are Old School is just plain ignorant, and dare I say, narcissistic.

saying that they were an older style; yes I agree they are certainly older and much more developed than what currently passes for Rap on the mainstream level. But heyyell no are they old.

For that btw, I blame the man I'm currently working a reality show for, Mr. Sean (I Got A Star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame & You Can Too!) Combs...

4 Someone should hit you up with some Coltrane, Mingus, Monk, maybe a little Miles with a Billie Holiday chaser. If you want Older School still, try Duke, Fats Waller and Bird with a touch of Bessie Smith and Ella. Neat Christmas present, I suppose... >;)

2008-05-05 10:48:37
11.   Josh Wilker
7 , 8 : My JV hoops team warmed up to Kurtis Blow's then-current song "Basketball." ("To capitalize on their mistakes/to run and gun on the fast breaks.")
2008-05-05 10:50:13
12.   Chyll Will
5 I will not go down without a fight! >;)
2008-05-05 10:53:38
13.   ms october
this is so crazy - i was thinking about this the other day.

i'm in my early 30s - and you are pushing it with mid 20s ny2ca2dc - just wait til you have to admit 30s :} - so to me "old school" is stuff that came on before yo!mtv raps came on and changed the way hip hop was seen and delivered. so i don't really consider run dmc or bdp old school - the way i consider the grandmaster flash & furious five, kool herc et al old school.
but then i do consider run-dmc and even tribe and de la soul as something from another era distinct from the mid 90s stuff and certainly now.

i don't listen to the radio much - but the "hip-hop" station in boston - which absolutely sucks - and hot 97 as well as many hip hop stations play "old school" at lunch - many of them have taken to calling it the "throw back at noon" or something of the sort - which sort of avoids the "old school" conundrum - but i still laugh when they play a biggie or nas or pac or junior mafia or dmx track.

and i think 3 you may have a point about the using "old school" instead of "early" to signify wu-tang's first album or two and the first solo method man, rae, gza, et al albums

2008-05-05 10:54:47
14.   MC Safety
Funny you brought that up, Alex. I just heard someone listening to Chronic 2001 recently and thought "That's old school".

I still bump "Life Is Like a Dice Game" by Nas on the regular. I must be super old-school.

2008-05-05 10:55:12
15.   Matt B
Like all catch phrases become eventually, I think "old school" is worn out. However, I always kinda liked the phrase because it was always seemingly used to denote a little respect -- it's cooler and kinder than a previous generation's "oldie but a goodie."

And of course, it's all about your personal perspective. A kid digging Jack White or the Black Keys today thinks of the Stones as old school, whereas for Keef & Mick, old school means Muddy & Chuck, and so forth and so on.

10 You left out the Count! Anyone who digs Sinatra should be able to relate to the Count and the Duke...I mean, Frank recorded with 'em both. Also, Sinatra always listed Billie as his favorite singer.
...and Sonny Rollins, and Bill Evans...we could keep going here...

2008-05-05 10:55:22
16.   Alex Belth
Will, I knew you'd come through...Dude, I was going to put that KRS line in the post and then forgot about it. Good lookin bro!
2008-05-05 10:56:26
17.   Schteeve
10 I take the use of the words ignorant and narcissistic personally, so let me respond. Maybe we need to define "old school." Does old school refer to a particular sound or style indicitave of an era? Or is it the current vernacular usage of old school, meaning "not current."

My point is that to a 16 year old, Pac is old school.

And I struggle to find the narcissism in that.

2008-05-05 10:56:56
18.   Matt B
11 I've never been a hiphop guy, but for me, Kurtis Blow is Old School when it comes to rap.
2008-05-05 10:57:56
19.   Matt B
And Alex, is that a collage using a still from Out of the Past?
2008-05-05 11:27:59
20.   pistolpete
>> anyone who's genuinely old school isn't commenting on a blog. >>

But what if we're wearing a Kangol and Adidas with the fat laces while doing it?

2008-05-05 11:32:53
21.   Chyll Will
[16 No problem, B >;)

17 Let me apologize, I am being harsh. That was my reaction to people who think Jay Z or Lil Wayne invented or perfected rap (and Jay Z I would argue is a "throwback" because he's been doing it far longer than people would know >;) I met a DJ who was a member of Rock Steady Crew in the early eighties, and he is related to a lot of the pioneers; we "politicked" on the various artists from way in the beginning and throughout the "Golden Era".

You wouldn't believe how easy it is to find these people still running around doing their thing in New York. But from the knowledge he was kicking, I suggested that he record a documentary with all of these people, simply because there is a wealth of culture that is being overlooked by the radio stations and the networks for their own reason$; you rebuild a foundation with today's youth by reaching out to them and schooling them on how it began and progressed.

That was my point really, but I don't mean to come off as a snob; I'm just disappointed when I see it happen so often.

My reaction is probably typical of most "old school" heads, honestly, because it's not only the disconnect from today's music that grates me, it's the out-and-out disrespect of the older heads that some of today's rappers display in general. Copying styles and tracks (biting) is universally accepted now, whereas back in the day others would literally destroy you if you copied them or someone else on wax ("Beat biter, dope-style taker/tell it to your face, you ain't nuthin' but a faker!")

YouTube has some fascinating pieces from older heads trying to put it in perspective... (example: KRS-ONE Vs. Nelly:

My best buddy would probably bite my head off if I made a mistake about a certain piece or genre of music's influences or origins. But that all goes into something deeper than I can explain here, so I'll be nice >;)

2008-05-05 11:54:51
22.   Schteeve
21 Thanks, see that's my beef with mainstream hip hop now. It isn't evolving. Back in the day, Tribe and De La and Diggable Ps, represented a step change from what came before. The genre kept evolving. After those guys, it was the west side gangsta stuff, and even though it wasn't my cup of tea at the time, I appreciated it because it was new, and provocative.

Now, you get some dude who rhymes about cars, and strippers, and money and a dude singing a hook through a vocoder, and there's nothing interesting. There's no more "what's gonna happen next?" Or if there is you have to dig really deep to find it. It's a shame.

2008-05-05 12:02:02
23.   Shaun P
My collection includes Def Leppard, Van Halen, Metallica etc, so I'll contribute what I know. When I bought Hysteria, on a cassette tape (!), "classic" rock stations played the Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Stones, Zep; the respected stuff from 15 to 20+ years prior.

Hysteria, Ride the Lightning, 5150 - the iconic albums of my youth all came out more than 20 years ago now. I have a hard time thinking of them as classic rock. So I'll go with Matt B in 15 and say old school is what was old, and respected, when you were a kid.

I'm still not sure what to make of getting old(er), except it keeps happening faster.

2008-05-05 12:18:22
24.   Chyll Will
22 Again, you have to lay a lot of blame on the recording industry as a whole, particularly the record companies that distribute the stuff and force feed this crap to well-conditioned listeners as if there is nothing else that exists. When marketing and compartmentalizing takes precedence over content and form in anything, much less music, it becomes stale and insubstantial; subject to scorn and ridicule in my opinion.

(And let me also add that some of the older heads don't necessarily get away scott-free either; since some in their capacity as A/R reps actually referred or groomed new rappers for a system that my buddy whimsically refers to as "Corporately-Sponsored Musique Concréte".)

Much like the current organization that is our Yankees, unfortunately. Hughes, Joba and IPK would be our underground artists trying to emerge with a foundation from the old school to back them up, but the tides and the recipients are not ready for it just yet (well, Joba is either Fitty or Kanye West right now, so... >;)

2008-05-05 12:26:04
25.   Schteeve
24 Totally. The MUSIC Business, turned into the music BUSINESS and it was a turn for the worst.
2008-05-05 12:31:20
26.   Chyll Will
23 I don't think it's the matter of getting older that is the problem or even an issue per se, it's the amount of dignity and respect that is afforded to artists and their styles of music that preceded the current trends. Hip Hop has got to be the most eclectic form of music in existence, simply because of how many sources it either borrows from or is inspired by. Wyclef Jean was not trying to be ironic when he titled his one album "The Ecelctic", he was trying to show his wide variety of inspirations and the forms that can still be expressed as Hip Hop. I'm still surprised when I discover the source material for a track that I really liked back in the day, or when it somehow reappears in someone else's song nowadays.

But there's a big difference in my opinion with KRS-ONE using AC/DC to bump "Dope Beat" and Rhianna (whom I beg to differ, is not Hip Hop, but R & B) using "Tainted Love" to back up an otherwise hollow script. KRS-ONE acknowledged his musical sources and inspirations and at least Scott La Rock tweaked it throughout.

Oops, sorry. I should just stop right now...

2008-05-05 14:54:24
27.   Shaun P
26 I was speaking more about me/us, the music we loved as kids is now old enough to be considered "classic" or "old school", by how we defined those things as kids.

But you're right, respecting history, and sources, is something that ought to be universal. Even if its not all that old. Paul McCarthy has repeatedly talked about Pet Sounds inspired a lot of what the Beatles did on Sgt Pepper. And so on.

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