The age-old battle between the old and the new finds itself at the very center of one of Hip-Hop’s greatest debates in recent times.
While the mainstream has provided prime examples of seasoned artists evolving with the times, there remains a cluster of emcees who have chosen to stick to the formula.
In truth, both efforts don’t go unnoticed and each holds its own value in this industry when executed properly.
Rap duo The Black Opera, however, find themselves somewhere in that sweet spot, treading along the border of paying homage and dealing out credit where it’s due.
With the arrival of their latest 80z Babiez To The 2Gz II [The Experimix] mixtape, they further acknowledged their conversation through their nods to the old while embracing the new.
“We wanted to follow up African America with something that wasn’t as heavy, so we worked on the second installment of our 80z Babiez 2 The 2Gz Experimix series,” says the duo. “We feel right in the middle of this Old Heads vs New Wave battle. So in this new mix you can hear our influences come across, young and old, in a way of expressing it that we feel only we can do it.”
We had the chance to catch a few thoughts from them on the ongoing debate and where they fit in.
Read the conversation below.
African America arrived late last year, what was your mindset in tackling a whole new project in this relatively short time frame?
Jamall Bufford: It wasn’t that we felt we needed to do this in a hurry, it’s just that we’re creators. Creating is what we do. So we started brainstorming on “80z Babiez To The 2Gz 2” to follow up the second 80z Babiez and it just came together quickly. And we felt this was the best project to follow the serious-themed African America because it has a lighter/more fun tone.
Magestik Legend: We don’t believe in following rules. We just create and release when it feels right to us.
80z Babiez focuses primarily in personifying the gap between old heads and the new generation. Where do you guys find yourselves in the debate of “old vs. new?”
ML: We feel like we are right of the middle of the “Old vs. New” debate. Every new era of music breaks the rules of the previous era. We think there will always be a generational discord every 10 or so years because creativity always evolves. On “80z Babiez To The 2Gz 2”, we are breaking the rules just like the legends taught us. And, in their own way, that’s exactly what this current generation of music is doing.
You’ve just wrapped up touring in Europe, in your experiences, do you notice any similarities or differences in the debate overseas?
JB: We try to have conversations on the music landscape wherever we go, I’d say over there they’re a little less invested in debating that. They have a preference but I don’t think they get as heated over it, which is the approach we take with The Black Opera. For the most part in Europe it seems to always comes back to individuals are individuals. No person, city, state, country is homogenous when it comes to music opinions. We were in Warsaw talking to a hip hop head in his mid 30s that loves Kendrick, Drake, Anderson Paak, and Eminem, but didn’t feel a particular connection to KRS ONE’s music. We talk to younger cats who may be just discovering hip hop in Europe, and thanks to the internet and their hunger to learn they LOVE late 80s/early 90s hip hop, so it really just depends on the person.
You particularly infused your influences, both young and old, into the album. How much did artists like Mobb Deep or Prodigy have to do with the cultivation of your sound throughout the years?
ML: Mobb Deep and Prodigy were a huge influence, P & Havoc as rappers and Havoc as a producer. Even later when they started to get more outside production from cats like Alchemist. I couldn’t relate to the lifestyle they talked about but I related to the rawness of how it was delivered. You really felt like they just rolled out of bed and there was a microphone there and they started talking about their life. I wanted to have a similar effect, not the same but similar. I’ve always wanted a more conversation style than a super hype/big word/multiple syllable style, Prodigy was a huge influence on that.
Who are the artists of the younger generation that stand out to you? Who, in particular, can you cite as an influence?
JB: We’re influenced by everything around us that we encounter, everything we see and hear. Whether it’s to try something similar or put our spin on it, or to stay away from it. So more so than generations we’re influenced by new sounds. When Migos came out they were a new sound at the time that influenced me, Future is closer to our age but his many different sounds influenced me. I like Smino, I like Boogie from Compton. I like a lot of younger cats. But as we all know there’s nothing new under the sun, people rapping fast isn’t new, people injecting more singing type melodies into their raps isn’t new. There’s Bone Thugs N Harmony, even 50 Cent and Nelly, when we were kids Domino has a song called “Ghetto Jam” where he was pretty much singing. Only thing that’s a little different now is the style of beats/BPMs.