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Ice Cube’s still hot career proves hip-hop can age gracefully…

September 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Health, News, Weekly Columns

( Considering his controversial explosion onto the scene with N.W.A in 1988, Ice Cube is a far cry from his Straight Outta Compton days and even further away from where you imagined he’d be 20 years after his solo debut, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.

His ninth studio album, I Am The West, hits stores on today, as the rapper turned actor, screenwriter, director and producer is just the latest aging figure in hip-hop to step back in the booth after a successful detour from his musical career.

Other huge names from his era like Will Smith, LL Cool J and Queen Latifah have avoided a career mid-life crisis and successfully repackaged themselves into crossover stars outside of the genre.

Will Smith was arguably the first hip-hop crossover star to be accepted into the hearts of mainstream America. From winning the first Grammy in the genre to his success as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith provided a blueprint for rappers turned actors to successfully navigate from one medium to another. Unlike some of his peers, he actually has to acting chops to sustain it.

Queen Latifah was another to go from the hip hop charts to the small and silver screens and has seen her journey go from a conscious, feminist rapper to a spokesperson for Cover Girl and clothing lines.

LL Cool went from rocking the bells and needing love to chasing down perps on CBS hit crime drama, NCIS: Los Angeles.

Before these rappers and others of their ilk, the closest thing you got to any sort of universal acceptance was Run DMC’s breaking the hip-hop barrier on MTV. Still, today’s success is unprecedented.

For hip-hop acts that didn’t kick out the catalog the aforementioned did, what more could they expect after their 15-minutes than a scrapbook full of memories and gigs on the convention circuit or maybe turning to religion?

Things started changing when big business quit making a mockery of the culture, like having old women breaking and rapping on Saturday morning cartoon commercials, and started to accept the financial viability of the art form, even if they didn’t respect its power just yet.

Those rappers, helped shift what a rappers career could be. Instead of depending on beats and rhymes to generate generational wealth, even new artists are approaching the profession with a business sense few had decades ago.

The Queen Latifah’s of the World’s current marketability is just a testament to their actual talent and a constant reminder to the trail they blazed for life after beyond the realistic scope of your musical popularity. Granted, all have enough in the catalog to tour on the greatest hits should they take a break from the silver screen, they’ve also proven to be successful entrepreneurs.

Few in their age bracket have touched Jay-Z’s level of success outside of music while simultaneously balancing a relevant hip hop career. Still cranking out impactful music after his eleventh studio album, if there’s anybody showing just how hip hop can grow up, it’s Hov.

But what about artists presently on topping the hip hop charts? Will this business model still be viable for them when they reach the real age of hip hop maturity and are faced with the prospect of putting out an album that’s be lucky to sell 100,000 copies or moving on to other ventures?

Others from a previous era have stepped out of the spotlight and into successful second gigs without the headlines and without having to pimp themselves to reality TV or trying to spark beef with the flavor of the month to get back in the conversation. But do you really see artists like a Soulja Boy stepping over to do sitcoms? Do you expect Nicki Minaj to just slide into Cover Girl or her own venture when she hits 30? Is their thought-process even that big?

One could argue that the extended careers of some of hip hop’s second-generation have prevented younger stars from even rising to the point where they could dream of doing what they’ve seen others do.

Think about it. Your favorite hip hop artist is probably over 30, probably even closer to 40. From Big Boi to Kanye West, Pharrell and others, these guys weren’t that far behind the people who proved there was more than just two or three albums and watching the mailbox for checks from past glory.

The genre’s due for a shot of youth and hopefully they’ve been taking notes on what’s next.

Written By Mike McCray

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