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Hip hop is the new dad rock

By Alfred Tong

It’s time to recalibrate and move on, thinks Alfred Tong in the second instalment of Time Out Music's new Just Saying column.

A BMW cruises through the back streets of Shoreditch. The strangulated voice of Lil Wayne can be discerned over low, rumbling bass. The driver has his seat so low and far back that only the rim of his baseball cap is visible. So far, so Shoreditch. But wait, what’s this? There’s a gang of distinctly un-ghetto children in the back. It’s Father’s Day and the ghost rider is a fortysomething hip hop dad on his way to the Fun DMC event in a nearby pub.

Fun DMC is a family hip hop party where kids aged between three and eight jump around to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. Some colour in pictures of Run DMC and De La Soul. Others develop their tags on an approved wall. They wear ironic gold chains while DJ dads spin gun- drug- and misogyny-free hip hop.

In 2015, a culture which was once so thrillingly obsessed with the new has its own comfort zone: the musical equivalent of a pipe and slippers. It comes at a time when dad rock as we know it is transitioning into grandad rock. Given that they share certain defining qualities – male auteurs, a certain worthiness and singalong sensibility – dad hop is here to take its place.

‘Wu-Tang is for the children’

For Keane, think Kano. For Ocean Colour Scene, think Jurassic Five. Maybe Busta Rhymes is the new Bez? And who are the new Led Zep? Maybe the Wu Tang Clan. It was ODB, after all, who famously said: ‘Wu-Tang is for the children.’ We should have seen it coming when father-of-two Barack Obama brushed the dirt off his shoulder during the 2008 presidential campaign, in reference to the Jay Z song. Music that was once sexy, cool and dangerous is now fun for the whole family. Even Nas raps about fatherhood, most notably on last album ‘Life is Good’, and Jay Z, who also raps about being a dad, hasn’t had the streets on lock since ‘The Blueprint’, which ironically is the ultimate dad hop album.

However, I shouldn’t sneer too much. Ours is a generation for whom hip hop is woven into the very fabric of our lives. Listening to hip hop is as much a part of my daily routine as drinking a cup of tea or sending emails: I do it every single day. The only difference between me and these dad-hoppers is that I’m not a dad. But if I were, would I pick them up from school pushing a whip blasting the new Drake mixtape? Probably, yes. After all, someone’s got to show shorty how to ball.

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