Lil Wayne, Styles P and T.I.: When Trap Stars and Gangstas Grow Up

Styles P, T.I., and Lil' Wayne keep making incredible music, but is Hip-Hop ready? Rashad D. Grove explores.

By Rashad D. Grove

(AllHipHop Opinion) The gift and curse of hip-hip is that it is primarily centered around youth. Youthfulness is the engine the propels the culture forward. Because of this reality, hip-hop will always be a culture where young, innovative artists can express their creativity as they seek to put their stamp on the game. But the flipside is that hip-hop can be the most ageist of all the music genres. It’s almost an unspoken rule in the hip-hop community that when rappers reach a certain age they must be replaced with new up and coming artists who represent another direction for the culture. This means that no matter how successful an artist is, they all have an expiration date on their “relevance” in the game and eventually will be ushered toward the exit doors.

Thankfully, there are more instances now than ever before of artists who are bucking this deplorable trend in rap music. More rap artists today are enjoying longevity in the game, without competing or trying to destroy the current crop of new artists, then in previous generations. Styles P, Lil Wayne, and T.I. are the embodiment of what the reversal of the ageism factor in hip-hop looks like. All three have reached prominent status in the regions they represent and in in the entire sphere of rap music. Each has sold millions of records, dropped critically acclaimed albums, made legendary guest appearances, and have reverence and respect all around the hip-hip community. With their recent album releases, Styles P, Lil Wayne, and T.I. are still going strong.

Styles P, the self-proclaimed “your favorite rappers, favorite rapper” personifies New York gangsta rap music. Since his arrival on the scene, he has been a highly regarded MC and a torch bearer for the hard-core New York lyricism. Whether with the LOX or his solo work, Styles P is a fixture on landscape of rap music.

“The Ghost” recently collaborated with new comer and fellow New Yorker Dave East for a joint album entitled Beloved. Simply put, Beloved is for lovers of classic, hard-hitting New York rap music. Their project is essential New York hip-hop. Styles and East bridge the gap between generations in New York hip-hop for incredible album, Not aiming for commercial appeal, P and East kept it raw and their chemistry is organic. These two stellar wordsmiths have created an exceptional body of work.

After years of legal battles, Lil Wayne settled his lawsuit with Cash Money records where it was reported that he will receive over $10 million and more importantly his artistic freedom. Wayne walked away as a free man and his first act of freedom was to gift the world The Carter V, his highly anticipated album which had been in limbo for over five years.

The Carter V is Wayne’s official comeback album after being in purgatory for years. Wayne is embracing his place in the game as an icon after enduring so much for the sake of his art. The project has been incredibly successful. Wayne currently holds the top 5 songs on the streaming chart and has four songs in the top 10 of Billboard 100. The comeback is complete.

Although films, realty T.V., activism, and many other ventures have kept T.I in the public eye, he is first and foremost the progenitor of Atlanta Trap Music. The primary sound that has been dominating hip-hop for the past 15 years is due largely in part to the success of T.I. With his 10th album Dime Trap, T.I. seeks to reclaim his throne as the King of the South.

On Dime Trap, T.I.P. sounds better than ever. His subject matter, flow, and lyrical ability all are in top form. He returned to unadulterated trap music, the genre he helped to give life too. Narrated by Dave Chappelle, Dime Trap is a remarkable album that further cements T.I.” s legacy as one of the greatest MC’s to emerge from Atlanta.

Styles P, Lil Wayne, and T.I. are elder statemen in rap music. But their status as elder statesmen are not disqualifiers from being able to contribute to the culture. In fact, their productivity over the years should create an environment where new artists would embrace them with hopes of repeating their success. Very few rappers today will have the kind of success that has been achieved by these three legends.

Trap stars and gangstas eventually grow up. Something has gone terribly wrong if rappers sound the exact same way they did 20 years ago. Hip-hop is now ready for Adult Contemporary Rap Music where we allow our artists to grow up and not expect them to follow the latest trends in order have our attention and support. Styles P, Lil Wayne, and T.I. not only remind us of how great they’ve been but just how much more they have to give to the culture.