Thursday, 18 October 2012

The 15 Best Rappers in Their 40s Who Are Relevant Right Now

Complex have compiled a list of ol'timers that are still hot behind the mic.

It's only a recent development, but for the first time, rap doesn't seem so scared of age anymore. Maybe it's because the genre itself hasn't even been around for four decades, but as hip-hop's lifespan grows, so does its tolerance for older rappers.

There was a time when turning 30 pushed MCs into "old man" territory, but that's changed. As evidenced by our list of the best rappers in their 30s, many of the most popular hip-hop artists of the moment fall into that category. Instead, it's the age of 40 at which a rapper is now considered "old."

What's most remarkable is that, these days, so many MCs remain relevant well into their 40s. Jay-Z got his first No. 1 song at 40. Raekwon is doing songs with Justin Bieber, and he's 42.

15. Diddy

Age: 42
Label: Bad Boy/Interscope
Active Since: 1989

Even at 42, Sean Combs continues to redefine the hip-hop entrepreneur. In late February, Diddy announced plans for the launch of Revolt TV, a music-themed cable network geared towards African-Americans. Then there's the incredibly successful Ciroc brand, which has propelled his net worth to unprecedented heights for rappers.

Musically, Bad Boy Records has been reinvigorated with hot, new talent like Machine Gun Kelly and French Montana, but beyond that, Diddy is actually spitting some really nice rhymes himself. Diddy's guest verses on remixes of Future's "Same Damn Time" and Waka Flocka's "O Let's Do It" have made for some of the most exciting rap moments in recent memory.

14. RZA

Age: 43
Label: Soul Temple
Active Since: 1989

The Wu-Tang Clan isn't the the deadly force it once was, but the Abbot is still making huge moves in the game. He's got a movie he directed (The Man With The Iron Fists) that's coming out soon, but look no further than the film's soundtrack, along with his production credits on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, to see that RZA is still doing the damn thing on the music front.

13. E-40

Age: 44
Label: Heavy On The Grind Entertainment/EMI
Active Since: 1990

40 Water is an original. There was never anyone like him before and there won't be anyone after. But despite being 20 years in the game, he's still as hardworking as ever. He dropped a whopping three albums this year, The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1, 2, and 3 and scored a hit with "Function." Obviously, the Ambassador of the Yay Area has still got plenty of lingo to put us on to.

12. Tech N9ne

Age: 40
Label: Strange Music
Active Since: 1991

Few rappers exemplify the phrase "patience is a virtue" quite like Tech N9ne. It may have taken him nearly two decades, but he's finally getting his props. And best of all, he didn't have to go mainstream-the mainstream came to him.

Tech has always been a great rapper, but as the culture has shifted away from major labels and more towards independent operations, it's shined a new light on the forever underrated lyricist whose album All 6's and 7's debuted in Billboard's Top 5 last year. Thanks to new found chart success (and a co-sign from Lil Wayne), he's one of the few rappers in their 40s actively expanding his fan base.

11. DJ Quik

Age: 42
Label: Mad Science/Fontana
Active Since: 1987

DJ Quik isn't as hugely popular as he was when he dropped Quik is the Name in 1991, but he's maintained artistic relevance longer than almost anyone in hip-hop. His work with Kurupt on 2009's Blaqkout was some of the most unusual of his career, without losing the kind of loose experimentation that found the rapper divulging highly-personal lyrics one moment and dropping irreverent party tracks the next, or bringing the two topics together on the same song.

His 2011 record Book of David furthered this agenda. The tracks seemed more concerned with originality than broad appeal, to their great advantage. In 2012, no one would claim Quik is setting sales records or reaching a massive audience, but his music is as personal and entertaining as ever. As a result, he's still rewarded a high level of critical respect from hip-hop connoisseurs.

10. Sean Price

Age: 40
Label: Duck Down
Active Since: 1993

Mic Tyson is finally ready to rumble, and we're ready to listen. Price certainly took the road less traveled to get to where he is now. He's a strange concoction of an old man rapper, a relic of '90s New York rap, a rap blog darling, and a guy who found his true voice late in life. He's certainly more relevant than his underground counterparts of the '90s. Ultimately, he's a survivor. And he's still hilarious when he's rambling on the mic.


Age: 41
Label: Lex
Active Since: 1988

There's a slim chance you'll actually see the real DOOM if you hit up one of his live concerts, but his music is still making plenty of impact off-stage. After he dropped the MF from his name a few years ago, he came through with the well-received LP, Born Like This. In the time since, he's released a collaborative album with producer Jneiro Jarel, which once again showcases him rapping with top-notch wit and precision.

Next up: Swift & Changeable, the long-awaited album he's releasing with Ghostface Killah. There's another Madvillain project on the way, too. Even though DOOM remains relatively obscure, his continues to hit hard.

8. Q-Tip
Age: 42
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
Active Since: 1986

Despite being greatly missed on Cruel Summer (even though he recorded for it), Q-Tip is still making plenty of music, we just don't know when we'll get to hear it. Will there be a Cruel Winter? When is The Last Zulu dropping? Tip stays relevant like a drug dealer during the drought and we are the fiends.

Despite the fact that he's lent exceptional production to albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, his headlining "Q-Tip & Friends" set at last year's Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival also proved that he can still rock the mic. In an interview with Complex, Q said heat is on the way, but until release dates are announced, everyone has to wait.

7. Snoop Dogg

Age: 40
Label: Doggystyle/Priority
Active Since: 1992

Snoop Dogg (no, we're not going to call him Snoop Lion, sorry) will never not be relevant. Thanks to his incredible voice, his undeniable charisma, and his infinite style, he's forever just one flow away from the top of the charts. If you put him in the right position (like the way he teamed up with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars for "Young, Wild & Free" last year) then he'll almost guarantee a hit.

Plus, his willingness to not take himself too seriously (like when he hopped on Katy Perry's smash hit "California Gurls") often pays dividends. Even his Hot Pockets song is kinda catchy! You can never count him out.

6. Ghostface Killah

Age: 42
Label: N/A
Active Since: 1992

Ghostface's timeless humor-filled storytelling abilities were showcased once again on the Cruel Summer version of "New God Flow." While this was the first time we'd heard from Ghost in a minute, it won't be the last. Ghostface and Sheek Louch's collaborative Wu-Block project is set to hit stores on November 13.

Additionally, Ghost is set to release another collaborative LP with producer Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons To Die, on November 20. An accompanying comic book will also be released in December, bringing new meaning to the Tony Starks nickname.

5. Busta Rhymes

Age: 40
Label: Flipmode/Cash Money
Active Since: 1989

After more than two decades in the game, Busta Rhymes continues to impress us with his longevity and ability to constantly redefine himself as an artist. Busta jumped back into our playlists in August with the release of his ninth studio album, Year Of The Dragon, a free release through Google Play.

Then there's the success of No. 1 songs like Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" that prove that Busta can still keep up with the modern sound. As long as he continues to break the speed limit with his rhymes, he'll have an audience.

4. Raekwon

Age: 42
Label: Ice H20/EMI
Active Since: 1992

Rae's verses on "The Morning" off Cruel Summer and "Tick, Tock" from The Man With The Iron Fists soundtrack show that the Chef still isn't playing around. Those bars alone packed enough heat to keep 42-year-old relevant, but with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Pt.III on the way, and his own record label Ice H20 moving units, Raekwon continues to prove that age means nothing to him.

3. Common

Age: 40
Label: Think Common/Warner Bros.
Active Since: 1991

After a slight misstep with Universal Mind Control, Common re-established himself at the forefront of hip-hop with last December's The Dreamer/The Believer, aided by the soulful melodies of No I.D. Whether it was trading lyrical barbs with Nas on "Ghetto Dreams" or talking reckless and taking some not-so-veiled shots at Drake on "Sweet," Com reminded us that he still knows a thing or two about rapping.

Add in a stellar appearance on "In The Morning" off Ye's Cruel Summer compilation as well as a 10th studio album slated for a January release, and including Lonnie Lynn on any list of relevant rappers in their 40s is common sense.

2. Eminem

Age: 40
Label: Shady/Aftermath/Interscope
Active Since: 1992

Eminem is the best-selling artist of the new millenium, and for good reason: He's an amazing rappers. His last solo album, Recovery, wasn't just a commercial smash, but it also proved that whatever creative juices he lost through drug addiction were regained through sobriety.

He followed that up last year by teaming up with his old partner-in-rhyme Royce da 5'9" for Bad Meets Evil, a slick EP that showed Em can still kick witty lyrics with the best of them. Eminem's legacy may be cemented, but it looks like he will continue to dish out lyrical beat downs for years to come.

1. Jay-Z

Age: 42
Label: Roc Nation
Active Since: 1990

Jay-Z doesn't settle. Every time it's felt like his career peaked, he finds new ceilings to chase. It's cliché to say your favorite rapper is Jay-Z because, at this point, everyone's favorite rapper is Jay-Z. He's an omnipotent force in hip-hop. He's leading in nearly every single statistical category. He's got it all; the sales, the hits, the respect, the flows, the rhymes, the classic albums, the wealth, and he's got a beautiful wife and an adorable daughter.

What's most amazing is that he still raps his ass off. His last album, Watch The Throne, spawned the song of the year with "N****s In Paris" and the album itself was a massive success. Plus, every time he drops a guest verse the whole stops and listens. He most recently stole the show on G.O.O.D. Music's "Clique" and Rick Ross' "3 Kings."

As a pop culture figure, he's still hip-hop's greatest ambassador. In the past few weeks alone he's thrown a fundraiser for President Obama, executive-produced NBA 2K13, and helped open up the Barclays Center with eight concerts. G.O.A.T. status.

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