Have you found yourself wrestling with the thought that perhaps you’re too old to start rapping? Or if you’ve already been rapping for quite some time have you wondered if you’ve “missed the mark” and it’s time to put the mic down? If so I think you will find a lot of encouragement within this article as I tackle both of these angles and provide you with some alternative views you may have yet to consider. So without further ado, LET’S GET IT!!
Are You Too Old?
Let’s first tackle the question of if you are too old to be rapping. Now I don’t know you specifically so I think it’s wise to counter that question with some more specific questions to really get some good clarity on your current situation.
First, ask yourself this question, “Why Did I Start Rapping, To Begin With?”.
Your answer is likely very similar to mine as well as many others. You likely began rapping because you first had an appreciation and adoration for rap music. And secondly, you wanted to give it a try just because you thought it would be fun and you wanted to challenge yourself to see if you could actually do it. You also likely had something bottled up within you that you felt you needed to express with the world because you felt it could somehow be beneficial to others.
By answering this simple question of “Why do I rap?”, you’re getting to the most important aspect of anything that you pursue in life. It’s the foundation that everything else is built upon and it’s
called “Purpose”. This purpose is the driving force that continues to push you forward even through the toughest of times. Even when your frustrations are high and you’re on the verge of giving up, once the dust settles your “purpose” is still there calmly lingering and won’t go away!
If you’ve ever heard the term “Labor of Love” this is exactly what it means and it’s present on both sides of the spectrum, both good and bad.
For an example of the “bad side”, Eminem poured his whole heart, soul, and finances into his music career early on. After an unsuccessful release of his debut independent album “infinite” only selling around 1,000 copies, Em was depressed and suicidal. But his main driving force to be successful as a rapper was so he could take care of his newly born daughter Hailie. Shortly after his album flopped, a broke and discouraged Eminem still mustered up the strength to perform at the “Rap Olympics” for his second time. After placing in 2nd place word got back to Dr. Dre and the rest is history.
For an example of the “good side”, Dr. Dre’s net worth currently sits at around $830 million. Dre doesn’t have to mix another song or produce another beat if he doesn’t want to. But he is still reportedly in the studio on a daily basis! This is because Dr. Dre is and has been doing music for the same reason all of these years, he truly, unconditionally, loves it!
Have You Found It?
If you started rapping just to get famous and wealthy then you likely won’t feel what I just described and you won’t have the endurance to get you through the tough times because your purpose is not anchored with something of deep substance.
Here’s one big golden nugget of life advice for you if you don’t feel that you’ve found your purpose yet. You will find your purpose once you realize that your life isn’t all about you. Your purpose will be equally beneficial to others as it is to yourself.
If you can relate to this in some facet then you know you have a strong and meaningful, “why?” to your rapping. Now that we’ve identified your foundational “Why?” let’s build upon that with your “What?”.
What are your goals? What are you wanting to do with your rap skills? What are you wanting to accomplish? What’s the mission that you’re on?
There are two main types of rappers which I explained in this article “Should You Collaborate With Other Rappers“. But to sum it up, you have your hobbyist’s who are just doing it for fun and not trying to make any money from it. While your professionals are trying to make a living out of what once was their hobby.
Everyone usually starts off as a hobbyist and then a percentage of people decide that they will try to make a living out of it professionally.
First off, regardless if your rapping as a hobby or striving to make a profession out of it, both are perfectly fine. You’re not less than, just because you decide to make rapping a hobby.
The Two Rappers
Now let’s tackle both the Hobbyist and the Professional with the “Am I Too Old To Be Rapping” question.
If you’re rapping as just a hobby and you’re still having fun and getting enjoyment out of it then why stop? I really think it’s as simple as that for the Hobbyists. If you’re having fun keep doing it!
Now if you’re pouring a lot of money into your hobby that’s putting a financial strain on you then you may want to look at alternative ways to save money while you continue your hobby since you’re not making any money back. For example…
Build your own recording studio
Instead of spending all of your money at someone else’s recording studio, just build your own and eliminate that expense altogether. Check out this article I wrote on how to get your own professional recording studio setup for less than $150 bucks!
Start leasing instrumentals instead of purchasing exclusives
If you’re just rapping as a hobby, there is no need to purchase exclusive rights to the instrumentals you’re using since you’re not trying to make money off your music. Exclusive rights to instrumentals are much more expensive and are unnecessary if you’re just making rap songs as a hobby.
If you’re not sure about the difference between leasing rights and exclusive rights be sure to check out my article “Top 10 Tips For Buying Rap Beats Online“.
Start making your own instrumentals
If you’re really pinching penny’s then do what I did when I first started out rapping as a Hobbyist and take the plunge to start making your own instrumentals. It is going to be more time consuming to learn this craft but there are loads of helpful teachers on the internet who specialize in teaching the craft of music production. And plus you can tailor your sound to fit your personality specifically. A great teacher to check out is iLL Factor from Beat Academy
Start mixing your own songs
Again, if you’re trying to stretch that dollar till it pops then learning how to mix your own songs will save you a lot of money as well. If you’re trying to learn how to make your own instrumentals then you will by default start learning about mixing as well. Another great teacher I recommend you checking out who specializes in teaching mixing is Graham Cochrane from The Recording Revolution.
From my experience, the people who struggle the most with the whole “Am I too old to be rapping” dilemma are those who aspire to be professional rappers and earn a living from it.
I believe the main concern that most older rappers have about their age stems from the misconception that if you want to make a living off your rap music you have to appeal to a younger audience.
I believe at one point of time this was true but not anymore. Here’s why.
Hip-Hop music is roughly about 45 years old give or take. In the beginning, it was primarily teens, and young adults who were rapping and the older crowd didn’t understand it because it was new. For more on the origins of Hip-Hop check out The True Origins of Hip-Hop and A Case For Biting Rappers. Pioneers, innovators, and thieves.
But now since Hip-Hop has aged so has its fan base with it. And It’s common to see rappers in their 40’s and 50’s still touring and selling out venues till this day! Which also means there are much older people now who listen to Hip-Hop because they grew up with it. Make sense?
Let’s check out a few examples of well-aged rappers who are still doing their thing today!
Big Daddy Kane – 50 years old
Debuted in 1988 with his album “Long Live the Kane” at 20 years old.
Biz Markie – 54 years old
Debuted 1988 on his album “Goin Off” at 24 years old.
Kool G Rap – 50 years old
Debuted 1989 on Juice Crew album – “Road To The Riches” at 21 years old.
Snoop Dogg – 47 years old
Debuted on Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” in 1992 at 21 years old.
Jay-Z – 48 years old
Debuted with his album “Reasonable Doubt” in 1996 at 26 years old.
Eminem – 46 years old
Debuted with his album “Infinite” in 1996 at 24 years old.
But let’s address the elephant in the room. All of these rappers had their “breakthroughs” when they were younger in their early to mid-twenties. So doesn’t that mean that if you start later, let’s say in your 30’s, that you’ve missed your opportunity? Well, I’m all about the facts so instead of speculating let’s look at some real-life examples of other rappers who broke through a bit later in life.
2 Chainz original rap name was Tity Boi and was apart of a rap duo called “Playaz Circle” which was signed to Ludacris’s label “D.T.P.”. In 2011 after leaving “D.T.P., Tity Boi decided to rebrand himself as a solo rapper with a name he felt was more “Family Friendly” so he decided to go with the name “2 Chainz”.
His debut solo album was in 2012 “Based on a T.R.U. Story” at 35 years old.
Though he had already been rapping for a few years, Plies didn’t get his breakthrough until 2007 after releasing
his debut single “Shawty” which featured T-Pain. He was 31 years old.
After attending college on a football scholarship, and also being a correctional officer for 18 months.
Rick Ross debuted his hit single “Hustlin” in 2006 at the age of 30.
In Ice-T’s attempt to leave the street life behind, he joined the Army. After serving in the Army, he began to DJ at parties and gained more attention for his rap skills.
Ice-T released his debut album in 1987 “Rhyme Pays” at the age of 29.
Before Action Bronson was seriously pursuing a rap career, he was a successful fire-flame gourmet chef in New York City. After breaking his leg in the kitchen, he decided to turn his rap hobby into a profession.
In 2011 Action released his debut album “Dr. Lecter” at the age of 28.
Though he had been rapping since the age of 14, Yo Gotti didn’t really taste success
until 2009 with the release of his major label debut studio album “Live From The Kitchen” at the age of 28.
Tony Yayo is 1/3 of the group G-Unit which he formed with his childhood friends 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks. But he didn’t receive widespread recognition
until after releasing his debut studio album “Thoughts of a Predicate Felon” in 2005 at the age of 27.
Though he had been active since 2002 as a battle rapper, and created a street hit DVD series called “Cocaine City”. French Montana didn’t really have a major breakthrough
until 2010 with his song featuring Waka Flocka, “Choppa Choppa Down”. at the age of 26
Everyone Has Their Own Story
Now just to be clear, each of the above rappers has their own unique stories behind them which tell how they become successful. Feel free to look up more information about them if you wish to know more about their stories.
Some of them like Yo Gotti had already been rapping for 15 years before they had their breakaway success. While others like Ice-T had only been rapping for a few years.
I believe the main take away here is that growing a fan base is going to take time. How much time will it take? There is no magic number, it really comes down to how much time you’re putting into it on a regular basis and of course, there’s a little bit of “luck” involved as well.
But honestly, I don’t feel like there is an age limit when it comes to building a rap career. I believe there is a market for everything. My best advice would be to simply make the music that you want to hear and that way it will resonate with people who are just like you.
If you’re pushing 40 it might not be a good move to try and make music that resonates with teenagers. In fact, it might be a bit creepy!
Make music that reflects where you are in life and who you really are! Your music will never be for everybody so don’t worry about trying to appeal to everybody.
A Shift Is Happening
We already have tons of songs about gang banging, slanging dope, getting girls, partying, balling, etc.. but as already established rappers are growing older their music is also reflecting their age as well, which is a good thing!
For example, on Jay Z’s album “4:44”, he speaks about marriage, infidelity, being a father, lack of leadership in the Black Community, advice on business dealings and entrepreneurship and he also speaks to the younger rappers and shares his older and wiser perspective.
Eminem, who once used his youth to diss other older rappers such as Benzino, recently has pulled a reversal and has used his age to diss younger rappers like M.G.K. in his diss song “Kill shot”, with the following lines.
“Oh, Kelly, but I’m 45 and I’m still outselling you”
“I’d rather be 80 year old me, than 20 year old you”
So now that you see that there is a market for older rappers there is still one more very important element that’s left to be discussed.
If you’re an older rapper but have yet to establish a fanbase then how can you begin to do it?
Now that’s what I like to call a loaded question! But to keep it as simple as possible. You have to do the same thing younger rappers have to do
to grow a fanbase. It boils down to putting a lot of hard work into marketing and promoting yourself properly.
I’m not sure where you’re currently at skill wise but I recommend sharpening your skills as a rapper and songwriter first before focusing on marketing and promotion.
But let’s just say your skills are already on point, then Marketing and Promotion is the most important thing you need to focus on in order to make a career out of rapping.
One thing you need to decide is what type of career as a rapper do you wish to have? For example, do you want to make your money on the road doing shows and tours which would require you to be away from home for long extended periods of time?
Or would you prefer to earn most of your income as a rapper without leaving your home by focusing on making rap songs that could be used in video games, movies, and commercials?
You could also focus on making music videos around current/trending events which you could earn income by monetization on Youtube. Or you could help develop local younger rappers and build a fanbase by being the producer and featured artist on some of their songs.
Again Marketing And Promotion is a HUGE topic which I can’t dig deep into with this article as it’s already long enough. But lucky for you, I’ve already done it in a separate series of mine I highly recommend you checking out called “Demystifying Marketing and Promotion for Rappers.”
Bringing It Back
So let’s sum it up like this.
If you’re wondering if you’re too old to be rapping remember to ask yourself the following.
- Why are you rapping?
- What type of rapper do you wish to be? Hobbyist or Professional?
- What type of goals do you wish to achieve? Just to have fun? or to earn a living as well?
- If you wish to make a career out of rapping do you want to be on the road or would you rather work from home?
- Who is your target audience and what’s your marketing and promotional strategy to reach them? If you don’t have one yet, be sure to check out my complete guide “Demystifying Marketing And Promotion For Rappers”.
I hope this article has been informative and encouraging for you! If you’re a rapper that’s “of age”, I’d be interested to know in the comments section below how old you are, how long you’ve been rapping, and what you wish to do with your rap skills.