40 Over 40

The 20 Best Rap Albums by Artists Over 40

Hot lines < hot songs < hot albums. Here are the best of the best.

Published in
11 min readJul 28, 2020

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Summer 1977: The art of emceeing begins. Among the first triumvirate of greats — Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Melle Mel, and Kool Moe Dee — the average age is just under 16 years old.

Summer 1986: The first golden era spins up, and with it a new triumvirate of greats in Rakim, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane. They, too, average out to less than 18 years old. Kurtis Blow, the undisputed king of the early ’80s, is on his way out — and he’s barely past 25. In a youth culture like hip-hop, the idea of a 30-year-old rapper doesn’t seem feasible.

Summer 2020: Oh, how things have changed.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell theorized that it takes at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to truly master one’s craft. As time went on, more and more veteran rappers leveraged those countless hours of practice not just to create quality music, but to stay relevant to mainstream audiences. Stigmas began to dissipate. By the time the 2010s rolled around, a 40-year-old rapper wasn’t just a possibility; it was a promise.

Over the following decade, change kept coming. Hip-hop itself turned 40; Paul Iannacchino’s 2015 documentary Adult Rappers documented the rise of the grown-ass emcee; rappers like Jay-Z and E-40 turned 50, and continued making relevant, compelling music. By now, any ceiling has been long destroyed — and all that’s left to do is enjoy the results. In chronological order, of course.(Disclaimer: If it were solely up to me, this list would include every single Bumpy Knuckles release past 2009.)



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Host of Dart Against Humanity/Boston Legends. CCO @ Producers I Know/journalist @ Okayplayer/DJBooth/Complex/NPR/Mass Appeal/IV Boston/HipHopWired/KillerBoomBox

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