THE BLOG
11/18/2014 05:36 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

How Long Can Eminem Keep It Up? (or: the Sociology of Aging Hip-Hop Artists)

Last week, a mechanical space probe landed on a moving comet -- traveling 84,000 mph -- about 310 million miles from Earth. This was an astonishing scientific breakthrough. But, like you, I'm more interested in hip-hop Twitter battles.

Did you catch the war-of-words between Snoop Dogg and Iggy Azalea? Things got pretty ugly, as Snoop threatened her and called her the C word. (The article I read didn't specify what "C" word he used. But I assume he called Iggy "cankerous," and what could be more hurtful and degrading than that?) Personally, I'm more fascinated by the age difference between the two rappers. Iggy Azalea was born in 1990. Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg is 90.

Hip-hop star Eminem is embroiled in more controversy after releasing a video in which he raps that he'd punch singer Lana Del Rey in the face "like Ray Rice," referring to the ugly incident when the football star knocked out his wife in an elevator. Some people were offended. However, I'm more interested in the physical impossibility of the lyrics. Eminem -- you can't punch Lana Del Rey the way that Ray Rice hit his wife. And that's because Ray and Janay Rice are around the same age. Eminem -- you are old. Lana Del Rey is close to fifteen years younger than you.

In actuality, Eminem would punch Lana Del Rey in the way, oh, Regis Philbin might take a swing at a girl scout. It wouldn't just be sad and violent; it also wouldn't be age-appropriate.

One of the great quotes from the classic Dazed and Confused is when Matthew McConaughey's David Wooderson says, "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age." But let's not forget that Wooderson was a depressing loser... though I'd still hang out with him because he seemed pretty cool. Critics note Eminem's history of violent words against women. But they're missing the bigger picture. Eminem keeps getting older. The female pop stars he raps about stay the same age.

I've always defended Eminem for his artistry and the way he pushes social boundaries. Eminem didn't punch anyone in an elevator. So don't get mad at him for talking about it. Rather, my issue is that he is making all men in their forties look bad. As men age, their appeal -- their handsomeness, their suave, their charm -- is dependent on their dignity. Threatening to assault much younger women is like Senator Mitch McConnell wearing a Speedo. It's undignified. Though I suppose that would be a better example if Mitch McConnell was actually handsome, suave, charming, and less reptilian.

Trust me on this -- you don't want to be the "old guy" in the bar. It's kind of pathetic. That's why I hang out in assisted living center cafes. It makes feel young, like a teenage Larry King.

There's a bias against aging rap stars. Older actresses complain about the lack of good roles for middle-aged women in Hollywood. And they're forced to degrade themselves by playing grandmothers at thirty-five, and their "movie" sons are usually about two years younger than them. I just watched a wacky mother/son comedy starring Jodie Foster and Sean Penn. But the same gripe can be legitimately levied against the world of hip-hop. Older rappers lose their credibility when they act their age. So they're obligated to pick rap fights with the tween girls on Nickelodeon.

I bet you'll never hear Eminem bragging about violence against Catherine Zeta-Jones. That would be weird. Kids don't want to hear that. Snoop Dogg wouldn't write sexual posts about women his own age. That would remind his teenage fan base how old he is. Teenagers don't even want to think about their parents having sex. They certainly don't want to retweet it.

The following female celebrities were born in the same year as Eminem: Rebecca Romijn, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Garner, Gabrielle Union. I don't know. These women just seem so much older than Eminem, not in a bad or unattractive way, but in a much less embarrassing way. Jennifer Aniston is middle-aged and she's still cute. But if she got into a drunken shoving match with One Direction during Taylor Swift's perfume launch party... eh, I feel like that might make her less cute. Do you see what I'm saying? Me, neither.

Rock legends from the 60s and 70s are still around, still performing. (Yes, I know that rock 'n roll started in the 1950s, but all the stars from that era died in plane crashes.) And it's not so bad. Bruce Springsteen still looks good on stage. Prince has maintained his aura of cool. Even Ted Nugent was still rocking out during his recent performance behind the "face painting" table at the ribbon-cutting ceremony during the grand opening of a local Walgreens.

So I'm curious. And I don't know the answer. I'm just wondering. Do hip-hip artists have an on-stage credibility expiration date? Paul McCartney is still doing Yesterday on stage to huge crowds. Stevie Wonder is still wowing audiences with Superstition. But can Jay Z still rap "I got ninety-nine problems but a bitch ain't one" when he's seventy? It might look a little stupid. Hey, I love the song. But there will be a time when most of Jay Z's problems involve his urinary tract.

Or perhaps more importantly, is there an age when hip-hop artists lose their off-stage credibility? I mean, it could get really embarrassing if Snoop Dogg is still calling women in their twenties the C word years after society has already come up with much worse words to call women in their twenties... but he will be too old to keep up with the lingo.

Though not nearly as popular as Eminem, there are successful hip-hop artists with a socio-political bent, writing about real world issues like the struggle of the disenfranchised. And that will never go out of style, whether on stage or in the Apple musical microchip implanted in our membrane at birth... which I assume will be standard practice by 2020.

I think Eminem should probably stop with the misogynist lyrics. I support his right to free speech and creative expression. Rather, it just might be a good career movie to pivot in a slightly different direction. After all, in a few years, most young women will be able to take Eminem in a fight. And there's a fine line between serious rap artist and Flavor of Love.