Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
As I went to and through high school (1993-97) and college (1998-2003), the grip of hip-hop/rap was undeniable. It was everywhere and very readily accepted as valid. Yes, I know that a great many people – like my own mother – would NEVER concede to this, but evidence lends itself to proof of fact.
The ubiquity of it all, added to the immense number of startup “independent” labels (which weren’t much more than well-compensated distribution deals that allowed better control of the Masters), and the collective successes of them all made EVERYONE legitimately believe that they could rap.
And that is where things began to go south.
Commercials, sitcoms, dramas, documentaries and Lifetime Movies of the Week featuring housewives and soccer moms alike making their best attempts at “rapping their asses off” all while emulating the best version of “ghetto” mannerisms, usually derived from things in years past. The situation in and of itself was both insulting and embarrassing to anyone involved. Rather than relenting, the Minstrelsy gave way to little kids and sometimes even animals doing the same thing. If you’ve worked a job for a corporation requiring itself to address its employees over the last 15 years, I assure you that you’re been rapped at (as opposed to “rapped to,” there is a difference) by or at the behest of someone who could make your life hell for resisting. Needless to say, things were a terrible mess.
Somewhere in it all – and I don’t know if it was because of the random acts of violence or the re-entry of crack cocaine into rap or WHAT – corporate America mostly lost its perverse interest in continuing the Minstrel Show by getting their own hands dirty, they went back to telling every little black kid that THEY could be the next big thing.
Then something bad (bad to “them”) happened. The “Talented 10th,” as W.E.B. DuBois might have called them decided that enough was enough and went into debilitating student loan debt back to school instead. No longer (or, not as often) were good college-minded individuals dropping out of school in order to pretend to be crack salesmen and drive-by shooters. The assumed first move to stem a tide like this would be to get some REAL crack salesmen and drive-by shooters, but statistics show that the 13.6789633% of THOSE who actually CAN rap well enough to warrant a second listen are serving time for selling crack and/or shooting at people from moving cars.
And this is where it gets fun…
CB4-style… Since smart minds decided it better to do what smart minds do, and real thugs do thug shit, the only feasible answer is to take EVERYONE who CAN rap – even if only a little bit – and put the machine fully behind them, even if they’re actually quite horrible at it. This approach will net you a similar number of high school dropouts and an occasional college dropout (Plies, we’re looking at you here) en route to saturation of the market, and yes the market WILL become saturated with dance-by-the-numbers and hyper-misogynistic presentations. Since the gloves are all the way off and the market has been marginalized, if you want to tell stories of a life that since-unsealed federal investigations or internet cowboys’ fact-findings all set in motion because of your lyrics invariably reveal as patently untrue.
Gone is the competitive market where one had to be worthy of a deal to get one… Everyone with the conflation of lack of anything better to do, vague enough backstory to not be exposed before you have profited and drive to loiter endlessly to be in the right place at the right time and some ad-libs, then the machine will convince 13 year-old girls that you are talented. Hell, if you fail to make it off of the bench at your first attempt, give yourself a (barely) slightly less stupid rap name and try again… Right, Tity Boi 2Chainz?
At the end of it all, it went from rappers being rappers and caring for their craft, to soccer moms bastardizing the product on the whole and now to guys PRETENDING to be rappers, but the more I hear of it, the more I am reminded of someone’s Soccer Mom or old blue-haired Granny rapping.
I must be getting old, because I am fully of the opinion that this has all conspired to marginalize just how seriously we take hip-hop/rap music in general these days, and it has been an “infiltrate and weaken from the inside” operation, not terribly dissimilar to Lamar Odom’s time with the Dallas Mavericks.