Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
If you’ve never heard the comparisons between selling rap songs & selling drugs then you are not as Hip Hop as you think. & while those comparisons may very well ring true, not everyone is familiar with the ins & out of peddling narcotics. I happen to have a bit of knowledge about both subjects, so I can apply the hustle-to-grind ratio the way that NaS intended it to be taken. Meanwhile, there’s a bunch of kids who heard that line & figured he had to be talking about the tons of blood monies there are to be mad off of the backbone of Hip Hop culture. But that’s neither here nor there.
Rap music – as a hustle – is very much like selling drugs, though. The strange hours, fluctuating clientele, imminent threats of violence, shady business dealings, flow of merchandise, etc. But selling music is totally legal & it doesn’t ruin families or decimate communities. One can sell songs, even songs of the worst caliber, & wake up every morning with a free conscience. Whereas a dude who pushes dope may not always feel the best about his chosen occupation. At least until he jumps back in his new car, but I digress. The internet has completely leveled the rap music industry playing field (for the most part), & that all but eliminated the need for hand-to-hand sales of physical CD’s, unlike drugs. There’s not a download link or mp4 file for an eight of Superweed. & if you do find one online, you’d be an idiot to use it.
If anything, I’ll compare the climate of today’s rap game to that of professional wrestling.
Professional wrestling has evolved over the years into more than just larger-than-life characters & wacky scenarios. I’ve even heard it referred to as a soap opera, which – due to the well-scripted dramatics – is totally understandable. The characters have well-contrived back stories & if it wasn’t for the internet, we wouldn’t know if these were caricatures or the actual people themselves living out their actual lives in front of us. It’s the same thing with rap music. Once being online became such an important aspect of superstardom, celebrities (namely rappers) learned that they had to remain in character or stay out of the public eye. & to remain in character meant going along with all the real-world theatrics that came along with it. The irony of so many rappers who claim to keep it real is not necessarily that the rapper’s are fake, it’s just that they’re not who they claim to be. Not that there’s nothing wrong with that. Getting paid to play dress up is every boy’s dream, so I’d never knock the proverbial hustle.
Notice the way that wrestler’s enter the arena. There’s usually some bright lights & loud noises to get the audience’s heart pumping & adrenaline racing. This is designed to get you excited, even if the performance turns out being only average. With the right introduction, however, it doesn’t matter if the fight is good or not because you’ll be properly distracted by all the smoke & mirrors. Any decent rapper with a well-oiled machine behind them goes through a similar process as they are being introduced to the world. Its lots of hype, magazine/digital interviews, & whatever other publicity stunts their handler(s) can conjure up so that the next time you hear/see their name, you’ll recognize it, even if only subconsciously.
I didn’t overdose on WWF as a kid, but i watched enough to know that rarely was it a spontaneous fighting match. I remember thinking how they moved kinda like the guys in the Kung -Fu movies on Channel 9’s weekend theater. The punches were calculated & sometimes ridiculously thrown, & it was obvious the flexible wrestling mat was intended to help you more than hurt you. Even still, the propensity to get hurt was apparent. & occasionally, wrestlers got hurt, for real. Some have even died. Similarly, rap music has reached the point where it’s surrealism lives on the edge of reality. Rappers make dis records about other rappers with unfortunate consequences. Sites like Worldstarhiphop are full of anonymous rappers willing to do anything (especially if it’s being recorded) for their few minutes of fame. Back in the day, a dis record was a great way to keep you name afloat because there was virtually no chance if getting killed behind it. Today is a dangerously different story.
With the right amount of effort & free time, I suppose rap can be compared to a lot of semi-dangerous but well-paying jobs. Whether that’s good or bad has yet to be determined because my Google News page stays full of young, up & coming rappers who get slain for seemingly no reason.
Is it too late to ask if you smell what I’m cookin’?