Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Tony Grands
Before cell phones, there were pagers. & before said pagers became popular in the civilian world, they were synonymous with only two career paths. Those paths were doctor & drug dealer.That makes sense, too, because in a lot of ways, those professions are the same, but that’s neither here nor there. In order to be a successful drug dealer (& doctor also), you needed a pager. & to be a successful rapper in those days, you needed to give off the allure, ambiance, aura of a drug dealer.
Drugs & their dealings have always been a staple crop for rap music. Grandmaster Melle Mel tried to warn us about it in the early 80s, but those attempts at positive interjection – as a whole – would soon be gone. Once Schoolly D told Hip Hop that selling drugs was easier than working, it was a (w)rap. Since then, most of your favorite rappers have used a drug selling lifestyle to boost & bolster their image. Whether it was true or not never mattered (until recently), because it sounded cool. Fast forward to today, &
public enemy #1 America’s favorite rap fat cat, Rick Ross, is the ultimate embodiment of this caricaturization.
Every song Ross makes (with the exception of his love ballads) feels like peer pressure to join the local drug cartel. He’s loud, abrasive, & boastful like Scarface, which is why I believe he bases his prime time, crime rhyme persona on Tony Montana, even though he probably wouldn’t admit it. (See what I did there?)
Nevertheless, rappers in general have made it a point to showcase that they are involved in the drug world, in some capacity. Those that don’t are tantamount to young-ish Black males in the ‘hood who’ve never been arrested. Looked upon as an oddity, & in some cases, not taken very seriously.
With bragging about pushing (various types of) product now a requisite ripple in the adlibs of Hip Hop culture’s sonic soundtrack, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on task to replace it: what once were drug sellers are now drug users. I’m well aware that the rap community embraces drug intake (see: Snoop, Wiz, Redman, Smoke DZA, & virtually everyone in the game) but as of late, the proportion of selling to using has taken an unforeseen twist. For every song a rapper releases that glorifies the merchandising of drugs, there are – nowadays – 5 more that showcase the life of addiction. Popping pills, sipping God-knows-what, & smoking loud blunts back to back sounds great to a kid who is grasping for ways to cope with his environment. & that’s when his armor’s chink is exposed & exploited, through no legitimate fault of his own. The cycle continues when the next song is about hustlin’ against ALL odds. But, these record labels & paydio stations don’t care about any of that psychobabble, & guess who has to pay that cost… Don’t think for one second that this doesn’t affect the listener(s).
Rap music, in my opinion, has a very hypnotic effect that many don’t seem to notice occurring in themselves. For example, when you play _______ while driving, you inexplicably drive faster. Or when your headphones are blaring ______ during a stroll to the store, coincidentally, extra machismo oozes with every limp-like, slo-mo step you take. Imagine the 14-year-old who has no clue about familial love & structure. Rap music may be his only social learning tool. He learns about life & how to deal with it from the “musicians” he idolizes & that may entail doing the things that said idol may or may not be actually doing. You don’t need me to point out the dangerousness of such a dilemma. Whereas the parents (& legal guardians) of today’s youth might have first come in contact with drugs & alcohol on their own volition, during their curious teen years, the music now is a few clicks (literally, a few clicks of the mouse & *boom*) shy of acting as rolling advertisements for reality-fixing self destruction.
When it comes down to it, rappers are not role models. In fact, I’d advise that you never follow any person who sells fantasies for a living. Especially if they’re really good at it. The bottom line is that the problem isn’t the rappers or their musical content, but rather the environments that foster children whose biggest influences are famous people who advocate formidable life choices.
I, like so many other people, enjoy drug rap & negative entertainment, & far be it from me to suggest that it stops. But perhaps it’s time for this village that we’re supposedly a part of to tighten the communal reigns at “home” – wherever that may be – if nowhere else.
In the meantime, turn on any urban radio station in the morning or afternoon (key commuting hours for parents & children) & count the songs you hear dedicated to taking some sort of drug(s). You might be surprised with the results.
Words by Tony Grands