Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Rap is easily one of the most self glorifying, narcissistic genres of music in existence. Rappers love to talk about themselves, and this is no surprise. Your favorite rap song, unless it’s older than 20 years, is likely no more than your favorite rapper bragging to you — the listener — about how much more money than you he has and how easily he could take your hoes if he wanted to. He probably mentioned how he’d kill you without hesitation, also, but we’ll save that for another day.
Within the crowded boundaries of hip hop’s heralded bragging rights culture lies its ubiquitous self-snitching society where rappers seemingly tell on themselves in an attempt to garner respect from the streets. Sweet irony, right? This is a funny little double edged sword because not only has Hip Hop become the de facto headquarters for “Stop Snitching” campaigns, but it also deviantly screams Fuck the police! and all other law enforcement organizations. This creates a crystal clear hypocricy, but no one seems to care. In the meantime, thanks in part to the internet, rappers are taking every possible opportunity to tell on themselves, and if the Hip Hop cops are a real thing (which they are), surely their jobs aren’t as hard as they used to be. All you have to do is watch rap videos online and you see scads of rappers recording evidence for the court systems to undoubtedly use against them at some point later down the road. Not that all rappers are criminals, I’m just saying.
A few years ago, one would have been hard pressed to find rap guys brandishing live firearms in their music videos. In fact, when Eazy E appeared on the cover of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton album pointing a revolver at the camera, it was a very surreal moment in Hip Hop history. Not only did that brief image solidify the group’s relationship with street life, but it may also be the first moment of a rapper telling on himself. Granted, N.W.A wasn’t the first rap group to make songs documenting their illegal activities, but seeing Eazy pointing a gun at you created an aura of actuality. It meant that not only would Eazy pop a cap in yo ass, but it also meant that he had no qualms taunting the very police that he was holding his middle finger up to. He let the world know that he was packing, and did not give a fuck. To amplify that, every song on NWA’s album was basically giving play by play commentary on a bunch of shit that they’d go to jail for in real life. And while Hip hop has come a long, long way since those days, it hasn’t changed much.
Some time back, I took a heavy interest in rap videos on worldstarhiphop.com and YouTube. What really piqued my curiosity was the amount of guns and drugs I saw in every video. It was like the more I saw the more I needed to see. Similar to when there’s spoiled milk in the fridge; you’re not convinced that it’s spoiled until the 4th or 5th sniff. The imagery had become a continual stream of visual documentation of illicit and illegal activity, the type of shit that Hip Hop cops scour the internet for while they sit on their asses sipping coffee and sucking cigarettes. If the Hip Hop cops are a legitimate faction of real American heroes — to put it lightly — rap niggas are making it way too easy to get busted for street shit. Why there aren’t more arrests is beyond me. And the most recent example of this type of bamboozling scenario would be the gilded narrative of Bobby Shmurda. He’s essentially in jail for talking about alleged crimes that occured on a rap record. And while people are blaming his label for not sticking up for him, as well as the cops for harassing him, I’ve yet to hear anyone mention him snitching on himself or that his lifestyle may have caused his downfall.
For what it’s worth, “Trap Rap” should be rechristened “Shut Your Trap Rap,” because in just about every song from this subgenre of rap, they give details about what they do and who they do it with. If I were their plug, I’d stay the hell away from those confidential informants. Many people blame Rick Ross for the influx of coke raps that have callously burrowed their way into our collective, unassuming heart. This may be true, but for what it’s worth, we all know that Rick Ross was law enforcement before he was musical entertainment. No one believes anything he says. But you take a young, hungry rapper from Chicago or Miami or Philly who has a reputation to uphold and monetary moves to be made, and there is no telling the amount of reality he is delivering. And keep in mind he has competitors to outshine. To overpower. So not only will he brag, but he’ll also want to be sure that you can authenticate his boasts. And he’s not the only rapper doing this. What we are left with are thousands of young rappers committing crimes or detailing their crimes as a means of entertainment. Over intricate drum patterns, smoked-out samples, and toothless basslines, trap rappers detail exactly how they make their dough. Some even shout out the freeways they travel and cities they visit. I imagine rappers will be naming full mixtapes after the guy they buy their guns from within the next few years. It feels inevitable.
I haven’t heard a rapper say “Stop snitching” in years. Or “keep it real,” for that matter. Perhaps the tide has changed and there is no more self-snitching. Maybe things are different and keeping it real means actually keeping it real, no matter the tangible consequence. Of course this will only prompt the further implosion of the culture, but what do I know.
Words by Tony Grands