We might owe Slim Jesus an apology.
You ever notice that rappers don’t say “keep it real” anymore? Back in the 90’s, and maybe even earlier than that, rappers prided themselves on their authenticity. Those days are long gone, though.
Last year, drill rapper Slim Jesus burst upon the scene like a too small condom. He immediately caught static, backlash, and buckets of bullshit from everyone from Hip Hop heads to heroic gatekeepers to random rap fans and casual listeners. It seemed like the problem was that the Hip Hop community wasn’t ready for a hardcore, White gangster rapper. Sure, there have been some tough guy Caucasian rap cats before Slim’s name began to waft, like Stitches and White Dawg, but their success had limited reach and segregated pull. Slim Jesus, on the other hand, literally had the recipe to blow up in the rap game. For better or worse, he had his moniker in the headlines of every major rap blog and website. Google him. You can see exactly when the overground matriculation started to happen by the downpour of internet hate that began sprinkling on the gazebo roof of whatever suburban traphouse he escaped from.
And then, like a motherfucker who clearly knows nothing about the rap game, Slim decided to let the world know that he was a fraud. A phony. He chose to keep it real. In an interview on VladTV, Slim – God bless his heart – admitted that the weapons he uses in videos are fake and that, ultimately, he ain’t really ’bout that life he portrays.
As a result of opening up to Vlad, rappers nationwide crawled out of their respective traps and limosines to offer Sleezy J some sound advice.
See, if Slim Jesus had hit the rap scene 20 years ago, that out right, forthcoming blurb of information would have been graciously and willfully accepted. Rap music was more open minded before the new millennium. That honest admission he made would have been his keeping it real moment, exposing his frail, human underbelly, which could have easily bubbled over into a new fan base and fresh start. America always has and always will love a good “helpless white kid” story almost as much as it loves good “told you they were Black!” propaganda. But that’s a post for another day.
But, it’s 2016. Slim should have gone the Rick Ross route and lied like a car salesmen, like mostly all other rappers until the truth could no longer be avoided. (Rick Ross could write a book on surviving in the rap game.) At that point, he’d have no choice but to put on his regular clothes and show the world that he’s not this real life supervillian, but we wouldn’t have cared. That’s the way rap works now. (Every few years the rules change and the by-laws get refreshed.) Credit and credentials are secondary as long as the music is good. Seems like that’s how it should be anyway, though, no? The irony of rap fans clamoring for authenticity and actuality and then turning its collective back on a kid being actual and authentic isn’t lost in translation.
And before you say Slim wasn’t being actual and authentic, he was. After the fact, of course, but he was. When it came time to shine his light inward to the outside world, he did so with no hesitation. He even admitted that he was playing a role, like a thespian or otherwise paid performer. He took off his costume to show us the real him, albeit probably much too soon in his career. In fact, I’d venture to say that in the Hip Hop-ity new millennium, we only want rappers keeping it real if it’s real ignorant, real violent, or real embarrassing. You know, really real.
I’ve always volleyed for rap to be viewed as entertainment, no differently than a movie or a book. If it so happened to coincide with real life, so be it. It feels like, at some point, we started judging artists by their back story instead of enjoying the random trivia. It’s a slippery slope indeed, and can quickly get dangerous as we’ve seen so many times before. Rappers go out of their way to convince us about the reality they’ve allowed to envelop them and their artistry and subsequently make the wrong types of headlines. It’s quite sad if you really think about it. God blesses someone with a specific skill or talent and instead of using that talent to better their life and the lives of the people around them they use any gains to further perpetuate the current condition. This is the artist we respect for keeping it real and staying hood. Then, when he gets murdered down the street from the house his mother raised him in, we start yelling “put the guns down” and “stop the violence.” Such is the contradictory nature of hip-hop culture.
Let me leave you with this scenario; you meet a girl and are immediately enamored with her. In an attempt to impress her, you bend reality and stretch the truth ever so gently, momentarily arranging the odds to shine a scant bit brighter in your favor. Realizing that you may want to hang around with her for a spell, you decide to come clean about who you really are, exposing yourself to possible jokes and rejection, hoping that she’ll see you for who you are and what you can offer. If that has happened to you, and she still gave you a chance, you may owe Slim Jesus an apology. And ponder for a moment; you weren’t even trying to have sex with Slim, so in all honesty, you should be less offended than you are. Or were — now that I’ve given you the science of tolerance and peace.
Now that I think about it, rappers don’t make stop the violence songs like they did in the 90’s anymore, either.
Words by Tony Grands
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Questions, comments, complaints?