Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ludacris: Sell-Out or Fraud?

Hearing the conversation Ben was having about his Ludacris blog, I finally internalized exactly what it all really meant.
Here is a man (Ludacris) that has put out these family friendly gems:

  • "What's Your Fantasy" ("back seat, windows up...." and "in the dirt, make it hurt"),
  • "Southern Hospitality" (I could not find any printable lyrics that I'd put here),
  • "Ho" ("I said that you's a ho")
  • "Area Codes" (Luda has hos in different area codes...it took me forever to find the name of this song, because every site had the lyric for hos spelled as ho's...so I guess Luda is not promoting literacy to his fans)

Are we are expected to believe that he is now REALLY frustrated with the way women are treated in society?

I think not. For years, the intellectual, anti-misogynistic rapper phenomenon has been on the rise. Last year, Talib Kweli played at the George Washington University. This year, Common played, and the Roots played a few years back. Previously, bands that played these shows were bands like Weezer and John Mayer. Clearly, there is a shift in music taste among teenagers (who probably consume music the most). It is absurd to think that there is not a shift taking place, and no one can possibly say that these "socially conscious" rappers have not really made a big impact on the scene--Kweli is getting MTV play for the first time ever, Mos Def is in a great deal of films ("Talladega Nights" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), the Roots were just signed by Jay-Z to DEF JAM (arguably rap's most storied and successful label) and Common made the theme song for MTV's latest movie "Freedom Writers" and has seen many big roles in Hollywood produced movies You're kidding yourself if you think that there is not a paradigm shift that has taken/is taking place--there is no bigger litmus test than when one of rap's biggest personas ever personally signs them to his record label.

In a way, I think that the "socially conscious rap" is moving to the main rap fans and that "mainstream rap" is being more heavily appreciated by fans of rock and alternative music (this, though, is for another day).

Ludacris had been putting out "club bangers" for years, and the first single from his latest album "Release Therapy" was "Money Maker", a Neptunes (or was it just Pharrell) produced hit in which Ludacris claims that we should just be glad that "Pharrell gave us something good to bump to." I have no problem with this--I have been very intrigued by rap in the last few months as an artform--but he should not try to be anything more than a musician who makes music for people to have a good time to.

He clearly jumped onto the bandwagon with his song "Runaway" because he wants a bigger audience. There is absolutely no doubt about this. If he wants to appeal to more fans, fine--I just hope that they all take "Runaway" for what it is, seeing as it comes out of a misogynistic man's mouth.

Either way, he's guilty of at least one of two sins: he's either a sell-out for changing his breed of music just to attract a new audience (he has NOT changed his style entirely, so you cannot argue that he is growing as an artist--if so, his first single off of his new album would NOT have been "Moneymaker") OR he's a hypocrite for saying that society is wrong and needs to treat women better when he has been, up to this point, been putting out song that clearly objectify women.

I realize that many rap fans will not care and just want to hear good songs (the songs I mentioned other than "Runaway" are great dance tunes, which is all many people care about) but I NEVER want to hear anyone call Ludacris "socially conscious" or say that he is doing a lot for the rights of women.

Am I mad that he has made misogynistic music in the past? While I am not misogynistic, there is a sense of the freedom of speech and artistic control that any artist has. I'm not standing on the conservative side of the fence and saying that rap is counter-productive and useless. Instead, I'm angry about the way that he thinks that he can be made at a society of men who objectify women that he helped to create.

I'm angry at Ludacris for trying to pull the wool over all of our eyes (trying to pull a fast one, if you will). If I was a woman, I'd be sickened and outraged.