Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hip-Hop Hypocrisy

I spent much of this past last week listening to classics. Real classics. Specifically, it was Dre’s Chronic and 2001 as well as Nas’s It Was Written and Stillmatic. They’re albums that everyone knows, but with all the other music out there, they can get lost when we consider what to listen to on that day’s journey.

Anyway, my grand epiphany had to do with the subject matter of these albums. Dre’s OG rhetoric, Nas’s back-to-the-hood-life nostalgia, each with grandiose notions of black nationalism and the rejection of mainstream society—all this I compared with the recent stuff.

I was thinking about Lupe. About how a mainstream rapper could put out an ironic single called “Dumb It Down” and expect it to sell.

I realized that we might well be knee deep in an entirely new form of hip-hop without even knowing it. I think the middle-class non-ghetto-familiar consumer has finally turned the corner on hard hard hardcore gangsta rap. That demographic is both privy to and sick of the gross hypocrisy and bullshit in a game filled with supposed reality.

If you ask me, I’d say what pushed it over the top was the bling age, when Lil John and co. hijacked gangsta rap and replaced any semblance of meaning with out and out bs. We could get wayyy into this, but that’s not what I want to write about right now.

I wanted to get into that hypocrisy. It comes in many, many different shapes and sizes, but there’s always been one form of rap game hypocrisy that’s always interested me. That would be when rappers say, ON THE EFFING TRACK, that they’re dumbing down the lyrics so that the record will sell better.

They deserve to be outed. Nothing pisses me off worse than when some entertainer has the nerve to insult his/her very audience. And it’s my opinion that the following instances of crapola are a crime against hip-hop and all its supporters.

Of course, the biggest irony is that by choosing record sales over the development of the art form, these rappers are holding back the movement and in effect chopping their own legs off.

Here’s just a couple examples from Jay-Z and Nas.


The game's fucked up
Nigga's beats is bangin,
nigga your hooks did it
Your lyrics didn't and your gangster look did it
So I would write it if y'all could get it
Bein intricate'll get you wood critics
On the internet, they like you should spit it
I'm like you should buy it, nigga that's good business.

Moment of Clarity"--Jay-Z

I dumb down for my audience
And double my dollars
They criticize me for it
Yet they all yell "Holla"
Ifskills sold, truth be told,
I'd probably be
Talib Kweli
I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did five mil
I ain't been rhymin' like Common since.

That one might be the most famous, and it received a hilarious response by Talib.

"Ghetto show" --Talib Kweli

If lyrics sold then truth be told
I'd probably be
just as rich and famous as Jay-Z
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
next best thing I do a record with Common Sense."

What's interesting about Nas's hypocrisy is that it's laced with super complex red herrings.

"Let There Be Light"--Nas

I can't sound smart because you'll run away
They say I ain't hungry no more and I don't talk about yay
Like there's no other way for an ex hustler, cake getter,
Ex rich splitter to touch ya
I beg to differ
When your fours years in the game we can have a conversation
Eight years in the game I'll invite you on vacation
Ten years in the game
After I've enjoyed my fame,
only then I'll let you pick my brain


Back in eighty-three I was an MC sparking
But I was too scared to grab the mic's in the park and
kick my little raps cause I thought niggaz wouldn't understand
And now in every jam I'm the fuckin man
I rap in front of more niggaz than in the slave ships
I used to watch C.H.I.P.S., now I load glock clips
I got to have it, I miss Mr. Magic
Versatile, my style switches like a faggot
But not bisexual, I'm an intellectual
Of rap, I'm a professional and that's no question, yo
These are the lyrics of the man, you can't near it, understand.

Ok that covers but a tiny sphere of this hypocrisy. Man.