I was reading a blog I frequent when I came across an interesting question. A popular nineties rapper, who shall remain nameless, is completely dumbfounded by the success of William Roberts BKA Rick Ross. He doesn't understand how a correctional officer turned rapper can lie about his drug lifestyle and still be a number one selling artist who raps about, well...dealing drugs. I will try to answer his question in this blog post.
To begin, most people who listen to music, especially secular rap music, with its women, cars, parties, drugs and other decadence, haven't really experienced the thrills of the lifestyle. Even still, we rap right along with Baby when he boasts about "big mansions," and Drake when he brags about "champagne showers," and yes, even with Rick Ross when he proclaims to the world that he is on the same level as the one time mastermind of a multi million dollar drug ring.
Rap gives us a reason to nod our heads and and opportunity to live vicariously through the hyper masculinity and/or overt sexuality presented by the artists. We download the songs, preview the albums or keep our stations locked to the local Hip Hop radio stations, waiting for the 4 or 5 minutes that we can get away.
I vividly remember listening to Dead Prez during my freshmen year of college while getting ready for class every morning. A friend put me on to them during my senior year of high school and I never looked back until after the Lord called me several years later. They had an infectious and conscience rap hit out at the time, titled Hip Hop. Not familiar with Dead Prez? Well, to put it bluntly, they are a militant rap group with ties to Pan Africanism and the Black Panther Party. On one hand, they rapped about discipline and intellectualism. They even had a cool take on Orwell's Animal Farm called Animal in Man. On the other hand, the also rapped about the overthrow of the U.S. government and, get this, the futility of attending public schools and universities. Isn't it Ironic? Let's Get Free let me be the angry, rebellious woman I was afraid to be and I loved it. Did I love it enough to quit college, join a commune and become a vegan? NOPE. Truth is, I wasn't a revolutionary. I just played one in front of the mirror of my second floor dorm room.
This fact didn't stop a condescending smirk from forming on my lips when I saw a car of blondes riding in a drop top convertible singing Trick Daddy's I'm A Thug about a year later. What on earth did they know about being a thug or being discriminated against for having the sad misfortune of being poor and black? Well, they knew about as much about it as I knew when I was 11 years old, singing "Rolling down the street/Smoking endo/Sippin' on Gin and Juice"--absolutely nothing.
In short, rap music for most people is primarily entertainment. Pure escapism. It's always been this way, but I think the rapper who originally posed the question has forgotten this. We all forget this sometimes. I understand that there are people who enjoy these songs and actually engage in the behavior discussed in the lyrics. They really are out shooting people, getting high everyday and being super promiscuous. The rest of us are just looking for a temporary thrill and a dope beat.
There are other aspects of this phenomenon which could and should be examined, but it's getting late.
Disclaimer: This is just a social commentary. I'm not advocating the purchase or support of any of the music/artists listed above. (Should I really have to type this??) *sigh*