Up with hope, up with dope and up with tropes. On trying times in rap’s most boring era…
I can’t deal with rap right now.
The narratives are too positive, the success is too guaranteed, and thus, the times are entirely too boring. Drake “started from the bottom,” and not just him, but his WHOLE TEAM’S succeeded. Pause for a second as well and consider the success of the The Roots. They’ve gone from getting the “Silent Treatment” to now being the reason that hip-hop’s on broadcast TV every single night, Questlove practically the Ed McMahon to Jimmy Fallon’s Johnny Carson. Hell, the number one Billboard spot for the past six weeks has been held by two white guys from Seattle rapping about bargain clothing and an “EDM” track that started a global video craze that shamelessly mis-appropriates one of Harlem’s most unique contributions to hip-hop culture. Up is down and left is right, so as a former protest-loving collegiate rabble-rouser, I should be overjoyed, right? No. Rap’s on top and the President of the United States is black. However, unlike what rap told me would happen when all this occurred, the world didn’t right itself, and the nation’s arguably in a far worse place than it’s ever been. It’s time for rap to accept the lead and take the reigns of pop cultural control, before culture decays life as we know it any further.
Now that we’ve distanced ourselves from 2012, let’s reflect on its sheer absurdity. The year’s most successful pop rappers may have been 2 Chainz, French Montana and Juicy J. Montana is the NYC native of Moroccan extraction whose “Pop That” featured him and a cadre of other emcees rapping about the joys of strip club attendance over a track that was so large and unavoidably pop that it caused a cataclysmic response when dropped pretty much anywhere at any time. 2 Chainz is a 37-year old rap veteran who ethered his previous identity in order to embrace every stereotype that southern blacks love to hate and hate to love about themselves and their relationship to pop music, and was pushed at the forefront of the game. Juicy J just stayed really high, made love to ignorant women, and unapologetic-ally related this well to the universe. Truly, in his steadfastness in embracing a far less than honorable human ideal, he directly appealed to a desensitized 21st century community that frankly does not care about immorality plaguing the human condition.
We’re comfortable with folks falling in line with familiar rap tropes as well. With every passing second, Kendrick Lamar feels like the long lost cousin of Andre 3000, Wale evolves more into LL Cool J, Joey Bada$$ becomes a next generation Rawkus affiliate, Action Bronson grows comfortable in his Supreme Cilentele-era Ghostface glory – and in bristling against being shoved in the career-killing coffin that is just being Lil Kim – Nicki Minaj ironically continues to just that, floating further away from rap relativity than ever before. We used to applaud those like the Native Tongue family who expanded our expectations of just how pervasive and unique rap can become. Now, in having successfully taking those expectations global, is rap afraid of re-invention in the pop atmosphere? Possibly so. Does rap demand re-invention in the pop atmosphere? Absolutely. It’s been 40 years,which is certainly more than enough time for a new world order to breathe life into the sound and style.
Where are the harbingers of challenging narratives? Will the winds of change make themselves apparent? I can’t take this anymore. Can someone tell Fat Trel that he doesn’t have to just hold that gun, that it’s totally okay to pull the trigger? Can somebody grab Ludacris from out of VIP with David Guetta, please? Can someone hit Lil Wayne in the temple with a slapjack? What if the Gangster Disciples DIDN’T miss? Was that the moment we needed that didn’t happen? Did Rick Ross have to die for hip-hop to live? Can someone put Baauer in the studio with Diddy, Cam or Juelz already? Or are we just going to sit here and throw another rack at the club? Are we going to spit game at another couple of girls? Are we going to just let rap fulfill it’s own stereotypes, taking the genre – which began as an antagonistic answer to how frustratingly “samey” music and culture HAD become – full circle?
If you love rap and love the life that rap promised us would happen if we ruled the world, then let’s fucking stop bullshitting ourselves, do these things and answer these questions now. Time is of the essence. If rap can’t answer these questions and do these things, then, well, I may have to leave it alone. Rap’s certainly a big tree, but it’s decaying at the roots. We don’t just need water, we need a flood. Given how hard we struggled to get to the top, let’s not get here and get bored. There’s still a world to change.